Military Paper: Religious Free Zone vs Religious Education

Previous discussions have highlighted research papers from Professional Military Education (PME) courses that have addressed topics of religion in the military.  Again, as noted at the time, these papers are the result of an academic course of study and do not reflect official positions or policies.  The fact that religion in the military is coming up so frequently as a topic, however, does say something about the current culture.

Yet another example of this trend is the paper “Constructing Religious Empathy in the US Military” (pdf) by USAF Major Jess Drab; the paper was written for the US Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College in 2008.

In the paper, Drab argues that while some believe religion in the military should be silenced in order to advance the Nation’s current causes, religious and cultural education is actually a far better option.  While the US military is currently educating its members on Islam and its related culture, the author notes this isn’t necessarily sufficient:

Full cultural awareness demands open discourse about American culture and religious identities, and thorough examination of the interactions thereof. Free practice of religion, within lawful bounds, must not be marginalized or silenced in the military; religious discussion, awareness, and education will help military forces understand the current security environment and ultimately aid US victory in the Global War on Terror. (emphasis added)

Drab has a fairly clear description of the faults of imposed secularism:

Secularists often argue for more restrictive tactics to achieve tolerance, saying that even implied religious endorsement (via public affiliation) by military members is illegal under the 1st Amendment. Such a position effectively eliminates free individual religious expression and does nothing to educate the implied underlying culture of religious intolerance…Removing individual religious expression from military members hampers, rather than helps the War on Terror. The military must accept religion (or lack thereof) as an honored personal choice and as indicative of cultural identity.

Her paper is not without its faults, but it is well written and researched; at 30 pages, it is both manageable and worth the read.

Other PME papers of interest can be read here.