Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.
The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.
While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have unique religious needs because the government can snatch them away from their religious communities at a moment’s notice and for indefinite periods…Indeed, “[u]nless the [military] provided a chaplaincy, it would deprive the [service member] of his right under the Establishment Clause not to have religion inhibited and of his right under the Free Exercise Clause to practice his freely chosen religion.” Katcoff v. Marsh…
Blomberg explains why chaplains of specific faiths are necessary, Read more
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty produced a video to explain some of the history of the memorial — history the FFRF calls a conspiracy. Meet Gene Thomas, a member of the Knights of Columbus, one of the men who has been caring for the memorial for 40 years.
The group argues the statue violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on Congress making any law regarding an establishment of religion.
The original court ruling had cited the historic value of the statue, and even made a point of saying the statue was more of a tourist attraction than religious monument. The FFRF apparently thinks that’s all part of a conspiracy: Read more
As previously discussed, the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued because the US Forest Service renewed a special use permit that has allowed the statue to stand for more than 50 years. The Knights of Columbus put it up in 1954 in honor of Read more
The aptly named Freedom From Religion Foundation has demanded that the “Big Mountain Jesus” be torn down, because it resides on (leased) US government land. Interestingly, it has a military connection: It was raised by the local Knights of Columbus in honor of the 10th Mountain Division:
They call him Big Mountain Jesus: a six-foot statue of Christ, draped in a baby blue robe and gazing out over the majestic Flathead Valley from his perch along a ski run at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana.
He has been there for more than 50 years, erected by the local Knights of Columbus chapter in honor of the soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who told of seeing similar shrines in the mountains of Italy during World War II.
The Knights of Columbus have asked, naturally, to intervene in the case between the FFRF and the Forest Service. Even the local resort manager saw the historical value of the statue beyond religion: Read more
The decision in Salazar v Buono directly relates to faith in the military profession, as its very basic premise has far reaching implications:
Is a cross on government land an unConstitutional endorsement of the Christian faith?
A variety of organizations reported on the Supreme Court ruling Wednesday essentially allowing the World War I memorial Mojave cross to remain standing. The ruling reversed the appeals court decision initially declaring the cross on federal land unConstitutional, and then declaring the US Congress transfer of land to the VFW invalid due to its attempt to “avoid” the injunction.
The Supreme Court issued six separate opinions, with no single majority opinion. The decision itself (pdf) is largely procedural, though the net effect Read more