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Witch Hunt: Barr on a Rampage

June 9, 1999

By James A. Haught

 

NOT long ago, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., led the right-wing assault on President Clinton's sex life. (Barr's claim to purity sagged a bit when smut king Larry Flynt alleged that he had indulged in adultery and had helped his first wife get an abortion.)

What's Barr doing now, after the impeachment flopped?

ImageChasing witches.

The Georgian learned that some soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, and other military bases practice Wicca, the druidic nature religion, whose members call themselves pagans or witches.

Barr demanded that the Pentagon ban the heathens. He called for "an end to the taxpayer-supported practice of witchcraft on military bases."

"What's next?" he asked. "Will armored divisions be forced to travel with sacrificial animals for satanic rituals? Will Rastafarians demand the inclusion of ritualistic marijuana cigarettes in their rations?"

(Barr's press release is posted on his Internet Web site, near one demanding that America allow its covert agents to commit assassinations.)

Naturally, Barr's witch hunt sparked widely varied reactions. Fundamentalists held a rally, gave the congressman a standing ovation, and called him "Brother Barr." But Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, whose district contains Fort Hood, commented:

"It would be terrible policy to require each installation commander to define what is a religion and decide which religions can be practiced by American citizens."

Exactly. If the Pentagon pays military chaplains of Catholic, Jewish and other faiths, at least it must allow worship by Moonies, Scientologists, Satanists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Santerians, Wiccans or whatever. The government can't tell soldiers that Religion A is approved and Religion B is forbidden.

Actually, Wicca is recognized by the IRS, and Barr's own state has given it tax-exempt status since 1981.

As usual, Barr has made himself outlandish. The best comment on this fracas was by columnist Tom Teepen, who urged the "good witches" to try to "get close enough to Barr one day to kiss him and turn him into a prince."

[Originally published in the West Virginia Gazette. Used with permission of the editor.]

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