A few years ago, it seemed issues of religion in the military – scandals, some might say – dominated the news cycle for weeks out of the year. Every December the “top ten” religion media stories of the year included several regarding the US military. More recently, however, such “scandals” have fallen out of the news. To be sure, issues of religion in the military still pop up every now and then, but now those stories tend to involve actual issues of religion in the military, not manufactured outrage. Media stories are now far more likely to be about the changes that allow a Sikh to wear a turban or beard than about some random member of the military saying “have a blessed day” or having a Bible on their desk.
Part of the reason for this change has been the rise of religious liberty organizations who have defended the religious rights of US troops. The Becket Fund, First Liberty Institute, the ACLJ and others like them have become prominent and public defenders of religious freedom in the US military. While they were available to troops as a resource for many years, these organizations have gradually become more proactive, to the point that recent changes in US law and military policy have been proposed – and successfully passed – because of these groups. These laws and policies have dampened some of the prior years’ flail because they unified and standardized the military’s response to faith and free exercise. Rather than a cycle of military bases having repeats of the same kerfuffle, overarching policies govern the reaction of the entire DoD. (Sometimes.)
The end result is Read more
As previously discussed, the Bayview Cross in Pensacola, Florida, had been challenged on the same grounds as the Bladensburg Peace Cross, with accusations it was an unconstitutional endorsement of the Christian faith.
The original court ruled against the Bayview Cross — reluctantly, essentially asking the Supreme Court to overrule it. The Supreme Court remanded the Bayview Cross case after its Bladensburg ruling.
Now, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has finally formally ruled the Bayview Cross can stand: Read more
Newly commissioned 2LT Kanwar Singh has become the most recent US Army officer to wear a turban and beard, the articles of his Sikh faith: Read more
In an interesting deviation from its prior statements on accommodating religion, the US Military Academy at West Point has apparently required two observant Sikh cadets to wear their ceremonial uniform cover — known as the “tar bucket” — “over or in place of” their turban. The cadets, Gurijuwan Singh Chahal and Arjan Singh Ghotra, maintain this “would desecrate their religious values” and have filed a lawsuit in response:
“Forcing New Cadet Chahal and New Cadet Ghotra to choose between their country and their God in this manner violates the Army’s own regulations, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.
(Arjan Singh Ghotra previously enlisted Read more
The US Marine Corps — which was the only Service to significantly push back on gender integration last year — announced that it would make no special accommodations for mixed gender units in deployed environments.
That includes training for deployed environments.
Marines in the field stay in everything from a large, single room shelter filled with dozens of cots to sleeping under tarps or nothing at all, said Maj. Charles Anklam III, executive officer for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina — the first gender-integrated Marine infantry battalion…
Anklam said female Marines deployed to conflict zones have shared tents with their male counterparts at times. But this marks the first time female Marines will be doing so during their regular training with their combat unit.
In 2013 then-Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Mark Welsh noted the “hookup mentality” of society contributed to the culture of sexuality in the military. He was criticized for his frankness, which was ultimately a statement of the obvious.
Speaking on the same topic of military sexual assaults that same day, future-President Donald Trump criticized the “geniuses” who decided to put men and women together and Read more
The US Army has changed its policies (PDF) to allow Sikhs, Muslims, and Jews to serve while wearing their religious accoutrements in uniform [emphasis added]:
Since 2009, religious accommodation requests requiring a waiver for uniform wear and grooming have largely fallen into one of three faith practices: the wear of a hijab; the wear of a beard; and the wear of a turban or under-turban/patka, with uncut beard and uncut hair. Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations…
Importantly, the policy specifically says the religious practice should be approved Read more
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has an abysmal record as a lawyer, having participated in at least six lawsuits in the past few years and having won exactly zero. (An MRFF FOIA lawsuit against the US Air Force Academy is scheduled for a settlement conference this month.)
In 2016, Weinstein’s impotence grew so much he lost in yet another area, his near-annual competition for the Christmas Grinch. Over the past couple of years Mikey Weinstein has been Read more
The American Humanist Association’s bid to have the Bladensburg Peace Cross war memorial torn down (or its cross member sawn off) continued this month with oral arguments at the Fourth Circuit court of appeals. The AHA lost their case last year and appealed in December 2015.
The First Liberty Institute, which is defending the cross, accurately Read more