“Religious engagement is something new, and people are gun-shy over the issues from religious support and who’s proselytizing whom. But we can’t shy away from the conversation because then we begin to deny who we are and the opportunity for frank, candid discussions that enable the mission and not impede it.”
Religion has been a driving force behind wars throughout history; modern times are no different. [2014 marked] the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when jihadists killed nearly 3,000 Americans…
– Chris Seiple, the president of the Institute for Global Engagement, and the keynote speaker
When the Family Research Council published its “Clear and Present Danger” (PDF) report on the state of religious freedom in the US military, there was caterwauling from secularists and critics of religious freedom that the report was full of lies and fabrications. In the intervening months, however, no one actually sat down and rebutted the claims.
Granted, with 61 events contributing to what the authors call a “picture of the threat to religious liberty” in the US military, the breadth of the situation made it a daunting task to counter.
It’s also hard to refute because its true.
Chris Rodda, of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation, gave a half-hearted attempt last June, discussing Continue reading →
An article from the Kentucky Gleaner (published at the Stars and Stripes) notes that some missionaries in Afghanistan will continue to serve there even as US forces withdraw:
Four missionaries from Henderson and Evansville just returned from a visit there, where Uncharted International, a nonprofit mission agency based in Evansville, sponsors a school for Afghan children.
They represent just a portion of local missionaries… — many of whom are members at One Life Church in Henderson and other churches — who have made repeated trips Afghanistan, Myanmar and China in recent years through Uncharted.
While the US-supported government in Afghanistan supposedly protects religious freedom, it is officially an Islamic state, and persecution of non-Muslims is both routine and sometimes officially sanctioned.
It can be a dangerous environment in which to be a Christian.
We think — and the Constitution and Supreme Court caselaw supports us — that the right of the men and women in our armed forces to their personal choice, the right to their personal belief, the right to their religious or non-religious preference, cannot be abrogated by the government, by their superior officers, or by the Pentagon.
That sounds like a statement most could agree with — and those words come from MRFF board member Mike Farrell in their annual end-of-year fundraising letter.
Regrettably, the actions of Farrell’s boss, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, contradict his noble words. Contrary to Farrell’s gilded semantics, Weinstein has attacked the personal faiths of Christian chaplains and troops — even going so far as to attack Christian chapel services — in what can only be described as an attempt to deny “the men and women in our armed forces” their religious liberties through the force of government.
Interestingly, LtCol Quinn was apparently one of those stereotypical “atheists in foxholes” — that is, one who seemed to retreat from his atheism in the face of war:
Even Lt Col Quinn admits he has tried talking to god when under pressure – especially when he fought in Iraq. In an interview published in Soldier Magazine he said: “I served on Operation Telic in 2006 and it was a tough tour.
“I found myself praying. It was bizarre, and I wondered why I had done that.”
An interesting story at the local news to Robins AFB, Georgia, notes that one of the roles of the Air Force chaplaincy is to protect troops’ right to religious freedom — but it doesn’t have to stifle religious exercise to do so [emphasis added]:
They defend the right to worship freely, even if other airmen’s views conflict with their own beliefs.
At the Robins Air Force Base tree lighting ceremony in early December, you would not have heard utterances of ‘”Seasons Greetings”, no mentions of “holiday trees” or talk about celebrations of a “winter solstice”.
That gathering of the troops, complete with hymns and prayers, was undeniably Christian.
A Military Times non-scientific survey of subscribers described how President Obama’s “popularity” within the military has “crumbled”:
According to a Military Times survey of almost 2,300 active-duty service members, Obama’s popularity — never high to begin with — has crumbled, falling from 35 percent in 2009 to just 15 percent this year, while his disapproval ratings have increased to 55 percent from 40 percent over that time.
The Military Times piece and another article at the Christian Science Monitor imply part of the reason for the decline is the “heavy-handed social engineering” of the military during the past few years, including the repeal of the ban on homosexuals serving in the US military.
The Military Times article also continued the socially acceptable schizophrenic interpretation of the post-DADT environment in the US military. It first cites sources claiming the repeal of DADT was a “non-event.” From Richard Kohn, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill: Continue reading →
Nearly a year after the Department of Defense issued a heavily revised religious expression policy that advocates said would bring a new level of religious freedom, the dispute at Fort Benning, Ga., is evidence that the new wording hasn’t done away with old disputes. The fight Continue reading →
The US Air Force Academy has been recognized on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which is at least partly related to its role in “developing interfaith programs.”
The Academy is one of 98 higher education institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and Corporation for National Community Service for its leadership in developing interfaith programs and working to solve community challenges.
Today, our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves.
Update: To answer one of the issues below, Berts has now said
He had practiced Islam throughout his Navy career, Berts said in a Jan. 7 phone interview, but had become more observant by early 2011.
“I celebrated Islamic holidays, I fasted during holidays, I prayed,” he said. “I started to get a deeper sense of faith and started to try to live my religion a bit more.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the US Navy on behalf of Jon Berts, a former Sailor who was denied a request for a beard for his religious faith. Ordinarily, this might fall under the auspices of the other religious accommodation issues that have arisen this year, but there are several aspects of Berts’ story that are slightly unusual:
Jonathan Berts of Fairfield applied to wear a beard in January 2011, but Defense Department policy did not allow religious exemptions from grooming requirements…
First, the policy citation isn’t entirely true. It is true that DoDI 1300.17 (more here) didn’t characterize grooming standards as “apparel,” but it was still possible to obtain a waiver for a beard — as other members of the military did.
While many continue to focus on promoting “sexual liberty” within the US military — primarily open service by homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, etc-sexuals — few have come to the aid of Sikhs who want to serve in the US military. (Sikhs wanting to serve in the US military have received more press in India than the US.) Sikhs seek a waiver not for behavior, but for their religious beliefs. Kamal Singh Kalsi, a Sikh who obtained an exception to the uniform policy and was allowed to serve wearing a beard and turban, recently highlighted the inability of Sikhs to serve, as well as the increasing calls for the DoD to “fix” policies that prevent them from joining:
With the support of the advocacy group The Sikh Coalition, 105 members of the House of Representatives and 15 senators sent letters to the Department of Defense urging the U.S. armed forces to modernize appearance regulations so patriotic Sikh Americans can serve the country they love while abiding by their articles of faith.
The re-write earlier this year of religious accommodation regulations in the US military would presumably have made it easier for Sikhs to obtain an exception and join while wearing the accoutrements of their faith. However, Continue reading →