A variety of websites that track issues of religion in the public sphere have listed their “top ten” stories for 2009. Though each uses their own criteria, the resulting lists generally matched the recent trend (as noted last year) in which issues of religion and the military have largely disappeared from the “big stories” over the years.
US News mentioned nothing about the military in their list, nor did the Religion Clause. BJC Online included a mention about Sikhs and the military at #8 and accusations of military evangelism in “US Foreign Affairs” at #4. Of these, the Religion News Writers were the only ones to mention US Army Maj Hasan’s Fort Hood massacre (#3).
While ongoing events in the world will likely keep religion near the forefront of current affairs discussions, “controversies” over the interaction between religion and the military do not appear to be the “headlines” that some might think they are. The year 2009 may have borne that out. Some of the “biggest” stories on the military and religion were actually non-events, including accusations of Bible distribution in Afghanistan or the plethora of complaints that Chaplains acted illegally or unConstitutionally.
There will always be controversies and media attention. Still, the belief that some accusations of impropriety are ”tempests in a teapot” may be correct. Perhaps, too, claims of surreptitious military takeovers by religions seeking world domination really are the fringe conspiracy theories they often seem to be.
Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and co-author of Is Christianity Good for the World with Pastor Douglas Wilson, takes on religion in the US military in his latest article in Vanity Fair, for which is he a contributing writer.
The lead-in to the article demonstrates a set of false assumptions which are never substantiated within the article:
It’s no secret that conservative Christians dominate the US military, but when higher-ups start talking about conversion missions, it’s time to worry.
Hitchens never provides evidence that any ideological belief, never mind conservative Christianity, “dominates” the US military. He also misrepresents Read more…
Categories: Government and Religion Afghanistan, al Jazeera, atheism, chapel, christopher hitchens, Church and State, conspiracy, Constitution, evangelism, freethinker, Government, Islam, mikey weinstein, Military, MRFF, Public Expression, Religion, USAFA
The American military isn’t the only one that has to contend with accusations of mistreating detainees–or of crusading a religion.
In late December, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service concluded that a list of accusations against the Canadian military over the past few years were “unfounded.” The list included not only physical mistreatment, but also religious coercion: Read more…
An interesting article at the Air Force Times goes into more detail about a previously discussed “dream job” in the US Air Force: playing the bad guy. Air Force pilots fly American fighters but train to replicate the threat of potential adversaries. They then use those skills to “defend their homeland” during major exercises.
(Fighter units frequently use their own assets to simulate an air threat, a technique known as flying “red air.” However, aggressor units specifically train to precisely replicate foreign tactics for large force scenarios.)
The article indicates, perhaps a little too matter-of-factly, that the US Air Force once had multiple squadrons of Russian-built fighters:
In the days that the U.S. considered the Soviet Union its biggest threat, four squadrons of airmen flew Russian-made MiG-21s or Su-27 fighters to lend authenticity to their job. Read more…
The US Navy used to have a slogan that said, “Join the Navy, see the world.” While the catch phrase has long since been abandoned, “seeing the world” remains a significant reason that some people join the US military. Within just a few months of starting their military service, they may be sent to places as widely varied as Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is true, too, that in this present time many will likely soon see Iraq, Afghanistan, and the surrounding regions.
An Army press release notes the experiences of a group of soldiers who were given the opportunity to see the ruins of Ur in Iraq. Ur is the historical birthplace of Abraham, Read more…
The recent Military Religion Question of the Day involved accusations that an Air National Guard Chaplain, LtCol Dan Hornok, was “blatantly proselytizing” in a commentary he published on an Air Force website. The article and initial commentary can be seen here.
The basic questions were:
- Was the Chaplain “blatantly proselytizing?”
- What if the writer had not been a Chaplain?
- What do the Chaplain’s words—and the critic’s—say about the spiritual environment in the military?
Was the Chaplain “blatantly proselytizing?”
The shortest, most accurate answer: Read more…
Categories: Military Regulations abuhena saifulislam, Americans United, Bible, Church and State, Constitution, evangelism, Government, Islam, mikey weinstein, Military, MRFF, Public Expression, Religion
While some seem to imply that only Christians associate their religious ideology with their military service, public examples on all sides demonstrate that is not the case.
A Pennsylvania paper recently covered a local story in which a group of pagan veterans are encouraging those with similar beliefs to, in their words, “come out of the broom closet.” Charles Arnold is the “‘national commander’ of the Pagan Veterans of the United States,” which he formed earlier this year. He says pagan veterans “number Read more…
God and Country will return on 28 December. In the meantime, we leave you with the words of President Barack Obama, chatting with children during a visit to a Boys and Girls Club in Washington, DC. Amazingly, at least one person has implied Obama violated the Constitution in making these comments. The relationship between those in government service, the Constitution, and religion is certainly controversial–and misunderstood–in America today. Kudos to the President for not shying away from the legitimate discussion of religious beliefs, as well as respecting those of the children.
Have a wonderful celebration of the birth of our Savior. Merry Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think that the most important thing is just to remember why we celebrate Christmas.
CHILD: I know!
THE PRESIDENT: Do you know?
CHILD: The birth of baby Jesus.
THE PRESIDENT: The birth of baby Jesus, Read more…
The lawyer for accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan has said his client’s religious rights have been violated by policies that restrict his freedoms during his confinement in the hospital.
Pretrial restrictions on Hasan [include] a requirement that he speak only in English with visitors or on the phone, unless an Army-approved translator is present…
Attorney John P. Galligan said he learned that police guarding Hasan…cut short a phone conversation Hasan was having with one of his brothers on Friday because Hasan was not speaking in English.
“Police at the hospital refused to let him pray, in Arabic, from the Quran with his brother,” Galligan said. “I think it’s illegal and a violation of his religious rights.”
The article cites “those familiar with” military justice in saying that the restrictions, while potentially non-standard in the civilian sector, would not necessarily be unusual within the military criminal justice system.
An Army article relates the story of Chaplain (Capt) Carl Subler, one of only two Catholic Chaplains in the RC-South portion of Afghanistan.
Like Chaplain Foley, Subler also carries a kit with him containing the necessary supplies to conduct Catholic Mass, even if its done by headlamp on a helicopter landing pad.
DoD Photo (Staff Sergeant Christine Jones)
An Airman in the group noted the importance of faith Read more…
Not every fighter pilot gets to “use” their skills. Like a football player who never goes to the SuperBowl, they train hard and sharpen their skills for the time when they are called upon, but for any of a variety of reasons–whether timing, politics, or just the world environment–they simply “miss” the war.
As noted in Christian Fighter Pilot is not an Oxymoron, no fighter pilot yearns for war, but if war occurs, they desperately want to be there, to do their job, and to do their part to achieve victory.
That said, even in war, there are sometimes slow times. The Air Force Times notes that November was the second month this year in which zero bombs were dropped in Iraq, even though there were more than 800 close air support missions. Read more…
Large institutions like the US military, in their haste to address scandals, are sometimes criticized for imposing policies that answer the accusations of critics rather than defending the virtues or protecting the freedoms of their members. (This was the case when the Air Force issued “Religious Guidelines” in 2005, for example.) Fort Hood, in its reaction to the recent massacre, may have made itself vulnerable to that accusation.
The Army Times reports that Fort Hood has “tightened” its firearm policy. Notably:
The policy [requiring personal weapons registration] also applies to soldiers living off post and civilian hunters if they plan to use a gun at Fort Hood.
Those who enter the post must tell guards if they have a weapon with them.
Post officials say they will increase enforcement and inspection, and those who don’t comply face penalties.
The “new policies” restrict gun-owning Soldiers without making any changes that would prevent another massacre.
While the changes were reportedly made in response to the Fort Hood massacre, Read more…
Paul “Skid” Woodford is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and F-15 fighter pilot. As recorded on his blog, he recently experienced a questionably “manly” event that reminded him of a story that is, truthfully, still a longstanding urban legend within the fighter community (particularly between the F-15 and F-16 communities, which sometimes have a “friendly” rivalry). The story he tells is still well-known, despite the fact that Woodford retired more than 10 years ago, and the story he recounts is nearly 30 years old.
The reference to LtCol Woodford’s site does not equate to an endorsement of his views (interesting though they are). He uses the “warrior vernacular,” so be warned about language on the site. Woodford is also a self-described atheist and tends to “lean left.”
If nothing else, his site is proof that contrary to popular belief, the US military–and even the fighter pilot community–is not homogenous. The US military is composed of men and women who represent all kinds of ideologies, as is the American culture from which they come.
Though “watchdogs” are normally on the lookout for any connection between official US Air Force resources and remotely-religious events (as they sternly did earlier this year), a recent public event passed quietly and without controversy.
The US Air Force Band attended and provided the music for the National Menorah lighting at the White House on December 13th.
Though chilled by the winter weather, the band provided a warm performance and did an excellent job of supporting the US government’s public celebration of an important part of many Americans’–and some would say the nation’s–culture and religious heritage.
The entire ceremony can be watched at the National Menorah website.
First reported at the Religion Clause.
The US military is increasingly sensitive to associations with events that might be perceived as religious. While it strives to protect the free exercise rights of its members, it is also cognizant of criticisms of inappropriate interactions between a government institution and religion.
Few times is this more evident than near the end of the year, when the military struggles to support the religious celebrations of its members of varying religions. In general, there is little chance of offense between the varying religions that share holy days during this season. The greater possibility, in fact, is that critics of religion will be offended by the military’s support of military members’ religious celebrations.
The military’s handling of these events is not uniform, and there are no official policies on the support of public religious celebrations by military members. This has led to some interesting contrasts.
For example, military bases traditionally have displays during the “holiday” season, not unlike the White House’s National Christmas tree and Menorah. Searches for “Air Force Base” and “Christmas tree” show that, in the Air Force at least, there are still a great many military bases that do, in fact, light “Christmas” trees. However, expanding the search Read more…