Today's Top Five
1. A soldier gets his star
A year after his death in Afghanistan, Sgt. Patrick Stewart's memorial plaque will be inscribed with a Wiccan pentacle (a five-point star inside a circle). His widow had lobbied for the emblem, but was turned down by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA allows for more than 30 symbols for other religions and denominations, but has no approved Wiccan symbol. The VA has not backed down, but Nevada officials say they'll grant the symbol in a state veteran's cemetery.
"The VA still has not determined yet if a Wiccan symbol can go on the headstone," Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, told the Associated Press. "But we have determined we control the state cemetery and that we therefore have the ability to recognize him for his service to his country."
In a June op-ed for Christianity Today Online, John Whitehead had argued that "by refusing to place the Wiccan symbol on Sgt. Stewart's memorial plaque, while permitting symbols of other religions and non-religions, the government is clearly engaging in viewpoint discrimination."
2. Did repealing blue laws encourage sinfulness?
The Washington Post's Richard Morin today highlights a National Bureau of Economic Research study that suggests that the people who argued against Sunday shopping may have been right. MIT's Jonathan Gruber and Notre Dame's Daniel M. Hungerman looked at states that repealed its blue laws and found that it really did seem to lead to less church attendance and greater wickedness. Morin writes:
Before the shopping ban was lifted, about 37 percent of people in a state on average attended religious services at least weekly, Hungerman said. "After the laws are repealed it falls ...1