May 31, 2007

Evidence From Ancient European Graves Raises Questions About Ritual Human Sacrifice:

Contact: Suzanne Wu
University of Chicago Press Journals

Evidence from ancient European graves raises questions about ritual human sacrifice:

A fascinating new paper from the June issue of Current Anthropology explores ancient multiple graves and raises the possibility that hunter gatherers in what is now Europe may have practiced ritual human sacrifice. This practice – well-known in large, stratified societies – supports data emerging from different lines of research that the level of social complexity reached in the distant past by groups of hunter gatherers was well beyond that of many more recent small bands of modern foragers.

Due to their number, state of preservation, richness, and variety of associated grave goods, burials from the Upper Paleolithic (26,000-8,000 BC) represent an important source of information on ideological beliefs that may have influenced funerary behavior. In an analysis of the European record, Vincenzo Formicola (University of Pisa, Italy) points to a high frequency of multiple burials, commonly attributed to simultaneous death due to natural disaster or disease.

However, a look at grave composition reveals that some of the multiple burials may have been selective. Not only do the skeletons in these graves vary by sex and age, but the most spectacular sites also include a severely deformed individual with a pathological condition that would have been apparent since birth, for example, dwarfism or congenital bowing of the bones.

These multiple graves are also richly ornamented and in choice locales. For example, the remains of an adolescent dwarf in Romito Cave (Calabria, Italy) lie next to a female skeleton under an elaborate engraving of a bull. In the Sunghir double burial (Russia), the skeletons of a pre-teen boy and girl are surrounded by ivory objects including about 5,000 beads, each of which may have taken an hour to make.

"These findings point to the possibility that human sacrifices were part of the ritual activity of these populations and provide clues on the complexity and symbolism pervading Upper Paleolithic societies as well as on the perception of "diversity" and its links to magical-religious beliefs," Formicola writes. "These individuals may have been feared, hated, or revered . . . we do not know whether this adolescent received special burial treatment in spite of being a dwarf or precisely because he was a dwarf."

May 30, 2007

Cauldron Discovered In Ireland Bog

Cauldron discovered in bog

Neill O’Neill

A ROUTINE day cutting turf on the bog ended in a significant discovery for Louisburgh farmer Owen McNally last week, when he unearthed a perfectly intact 2,500-year-old Iron Age cauldron.

Mr McNally was hand cutting turf on his bog at Knockeen, near Cregganbaun on the Killeen to Louisburgh Road on May 21 last, when his traditional sléan struck a solid object at 5.20pm. He decided to peel back some layers of peat to investigate the occurrence further and, to his amazement, found the large bowl-like object two feet under the surface.

The McNally family, Feenone, LouisburghSURPRISING DISCOVERY The McNally
family, Feenone, Louisburgh with the wooden bowl that Owen dug up in
his bog at Knockeen. From left: Lorraine, Irene, Owen, Fintan and
Matthew. Grianghraf: Cormac Ó Cionnaith

It has since been identified by the National Museum of Ireland’s keeper of antiquities, Eamonn Kelly, as an Iron Age cauldron which would have been used for feasting. It was most likely deposited in the bog as an offering to the gods as part of an ancient kinship or sovereignty ritual. The cauldron, which is six inches deep and has a circumference of one foot at the rim, is hand-carved from wood, though the exact type will have to be determined by experts at a later stage.

The area has been examined by Mr Kelly and other archaeologists and a sample of earth from the site has been sent for palaeobotanical analysis to Queen’s University Belfast. The results of this testing will tell archaeologists about the climate and vegetation in the region during this period in history, from which specific details about possible ancient settlements in the area can be inferred.

Mr Kelly also plans to determine the exact age of the find by using radio carbon dating technology on an ancient marker pole that was found in the bog beside the cauldron. This marker, Mr Kelly contends, is proof that the vessel wasn’t just lost and also gives rise to the possibility of finding other intact artefacts on the site. He also failed to rule out the possibility that intact human ‘bogman’ remains could be found in the area, though he was quick to assert his belief that Owen McNally’s bog is not a burial ground.

The cauldron was placed in the possession of the conservation department of the National Museum of Ireland and was taken to the Museum of Country Life in Turlough House, outside Castlebar, to receive specialist preservation care. Its future is uncertain but it is likely to be displayed there in the interim and is certainly worthy of a place on display in the museum’s headquarters on Kildare Street in Dublin, according to Mr Kelly.

“Bog finds are not unheard of in Ireland but to find an artefact so perfectly intact is very rare,” Mr Kelly told The Mayo News from Louisburgh last week.

These types of objects usually show up at the edge of kingships and the townland where this discovery was made is right on the parish boundary. This modern boundary is probably based on older borders that can likely be traced right back through history. This would fit the find in with the normal pattern.

Chairman of the Mayo Historical and Archaeological society, Noel O’Neill, described the find as very meaningful.

“The finding of this wooden cauldron is most significant and will throw some light on a period of Irish prehistory of which not too much is known,” he said. “To unearth a wooden artefact in such good condition is unusual, and Mr McNally is to be congratulated for informing the staff of the National Museum in good time. His find will add another facet to our knowledge of the Iron Age in County Mayo.”

Owen McNally is glad he was able to find the cauldron but believes he was very fortunate to have stumbled upon the delicate item, as his turf is usually cut by machinery.

“I don’t usually cut the traditional way; I usually use the hopper, but it never came this year and I wanted to get working on saving some turf in case it never came at all.

“When the hopper was here last it was cutting in the area right beside where I made the find and had it been back this year it would probably have destroyed the cauldron without anyone noticing. It was only the second day this year I was out and I was just about to go home when I struck it. I guess you could say it was a very lucky find.”

May 28, 2007

The Truth Behind This Month's Blue Moon:

The Truth Behind This Month's Blue Moon

Joe Rao Skywatching Columnist

Thursday, May 31 brings us the second of two full Moons for North Americans this month. Some almanacs and calendars assert that when two full Moons occur within a calendar month, that the second full Moon is called the "Blue Moon." The full Moon that night will likely look no different than any other full Moon. But the Moon can change color in certain conditions. After forest fires or volcanic eruptions, the Moon can appear to take on a bluish or even lavender hue. Soot and ash particles, deposited high in the Earth's atmosphere can sometimes make the Moon appear bluish. Smoke from widespread forest fire activity in western Canada created a blue Moon across eastern North America in late September 1950. In the aftermath of the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991 there were reports of blue moons (and even blue Suns) worldwide.

The phrase "Once in a blue Moon" was first noted in 1824 and refers to occurrences that are uncommon, though not truly rare. Yet, to have two full Moons in the same month is not as uncommon as one might think. In fact, it occurs, on average, about every 32 months. And in the year 1999, it occurred twice in a span of just three months! For the longest time no one seemed to have a clue as to where the "Blue Moon Rule" originated. Many years ago in the pages of Natural History magazine, I speculated that the rule might have evolved out of the fact that the word "belewe" came from the Old English, meaning, "to betray." "Perhaps," I suggested, "the second full Moon is 'belewe' because it betrays the usual perception of one full moon per month." But as innovative as my explanation was, it turned out to be completely wrong.

It was not until the year 1999 that the origin of the calendrical term "Blue Moon" was at long last discovered. It was during the time frame from 1932 through 1957 that the Maine Farmers' Almanac suggested that if one of the four seasons (winter, spring, summer or fall) contained four full Moons instead of the usual three, that the third full Moon should be called a "Blue Moon." But thanks to a couple of misinterpretations of this arcane rule, first by a writer in a 1946 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, and much later, in 1980 in a syndicated radio program, it now appears that the second full Moon in a month is the one that's now popularly accepted as the definition of a "Blue Moon." This time around, the Moon will turn full on May 31 at 9:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (6:04 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time).

But for those living in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, that same full Moon occurs after midnight, on the calendar date of June 1. So in these regions of world, this will not be second of two full Moons in May, but the first of two full Moons in June. So, if (for example) you live London, you'll have to wait until June 30 to declare that the Moon is "officially" blue.

May 26, 2007

Judge Says Witnesses Can Take Oath With Any Religious Text:

Steve Hartsoe
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. - Witnesses and jurors being sworn in at state courthouses can take their oath using any religious text, not just the Bible, a judge ruled Thursday. Judge Paul Ridgeway said common law and state Supreme Court precedent allow witnesses and jurors to use the text "most sacred and obligatory upon their conscience." The ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union argued that limiting that text to the Bible was unconstitutional because it favored Christianity over other religions. The issue surfaced when Muslims tried to donate copies of the Quran to Guilford County's two courthouses. Two judges declined to accept the texts, saying that taking an oath on the Quran was illegal under state law. State law allows witnesses preparing to testify in court to take their oath by laying a hand over "the Holy Scriptures," by saying "so help me God" without the use of a religious book or by an affirmation using no religious symbols. The ACLU sought a court order declaring the statute unconstitutional or clarifying that it was broad enough to allow the use of multiple religious texts. Though the judge stopped short of that, the ACLU and others supporting the lawsuit still considered the ruling "a great victory." "We welcome this ruling as an expression of our nation's constitutional commitment to religious diversity and tolerance," said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. The ACLU said six other states have similar laws that favor the Bible in courtrooms: Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. A trial court judge initially dismissed the ACLU's suit in December 2005. The judge ruled it was moot because there was no actual controversy at the time. An appeals court panel allowed the case to go forward in January, after the ACLU added Syidah Mateen as a plaintiff. In its decision, the appeals court cited Mateen's claim that her request to place her hand on the Quran as a witness in a domestic violence case was denied in 2003. During a hearing this month, state attorneys asked Ridgeway to dismiss the case, calling the complaint political. The state has 30 days to appeal Thursday's ruling and is reviewing it, said Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the state attorney general.

May 25, 2007

Parents Give Child A Pagan Blessing:


Oak was raised into the air during the naming ceremony
Oak was raised into the air during the naming ceremony

A PAGAN couple from Harlow held an unusual birth ceremony for their 11-month-old son Oak this month.

Instead of opting for a traditional christening, Rowen Saunders and Eric Rogers gave their son a pagan blessing in front of 100 well-wishers.

"The guests and all those involved, dressed up as characters from woodland stories, so we had everything from Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and Grandma, my 93-year-old Nan, to the Wizard of Oz characters," said Rowen.

"Each of the elements, air, fire, water, earth, spirit and tree were represented by one of Oak's spiritual guides, the equivalent of godparents," she added.

Eric Rogers and Rowen Saunders with Oak
Eric Rogers and Rowen Saunders with Oak

A Celebrant, Madeline, led the ceremony, which saw Oak receiving gifts and blessings from his spiritual guides and family.

"They wished him health, courage, love, happiness and all that stuff - so he should be a very lucky boy!" said Rowen. "And we gave our pledges as parents on how we will look after him."

The ceremony took place on May 5 at Ramsholt beach in Suffolk, where Oak was born.

All the guests joined in for a rousing rendition of the Teddy Bear's Picnic and readings and poems were recited.

Rowen's niece Nell released a big baby-shaped balloon to represent the release of Oak's spirit and a toy sailing boat was launched out to sea to represent the start of his journey.

For the naming Oak was raised into the air while all the guests said his name over and over to create a sound bath.

"We were worried he might cry, but he was just grinning, laughing and pointing at everyone. He loved it," said Rowen.

The ceremony ended with a toast of Oak Leaf wine and was followed by celebrations in the village hall.

"It was a new experience for some of our guests and there were definitely bits people weren't expecting!" said Rowen.

"But everyone was very touched by it and said how lovely it was."

The next day there was an oak tree planting ceremony for Oak and his family buried a time capsule containing items from the year he was born and details about his pagan blessing.

"We had a pagan wedding in 2004 at the Avebury Stone Circle and we wanted to carry it on. We don't follow anything specific, but we follow the idea of everything being connected to nature, it's just a very caring way of life," said Rowen.

"We feel like we've given Oak a really good start in life, there was a lot of love involved. He had a few problems when he was born, but now he's ready to face anything!"


Melissa McCrady
Have you ever met a real-life witch? Chances are you have, and you don't even know it. They're not as 'scary' as you may think. We found out...modern-day 'witches' are actually a lot more Glinda the Good, than Wicked Witch of the West. For years, witches have been portrayed as broom-flying, cackling, evil-spell-doers. Actually...they like to stay very close to the earth. Circle Sanctuary is a Wiccan Church near Madison. Selena Fox started the group more than 30 years ago. "The Wiccan religion is a nature religion, and it has more in common with Celtic Christianity and Native American traditional ways," Fox says. She says there are many misconceptions about her faith. "The Wiccan religion has nothing to do with the devil, with anything nefarious," Fox explains. On Earth Day, she led the group in a ritual...praising the five sacred elements: Earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. The event also included a dramatic prairie-burn, which helps restore and preserve the prairie as a habitat. People from all walks of life belong to the church. Joey says her love of nature attracted her to the faith. "When people ask I usually just say, 'Yes, I'm Pagan, I'm a nature worshiper,'" Joey tells us. Other people, like Rachel Rucinski, are just trying it out. "I don't adhere to a particular religion at this time. I think what people don't understand scares them, and for me, what I don't understand excites me," Rachel says. The craft is also part of the Wiccan religion. Felicia Morgan teaches witchcraft. She recently opened 'The Witch's Knot' in West Allis to educate others. "You can't go to a lot of places even now, and say, 'Hey, I want to learn about being a witch,'" Morgan says. Felicia teaches a variety of skills, from tarot-reading to spell-casting. "Spells are our form of prayer. Before we do anything we ask ourselves, 'Will this harm someone?'" Morgan explains. Mostly, the group just gathers together to talk about life and faith. Betsy Clemens works at a hospital. She says it's good to have a place where she can express herself. "We're kinda shy about it. There's a lot of misconceptions. People think we worship the devil and we don't." And in the midst of all the broomsticks, candles, and cauldrons...Morgan says her customers' comfort is her main priority. "A big, comfy area, people can come in, feel safe," she says. And...maybe get a new understanding about a religion that dates back hundreds of years. One of the Wiccan leaders referred to Wisconsin as "Witchconsin." She says the Pagan population is growing rapidly across the state, as more and more people understand the true meaning of the faith. The Wiccan religion is recognized by the U.S. Government. Some lawmakers have tried to overturn that decision. Even President George W. Bush said he doesn't think Wicca is a religion.

Pagan Authors To Speak At Universal Healing Center:

SANFORD (May 23, 2007): Universal Healing Center announces “Classes & Authors & Readings Oh my!” will be happening on Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27.

Universal Healing Center will be hosting events headlined by noted pagan authors Dorothy Morrison, M.R. Sellars and Christopher Penczak. The three authors will be available to sign copies of their books and will be presenting workshops dealing with various topics concerning magick and spiritual enlightenment of many types.

Registration for all workshops and readings is recommended as space and times are limited.
The center is located behind Radio Shack on Main Street in Sanford.

Dorothy Morrison is a third degree Wiccan High Priestess of the Georgian tradition. She is the author of "The Craft," "Everyday Magic" and several other neo-pagan/ Wiccan books. She will be available to sign her newest book "Dancing The Goddess Incarnate."

Morrison will also be conducting workshops dealing with the Swifting of Energy and some of her experiences touring as a pagan author. She will also take appointments to conduct tarot card readings.

M. R. Sellars has been called the “Dennis Miller of Paganism” for his quick wit and humorously deadpan observations of life within the pagan community and beyond.

However, his humor is only one facet of his personality, as evidenced by the dark, unique thrillers he pens. That practice has earned him another name—the “Pagan Tony Hillerman.” Even with all these comparative monikers, he still likes to think of himself as just another writer trying to eke out a living doing a job he loves.

All of the current Rowan Gant novels have spent several consecutive weeks on numerous bookstore bestseller lists. "The Law Of Three," book 4 in the saga, received the St. Louis Riverfront Times People's Choice Award soon after its debut.

An honorary elder of Mystic Moon, a teaching coven based in Kansas City, and an elder of The Grove of the Old Ways, Sellars is actually for the most part a solitary practitioner of an eclectic mix of pagan paths, and has been since the late seventies. He currently resides in the Midwest with his wife, daughter, and a host of rescued felines. Sellars will be conducting several workshops and will be available to sign any of his books.

Christopher Penczak is an eclectic witch, writer, and healing practitioner. His practice draws upon the foundation of modern witchcraft blended with the wisdom of mystical traditions from across the globe.

Formerly based in the music industry, Penczak was empowered by his spiritual experiences to live a magickal life, and began a full-time practice of teaching, writing, and seeing clients. His books include the "The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation, and Psychic Development," "City Magick" and the award-winning "The Outer Temple of Witchcraft: Circles, Spells, and Rituals, The Outer Temple of Witchcraft."

Penczak will be presenting a workshop on May 26 based upon his newest book," Ascension Magick" as well as conducting tarot card readings.

May 20, 2007

4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual:

4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual

Author: Caroline Kenner
[a WitchVox Sponsor]

Pagan religious rights advocates spent more than ten years in struggle to achieve the Veterans’ Pentacle victory. As we celebrate, we must ponder our next move in the quest for religious freedom. The Veterans’ Pentacle is a wonderful victory, but the longer campaign for universal religious freedom continues. And so, what should our next steps be?

We have seen how long it took to get the Pentacle. Surely we can manifest continued focus on Pagan religious rights issues, so that we don’t wait another ten years for our next victory. We need to voice a further agenda for Pagan religious rights now, while America still remembers that a department of the federal government stonewalled the Pentacle for political reasons. And we need to voice our demand for religious freedom publicly, and invite the media to attend as well.

To that end, Chesapeake Pagan Community and I have been working for months to arrange a Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual, to be held on the Fourth of July 2007 in Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House and catty-corner to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Originally, our intent was to support the Veterans’ Pentacle Quest. Now that we have won the Pentacle, there are many other issues to put forward. Advocating a military chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the most pressing issues. Adding the symbols of more Pagan denominations to those religious emblems approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs is another vital issue. Even the mere act of demonstrating publicly for Pagan religious rights is empowering.

And so, we invite you to join us on the Glorious Fourth of July! Meet us in front of the White House to listen to our leaders articulate a further agenda for Pagan Religious Rights.

Our special guest speaker is Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It was the attorneys of Americans United who negotiated the settlement in the Pentacle case, Circle Sanctuary v. Nicholson. We are grateful to Rev. Lynn and Americans United for their advocacy litigation. He says: “Until Pagans have the same rights as Presbyterians and Pentecostals, religious liberty is not safe in America. The Framers of our Constitution mandated no preference for any one religion over another or for all religion over secularist beliefs."

We will also be welcoming Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, a tireless campaigner for Pagan religious rights with many proud achievements. Selena proposes continued unity of action among diverse Pagan groups for religious liberty: “United We Stand. United We Win!" Selena and her Pagan rights group the Lady Liberty League will continue the struggle on behalf of all Pagans nationally.

At this time, there are no Pagan chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces, although other minority religions with similar numbers of devotees in the military have one or more chaplains. Rev. Michael Akins of the Military Pagan Network, a retired Army Chaplain Assistant, will speak on the Fourth of July about the need for a Pagan chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. He says: “Certainly those who protect the freedoms of all of us deserve freedom of religion for themselves.”

Rev. Marcia Drewry of Sacred Well Congregation will be joining us on the Fourth of July to tell us about the first Wiccan Open Circle in Iraq, during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003. She has also organized circles here at home, beginning with leading the first Wiccan Open Circle at Fort Bragg. Rev. Drewry currently leads the Tidewater Open Circle in southern Virginia. She says, “A lay leader is unable to fully minister to the military Pagan community due to regulatory restrictions. So our military members do not have equality of religious rights currently."

Steve McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly will speak about Thor’s Hammer: “Modern-day Asatru has a very high percentage of veterans. We've worn the hammer amulet into combat. It's only right that the same symbol be on our headstones.”

Rev. Skip Ellison, Archdruid of Ar nDraoicht Fein, will speak about the Druids’ Awen symbol. Skip points out “It is important to remember that freedom of religion means freedom for all religions to worship as they choose.”

Diana L. Paxson, acclaimed author and Pagan Elder, will lead us in circle as we invoke the Founders of Our Nation. This will be the first public Pagan ritual in Lafayette Square Park, in the President’s front yard. Diana has been invoking the Founders for some years now. You may have seen her cover article on her rituals in Pangaia Magazine last autumn.

Diana describes the Fourth of July ritual this way: “We will honor those who established our fundamental freedoms, especially Washington and Jefferson, and those who built on their ideas, from Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, offering our energies to preserve the liberties they fought for and the land they loved. We will offer our will to carry on the work of our Founding Fathers and Mothers, and to help America become what they hoped it would be.”

To do such a ritual on the Fourth of July outside the White House will create a very powerful resonance, and have far reaching consequences. We invite you to co-create this ritual of religious freedom with us, and help us further the intent of universal religious freedom and free expression for all. Please join us in meditation or trance, or in ritual where you live, if you cannot be physically present at the Washington ritual.

Immediately following the ceremony, Mz. imani, shaman of the drum and founder of Conscious Collaborations, will lead a Spirit Drum Circle lasting until 5pm. The drum circle is designed to send our intent into all the realms. Through the voices of the drums, our ritual intent will travel into the hearts of the world, entwined with the strength of the Founders of Our Nation. Together we will invoke harmony, justice and religious freedom for all.

We are establishing a website for the Fourth of July 2007 Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual, to keep the community updated. Go to for more information about nitty-gritty things like site constraints, T-shirts and the restaurant meetup after the event, as well as the full roster of speakers, including their bios. We are still working on the website, so not everything is going to be live until later this month.

So please join us on the Glorious Fourth of July in front of the White House, and add your voice to the chorus: We will not accept another ten years of stonewalling and denial. We want full Pagan religious rights. And we want our rights immediately.
Pagan & Witch T-Shirts & Gifts : ButterflyMoonPagan & Witch T-Shirts & Gifts : ButterflyMoon

May 18, 2007

Wiccan High Priestess Explains Witchcraft:

A couple of weeks ago we told you about a Wiccan ritual internet hoax. While we made the point that it was a hoax several times, some people were left with the impression that this crude imitation of Witchcraft might actually take place in Floyd County.

The fictitious event being promoted on the internet recently was replete with references to group sex, public nudity, bondage, and blood rituals. Its use of extremely explicit sexual language was the first clue that it was a hoax.

"It is obviously outrageous and obviously written by someone who knows nothing about the craft at all. It is obviously vindictive in nature," says Michelle Carpenter, Wiccan High Priestess. "The craft" refers to Witchcraft.

Lady Damorea, also known as Michelle Carpenter, says the foremost obligation of a modern-day witch is to "harm no one." It's similar to the physician's Hippocratic oath: "First, do no harm."

Carpenter was especially concerned about the on-line reference to "blood offerings" and "animal sacrifices." "There are a lot of people out there who are weird and go for such things. But they're not witches," says Carpenter.

"People need to understand that witches are just people, like everyone else. It's just that we follow a different spiritual path," says Carpenter.

Wiccans view Nature as one of the primary sources of metaphysical strength and power. Naturally, their rituals are performed outdoors in the ritual circle, a sacred place that serves as a gateway to a more spiritual world.

May 17, 2007

Orthodox Jew Accuses VA Hospital Of Pushing Christianity

Orthodox Jew accuses VA hospital of pushing Christianity

By The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Navy veteran David Miller, an Orthodox Jew, has accused chaplains and staff at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City of attempting to convert him to Christianity.

Miller, 46, of Iowa City, was treated for kidney stones during three hospitalizations over the past two years. He said he went hungry each time because the hospital wouldn't serve him kosher food, and the staff refused to contact his rabbi, who could have brought him something to eat.

"I am not trying to get rid of the chaplain corps," Miller said. "When I was in the Navy, I was a religious-program specialist. I worked with Christian chaplains, and I believe in the value of the chaplain corps, but not using it to bludgeon people, for heaven's sake."

Miller outlined his complaints at a news conference in Des Moines on May 10. It was sponsored by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an activist group based in Albuquerque, N.M.

Miller said the Iowa City veterans hospital was permeated by government sponsorship of fundamentalist Christianity and unconstitutional discrimination against Jews.

He said he had tried to resolve the problems with the hospital's administration without success.

Kirt Sickels, a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City, said administrators were looking into Miller's concerns.

"The Iowa City VA respects the rights to religious beliefs for every patient. If they have a request for any kind of religious needs, we try to accommodate whatever those needs or beliefs might be."

Sickels said it is standard practice within hospitals nationwide to conduct a spiritual assessment of each patient upon admission. Ministry and pastoral counseling are available, but "it is always the patient's right to decline any of these services."

Kosher meals are available to Jewish VA patients in Iowa City, Sickels said.

Michael Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said on May 10 that he was preparing to sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in federal court over Miller's treatment.

He said he suspects other veterans have been treated similarly and that Miller's case could become a class-action lawsuit.

"He has been in the situation where clearly his faith ... is the wrong faith for the Veterans Administration," Weinstein said.