The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

One nation under (someone’s) God

July 4, 2006

In honor of Independence Day, a little game of “spot the performative contradiction.”

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Courtesy of the Washington Post, the VA’s response to Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart’s widow’s request that a brass plaque bearing the symbol of his Wiccan faith — a pentacle — be installed in the Veteran’s memorial Cemetary in Fernley, Nevada:

. . . applications from Wiccan groups and individuals to VA for use of the pentacle on grave markers have been pending for nine years, during which time the symbols of 11 other faiths have been approved.


The department has approved the symbols of 38 other faiths; about half of are versions of the Christian cross. It also allows the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel, the Mormon angel, the nine-pointed star of Bahai and something that looks like an atomic symbol for atheists.

230 years later and we’re still trying to figure out what the disestablishment clause means. Happy Birthday, USA.

Filed as:

website | + posts

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson is Professor of International Studies in the School of International Service, and also Director of the AU Honors program. He was formerly Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of International Relations and Development, and is currently Series Editor of the University of Michigan Press' book series Configurations: Critical Studies of World Politics.