Category Archives: Government and Religion

New Gun Policies Change Little at Fort Hood

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

US Air Force Supports Sectarian Ceremony

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.

Military Walks Careful Line in “Holiday” Celebrations

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

Air Force Academy Religious Climate “Improving”

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

Air Force Leaders Send Holiday Greetings

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

Muslim Soldier Validates Fears of “Political Correctness”

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

Military Aviation, God Willing

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

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