This week’s Airman’s Roll Call, as announced in this article and published as a PDF, summarizes the Air Force religious guidelines as originally published in February of 2006.
The re-publication of the guidelines is interesting because the guidelines were ordered rescinded by act of Congress last year (see the Congressional Conference Committee report, which resulted in the passage of the Defense Authorization Act of 2007).
Addressing the confusion, one Chaplain reported that the Congressional direction was confused to begin with: it directed the rescinsion of the guidelines and the “reinstatement” of AFPD 52-1, which governed the Chaplaincy program. However, the guidelines had nothing to do with AFPD 52-1, and 52-1 had never been superseded or replaced. Finally, the religious guidelines were not a regulation, but a “statement” on the intended atmosphere of the Air Force. Thus, with this latest release, it appears the Air Force is continuing to operate under the revised guidelines, as published in 2006.
High points from the Roll Call (emphasis added):
The religious guidelines…protect the constitutional right of all Airmen to practice their beliefs while respecting the beliefs of others.
Leaders at every level enjoy the same freedom of expression as all Airmen, but must ensure their words and actions are not construed as official, nor endorsing or disapproving of a particular belief.
Airmen are entitled to practice and freely discuss their personal faith beliefs. There is no restriction on voluntary discussions of religion or the exercise of free speech where it is reasonably clear the discussions are personal, not official or coercive.
As previously reported on the Religion Clause, TruthOut is reporting that Weinstein’s MRFF is again complaining about an outside Christian organization having access to the Pentagon. This time it was David Kistler’s HOPE ministries.
The article makes it unclear whether it is the theology that is the issue (since much of the article is a mockery of Kistler’s views) or the fact it was a religious organization.
While the writer makes it appear that it is “intuitively obvious” that the Pentagon again violated the ‘Constitutional separation of church and state,’ that is not the case. Chaplains routinely host outside visitors of varied religious persuasions for the spiritual benefit of their servicemen, which is their legal duty.
While Weinstein may disagree, the Constitution and the courts have supported the religious influence of the chaplaincy and its programs in the military.
A local paper covers the perspectives of Chaplain Douglas Etter, a Presbyterian Chaplain in the Army National Guard, and Commander Jon Cutler, a Navy Jewish Chaplain, in Military Chaplains Serve Diverse Roles. (Scroll down if the screen formatting appears blank.) With thanks to Religion Clause for the point out.
The ACLJ recently responded to the release of the Pentagon Inspector General’s report. They said
We think the legal conclusions of the Department of Defense Inspector General are incorrect as a matter of fact and as a matter of law.
They also stated that they represent two of the officers, including the retired Chaplain who was the focus of much of the report.
See the FRC response and original post below.
A Jewish Chaplain is being charged with desertion after moving to Canada after his resignation was denied.The Chaplain has enlisted the services of Mr. Michael Weinstein, who says he will sue the Army for “violating [the Chaplain’s] civil rights.”
The article has two interesting quotes. One includes a “disparaging term” for non-Jews, though no one in the article takes issue with the prejudicial term. The second is as follows:
The whole reason I volunteered to become a chaplain is because I was eager to help Jewish kids who chose the military and needed spiritual guidance while being far away from home serving in the Army.
Oddly, when Christians say the same thing, Weinstein accuses them of staging an “evangelical coup” in the military.
Former Navy Chaplain Klingenschmitt has filed an appeal to the court martial which ultimately resulted in his discharge from the Navy. He continues to assert that he was convicted of praying “in Jesus’ name,” while the Navy says he was found guilty of violating an order not to attend a protest in uniform.
An interesting article appeared in the Stars and Stripes regarding the pagan group and its association with the chapel program at Misawa Air Base in Japan. The sidebar has an interesting discussion by the wing chaplain at Kadena, who says in part that chaplains are not required to “extract all language that might have symbolic meaning,” such as the “heavenly Father” that the Wiccans said made them feel awkward.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State posted a scathing article on former Navy Chaplain Klingenschmitt. They included quotes from a letter written by his former commander asserting Klingenschmitt’s “dishonesty.” The AU hailed the former chaplain as a vaunted martyr of the religious right. More interesting, in the public comments on the article, both Klingenschmitt and his former commander have faced off with scathing rebuttals.