US Navy Sailors Celebrate Paganism Aboard Carrier

A few sailors aboard the USS John C. Stennis, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, were recently highlighted for their unique exercise of religious freedom. From the official news release:

Heathenry, a religion with roots in Norse culture and mythology, is being practiced by a small, committed group of Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Joshua Wood, from Eagle River, Alaska, is John C. Stennis’ Heathen lay leader.

The story is “interesting” enough that the normally sleepy Navy news report has been widely repeated across the media, though it seems to have generated little controversy (which most publishers probably wanted).  Wood reportedly took a mythology class in high school, which, awkwardly, seems to have led to his new religious beliefs.

The “lay service” held in the ship’s chapel is announced over the “one-main” — the ship’s intercom — just like every other announcement (including those of other religious services).

The Navy release cited the regulation that governed the appointment of lay leaders, which leads to an interesting question [emphasis added]:

According to Military Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN) 1730-010, religious lay leaders will be appointed by commanding officers on the basis of volunteerism, high moral character, motivation, religious interest and a letter of certification by the appointee’s religious organization.

Who do you think wrote the letter from the “appointee’s religious organization”?  There isn’t exactly a heathen institutional structure.

This is hardly the first pagan/heathen “religious” issue within the US military.  The US Army recently allowed a Soldier to start wearing a beard so he could be a “Norse pagan.”  Wicca and its variations of paganry have been noted in fairly large numbers at Fort Jackson (home to the US military’s chaplain training, ironically) and the US Air Force Academy.

The core human liberty of religious freedom — one of the “first freedoms” protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment — is an amazing thing. While the government is not obligated to point you in the direction of hell, it also won’t stand in the way should you decide to head that direction. By its very nature, religious freedom protects the right of people to be wrong.

And these Sailors are very wrong.

That said, it’s a choice they’ve made. Perhaps their public presence will help Christian Sailors engage with them along the way, and perhaps they will have the opportunity to learn the Truth.

Until then, we are reminded daily this is a fallen world, and some people revel in it.

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One comment

  • Yet again we are reminded that more religious freedom is better than less. In this sense, a rising tide lifts all boats.

    That there’s no hue and cry in opposition to the free exercise of religion for these sailors is good for all. It also contradicts one of Mikey’s routinely lame claims that the expression of something other than Christianity in the military causes the so-called Christian Dominionists to freak out. Wrong again, Mikey. Very wrong again.

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