Beard Requests Haven’t Spiked, But Religious Freedom Rises

In a recent article the Air Force indicated that despite the recent publicity of Airmen and other military members being granted waivers to grow religious beards, there hasn’t been a marked increase in the requests:

The Air Force, citing privacy concerns, declined to identify how many airmen have obtained waivers based on religious exemptions but said the publicity surrounding approvals in recent years has not caused an increase in waiver requests.

The article also revealed that despite the publicity surrounding the “heathen” beard approval for SSgt Garrett Sopchak, he was actually the second Airman to get one for “norse heathenism”, after SSgt William Bailey in March.

The policy changes that have supported the increasing facial hair in the military were inspired by the hostility the US military services had begun to demonstrate toward religious exercise — but, in particular, Christian religious expression. The public face of the changes instituted by Congress has focused on clothing and beards — to the frustration of the congressmen who authored the legislation mandating the policy changes.  That said, while the publicity has focused on turbans and beards, it does appear there has been a lull in successful attacks on religious liberty by those intent on discriminating against Christians in the military.

Religious freedom is an equal opportunity liberty (as if that isn’t redundant), and “a rising tide lifts all boats.” There’s nothing wrong with — and in fact, there’s something good about — the US military allowing Sikhs to serve while maintaining the articles of their faith. (There’s also something good about the military not allowing people to make a mockery of religious liberty, a la the Flying Spaghetti Monster beard.)

The idea, of course, is the attitude of acceptance of public religiosity will apply equally to all religious faiths, and US military members of all Services and all religious faiths will be able to exercise their faiths without hostility — including Christians.

The outcomes have not been perfect, but it does appear the general trend has been toward increased acceptance of religious liberty and resistance toward religious discrimination — as proposed by, for example, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.

And that is a good thing.

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