A somewhat under-the-radar controversy erupted in late January at Vanderbilt University. Apparently, the Muslim Students Association and the Army and Navy ROTC programs jointly sponsored a discussion about Muslims in the military, a forum entitled “Common Ground: Being Muslim in the Military.”
Vanderbilt junior Devin Saucier, who is also a member of the Youth for Western Civilization, and Vanderbilt Islamic chaplain Awadh Binhazim participated in a heated exchange that was videotaped and made the rounds of the internet. (It received enough publicity that Vanderbilt issued a statement clarifying Binhazim’s relationship with the school and expressing its support for free speech.)
Through several iterations of the question, Saucier asked Binhazim if he supported the Islamic belief that homosexuality was a capital crime. After a variety Read more
February 17th was Ash Wednesday, a day recognized by Catholic and some liturgical Protestant denominations by the placing of ashes or oil on the forehead. As seen in a variety of pictures provided by the Department of Defense, this was a religious celebration that was able to occur even in a war zone:
Ash Wednesday in Iraq. DoD Photo (Spc Daniel Schneider)
While the US military’s abundant support of free exercise enabled these Soldiers to partake in the religious celebration, there are obviously certain limitations in the combat theatre. For example, the Soldiers would obviously not be able to refuse to put their protective gear (helmets) on because of the oil or ash on their forehead.
By the same token, there is no indication that the Soldiers were required to wipe off the religious observances prior to returning to combat. Like their freedom to wear a cross or carry a Bible, even in combat, US Soldiers may go into combat on Ash Wednesday with the evident Christian symbol of ash on their forehead. The US military does not restrict Read more
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers was one of several groups that recently met with White House staff members as part of a White House meeting with the Secular Coalition for America.
According to the MAAF web page on the meeting, president Jason Torpy presented a briefing at the meeting that claimed to explain the relative percentages of faiths represented in the military. His briefing grossly misrepresented numeric government data, apparently in an attempt to strengthen the MAAF position and demands.
In what the MAAF called a “new MAAF demographics study,” which was actually an MAAF presentation of a study done by the Defense Manpower Data Center, the MAAF said
DoD data show nearly one-quarter of the military is nontheistic
Using the DMDC data, the MAAF claimed that 23.4% of the Department of Defense was “nontheistic.” Based on this number, according to the MAAF, “nontheists constitute a significant portion of the military.” Thus,
Military and Civilian leadership must recognize and support this significant demographic
Some might say numbers don’t lie, but the MAAF certainly demonstrated that one can misrepresent them to support untrue Read more
Former President George W. Bush spoke recently at a fundraiser for Fort Worth Christian School in Texas. Articles on the event note Bush’s dependence on the power of prayer. This included not only his own prayers, but those who obeyed the Christian command to pray for their national leaders:
I don’t see how I could be president without prayer…The prayers of the people…sustained me, comforted me and strengthened me in a way I could have never predicted before becoming president, and for that I am extremely grateful.
They also repeat Bush’s now famous deep respect and admiration for the US military.
Fort Worth Christian School is an unabashedly Christian educational institution with an enrollment of 865 children from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Just days after noting the potential impact that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal might have on military Chaplains, there are now widespread articles on the decision by an Air Force base Chaplain’s office to rescind the invitation of a speaker who opposed President Obama’s proposed repeal.
The actions were those of an individual Chaplain’s office and were not necessarily indicative of the decisions of higher level leadership. However, the decision itself is a perfect example of the conflict that organizations opposing the repeal intend to highlight.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had been invited in October by the Chaplains’ office to speak at the February 25 National Prayer Luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base (now known as Joint Base Andrews). Perkins is a US Marine veteran and ordained minister. Supposedly, after President Obama used his State of the Union to call for a repeal of DADT, and Perkins and the FRC vocally opposed him, the Chaplain’s office rescinded the invitation. (Notably, the Chaplain’s office is free to invite or disinvite anyone they choose; it is their public reasoning for doing so that makes this case interesting.)
The letter from the Chaplain’s office rescinding the invitation reportedly said: Read more
A previous article noted that Michael Weinstein likes to highlight the places that his Military Religious Freedom Foundation was mentioned in the press. One result of his “tooting his own horn” may be the perception of “impact” from his organization. Apparently, his desire to seem influential is so strong that he has digressed into fiction.
In a long article published at an independent “online magazine,” Weinstein Read more
With the Obama administration’s recent efforts to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the US military, some organizations are beginning to describe the impact that such a policy change could have on US military Chaplains.
As reported by the Catholic News Agency, the Alliance Defense Fund is one such group. The CNA said
Proposed changes allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military could marginalize military chaplains from religions which consider homosexual acts sinful, a religious liberty group has warned.
The ADF specifically said that the ‘affirmation’ of homosexuality in the military Read more
A few weeks ago the Colorado Springs Gazette published a short email excerpt from the designated pagan leader at the USAF Academy, TSgt Brandon Longcrier. In the quote, the Gazette highlighted Longcrier’s fear for his cadets in the face of what he described as a “hate crime” (the crossed shoe boards at the pagan circle).
Not much later, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to whom the letter was addressed, published a series of letters it had received on the subject. The authors’ names were redacted, but in one the author clearly identified himself as the person who found the cross at the pagan site and took “the picture,” which is known to be Longcrier. In addition, it includes the quotes from the Gazette article attributed to him.
Longcrier’s message reiterates the “hate crime” and criticizes the Air Force Academy for its response. More interesting, however, is his attitude toward the cadets — particularly those of the Christian Read more