Air Force Advertises Religious Inclusiveness

An Air Force article from Iraq notes that military Chaplains served all religions this past holiday-filled December:

Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans all observe major holy days in December. Air Force chaplains here spent much of the month making sure everyone in the diverse Joint Base Balad community had an opportunity to worship according to their beliefs.

The article includes a picture of Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Cohen, the wing Jewish Chaplain, with a Magen David Menorah, as well as officers observing a candlelit Christmas Eve service there.  Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Terese Erickson, the deputy wing chaplain in Balad, noted that

Accommodation means making sure everyone has an opportunity to worship…

and supported those words with her actions:

Army Spc. William Corum…is one of three lay leaders for a group of Wiccans and Pagans that meets here…

“The chaplains here are very supportive,” said Corum… “Chaplain Erickson has helped us with numerous things: getting locations and times (for services), helping us get the word out. They occasionally sit in on our groups and send me e-mails to see how we’re doing. They’ve worked with us to get us the things the group needs, and they’ve really gone above and beyond.”  

While this is not a new occurrence in the Air Force (Chaplains have historically helped their servicemembers in whatever faith, or lack thereof, they had), it is somewhat unusual for the military to feel the need to publish a solely religiously-themed news article.  On the other hand, this continues the trend of some other articles that have emphasized both religious diversity and the intentional efforts of the military to accomodate all its diverse members.

While in the past these themes may have been considered unnewsworthy or even self-aggrandizing, these articles may be an intentional effort to counter previously unopposed accusations that the military has been officially hostile to non-Christian views.  (For example, it was the alleged interference with a meeting of atheist soldiers in Iraq that led to the now-dismissed lawsuit against the Army.)  It may be an attempt to educate the rest of the military, and even the general public, that the military “standard” for religious freedom is a far cry from some accusations in the media.

While there may occasionally be rights to be wronged from both sides, the institutional environment continues to be one of acceptance of varying beliefs–sometimes to a fault.