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
An Associated Press article repeated at the local Gazette and other sources says of the US Air Force Academy:
Religious tolerance has improved dramatically since allegations five years ago that evangelical Christians harassed cadets who didn’t share their faith.
The article even quotes critic Michael Weinstein, who sued the Air Force for incidents at the Academy, agreeing with the assessment:
This is the first time we feel positive about things there.
While the initial complaints were that the Air Force was foisting Christianity on its cadets, the Air Force investigation instead determined that the situation was far simpler: cadets of minority faiths did not feel appropriately accommodated as was permissible under military regulations. Thus, the Air Force addressed Read more
As noted at the Air Force website, the top 3 US Air Force leaders distributed their 2009 holiday season greetings. They asked Airmen to “reflect on our blessings,” and expressed gratitude for deployed Airmen and fellow servicemembers serving in war. The leaders also specifically asked Air Force families to “reach out” to the familes of deployed servicemembers and single Airmen, and
welcome them into your holiday celebrations, in the spirit of giving and support that makes our greater Air Force family so special.
Ultimately, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy successfully transmitted a neutral note of goodwill for anything that happens to be going on during this specific time of year:
In all of the joyous ways that this holiday season is celebrated, we wish you and yours the very best–during this special time, and througout the New Year.
While admirably non-exclusive, the message is almost meaningless Read more
After the Fort Hood massacre, there were reports that people saw Maj Nidal Malik Hasan’s conduct that they did not report because they did not want to be viewed as biased against his faith or culture. Two recent news articles highlighted the contrast in reactions to those allegations.
The first encouraged people to report such conduct: a Congressman is proposing a law to extend “whistleblower” protection to people who make those reports.
The second proved such concerns about “political correctness” valid: a Muslim soldier has implied he was the recipient of inappropriate special attention by the military because of his faith or culture–the very perception Hasan’s peers remained silent to avoid.
First, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, the Congressman from the district that includes Read more
Stars and Stripes penchant for finding religion in a story continues with its headline “Wing and a prayer.” The title is evidently a reference to the Islamic “cultural view” cited in the article:
The members of the air corps are “the cream of the cream of the crop” when it comes to the Afghan army, Rennell said. Still, an “inshallah” (God willing) mind-set dominates the ranks, a cultural view that clashes with the strict protocols required for operating highly technical aircraft.
While insha’allah is traditionally compared with the Southern Baptist “Lord willin’,” others have considered it more a statement of realism or fatalism. In what may be an urban legend based on stereotype, stories have been told about Islamic pilots Read more
A tactical signals system (a very fancy radio) built by General Dynamics called the “Prophet Enhanced” will soon be integrated into US Army Panther vehicles.
Who cares? No one, really. But those who are hypersensitive to religious themes in association with the military will probably be offended (again).
After all, what will our adversaries think if the US military is using the Prophet to listen to them?
The decades-long battle to remove the Mount Soledad cross from the hills of San Diego is once again at the appeals court. In various formats, lawsuits have challenged the Mount Soledad cross for years. In this most recent iteration, the US District court in July 2008 ruled in favor of those who support the cross remaining at its current location.
The basic complaint is that the cross is an inherently religious symbol, and by sustaining it on public land, the US government violates the Constitutional prohibition against “establishing” a religion.
The ACLU, which is representing the plaintiffs, has had to defend itself against accusations that it wants to remove crosses (and any memorials with them) from all public lands–including military cemeteries. An attorney for the American Legion, Read more
A legitimate question that all new members of the military (or those aspiring to be) have is to what degree they will be able to exercise their religious faith while in the service. Regardless of the service, the role of the US military corps of Chaplains is to ensure the troops’ access to free exercise of their religion, as well as act as a focal point for the protection of religious freedom within the military. Such freedoms are restricted only as necessary by the needs of the military mission.
While an occasional complaint makes the news implying that the military supports only a single religion, a veritable plethora of counterexamples undermine that claim. Recently, the Pulaski County Daily Read more