Fleet Week Highlights Spiritual Support

Many events were sponsored by New York City and the US Navy in the 2010 Fleet Week, which ran from 26 May to 2 June.  Some may be surprised to hear about the “religious” events that were an official part of the prestigious celebration.

As noted in the 2010 New York City Navy Week schedule, Sailors served meals at a soup kitchen, housed in the landmark Church of the Holy Apostles.  There was a “blessing of the fleet,” conducted by Monsignor James Dorney of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church and Rabbi Gerald Sussman of Temple Emanu-El. The Council of Jewish Presidents held an official Memorial Day ceremony at the Jewish synagogue Kehilath Jeshurun.

Despite some attempts at contrived controversy, religion in the military is a natural reflection of the American society from which US armed forces are drawn.  Though some may find it offensive, there is nothing wrong with uniformed servicemembers serving food in a church, nor the picture of an apparently praying Marine advertising an official event hosted entirely by Jewish organizations.

Merely associating with religion is neither forbidden by the Constitution nor is it “propaganda” for American adversaries or a danger to US troops.  (Despite prior conspiracy-fueled accusations in other cases, no one has made the ludicrous suggestion here that Sailors on a ship blessed by a Rabbi will be endangered when next they deploy to the Middle East.)

Instead, the military’s relationship with religion is a reflection of the religious freedom for which American forces have fought, and continue to fight.  For those that look forward to military service, rest assured that your religious freedom and exercise continue to be protected within the US military, as they should be.