From 1999, Washington Post: Wiccan Controversy Tests Military Religious Tolerance
KILLEEN, Tex.—Every full moon for the past two years, a few dozen off-duty soldiers have gathered at an open campsite at Fort Hood, America's largest military post. By day, they are privates and sergeants in the U.S. Army, training for deployment to Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo. But at these lunar assemblies they trade in their Army fatigues for hooded robes, chant to the lead of their chosen high priestess and dance around a fire well into the night.
They are America's first official Army witches, with all that double duty implies: buzz cuts and pentagram rings, moon tattoos under uniforms. One typical dog tag reads: NAME: Philip Campanaro. UNIT: USAG III Corps. RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE: Wicca.
After two years in peaceful obscurity, the Fort Hood wiccans -- their beliefs a blend of pre-Christian paganism and New Age earth worship -- suddenly find themselves in the midst of a brewing controversy. Last month, a photograph of one of their moonlit rituals made it into the local papers, leading some national Christian leaders and one congressman to begin denouncing their practices as satanic.
Now the witches are forced to confront a question their predecessors faced since the dawn of Christianity: Should they retreat back into secret covens, or try their luck in the open market of America's scattered spirituality? The military, in the meantime, finds itself explaining what until now has been a little known but routine lifestyle policy: supporting soldiers who want to practice what the military calls, without passing judgment, "minority" religions.
Two summers ago, the Army approved the Fort Hood Open Circle as its first official wiccan group. Without much fanfare, Fort Hood officials gave them a grassy campsite for their sacred ground, sanctioned their choice of high priestess -- even lent them an Army chaplain for moral support.