With the airwaves and mainstream media clogged with politics and other drama, issues of religious freedom in the US military largely fell to the wayside these past few months. The reason is that most (not all, but certainly most) military religious freedom issues begin as attacks from outside the military. With an inattentive public, those who would attack the religious liberty of US troops for their personal benefit haven’t been able to gain public traction – or have simply chosen not to, given the low monetary return they would see for their efforts.
Thus, organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have been either silent or largely ignored these past few months. (Mikey Weinstein’s Facebook page has been entertaining, as he’s been paying to promote otherwise ignored posts only to have the comments filled with “Who is this guy?” and “Why is this #$%$ on my feed!?!”)
With a new administration, there will certainly be changes that Read more
What began as a powerful and effective ministry to US troops in southern California (highlighted here last year) has now begun to spread. Soul Survivor Outdoor, which seeks to minister to US troops by providing “soul care,” has expanded to Texas, where it recently served the troops at Fort Hood following a redeployment. As reported in an official Army release:
Chaplain Karen Moore, battalion chaplain for 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment…organized for members of her battalion to participate and interact with SSO. She also helped assist sister battalion, 1st battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, become involved with the program as well.
In the end, 55 US troops participated in Read more
Most people know by now that the US now has a “Space Force” along with its Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Much ado has been made about many very serious issues in that force, like what to call the Servicemembers in that force (Space men? Space cadets?) and whether their new seal looks too much like Star Trek and not enough like Battlestar Gallactica.
Another issue in the background has been the Space Force hymn. The Force doesn’t have one yet, but officials have noted that a song is a Service tradition, much like its uniform and rank structure.
Apparently, one song has already been offered – and it immediately stirred controversy with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The song was written by a former Air Force officer named James Linzey, who was an Air Force and Army chaplain. (Linzey has an interesting history as well, as he was Read more
The US military has just updated its regulations with the intent of improving the protection of military religious freedom.
Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1300.17 was previously known as “Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services,” but is now re-titled simply “Religious Liberty in the Military Services” (PDF). The new DoDI title sets the tone for a policy that presupposes religious liberty, rather than treats it as an outlier that may sometimes be “accommodated.”
That change in tone mimics the tone change in religious liberty policies in the Air Force – which may not be a coincidence. The new DoDI was approved by Undersecretary of Defense Matthew Donovan – a former Air Force fighter pilot who has been both an Undersecretary of the Air Force and even the Acting Secretary of the Air Force in the past few years, during which the tenor (if not always the actions) of Air Force policy leaned toward religious freedom.
It seems President Trump’s selection of Undersecretary Donovan may have set the stage for improving religious liberty in the US military.
As to the DoDI itself, it notably Read more
Various outlets have reported the US Navy reversed the “controversial” decision (highlighted here yesterday) to cancel contracts for civilian Catholic chaplains, which was reportedly done either as a cost-savings or because it didn’t serve the proper demographic, depending on who you asked.
The religious services will continue for at least the next year, Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander Navy Region Southwest, said in a statement to Fox News on Tuesday.
“Contrary to previous discussions, this year we will continue contracted religious ministry programs and services similar to what we’ve had in place previously,” Bolivar said. “We will also continue to assess how best to meet the needs of our sailors and their families throughout the region.”
The decision to axe the civilian chaplain contracts was criticized by Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Archdiocese that encompasses the military service.
The Navy’s actions had even caught the attention of their Commander-in-Chief, with President Trump tweeting about the reversal: Read more
Various news outlets covered the US Navy’s decision not to renew the contracts of civilian chaplains who were filling critical billets in the military chaplaincy:
The Navy has declined to renew contracts with Catholic priests in a supposed “cost-cutting” move, leaving bases without enough chaplains to keep services going…
The San Diego Tribune’s headline was somewhat misleading, as “other religious services continue” because most of the contract chaplains are Catholics, so the “other religious services” will continue to be served by active duty military chaplains.
Part of the Navy’s reasoning, according to Vice Admiral Yancey Lindsey, was that chaplain contracts were ended
at bases where those services are readily available in the surrounding community outside the base.
Such reasoning is dangerous toward Read more
LtCol Jonathan “Flood” Kassebaum, commander of the 125th Operation Support Squadron at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida, flew an F-15 Eagle last week – eight months after nearly being electrocuted in his backyard.
Kassebaum was severely injured while working on a project in the backyard of his family home. He remained lifeless for nearly 12 minutes after the electrocution and was placed in a medically induced coma.
In his civilian life, Kassebaum is the Lead Pastor of the Crossing Church, and he told his story at the Read more
Though it occurred somewhat under the radar these past two weeks, new US military policies clashed with religious freedom, resulting in outside groups coming to the aid of US troops and their liberties.
Late in June, the US Navy Fleet Forces Command, which administratively oversees Naval forces based within the continental United States, issued “additional Force Health Protection guidance” regarding COVID-19 mitigation procedures. In theory, Fleet Forces Command had already declared “HPCON C minus” in late March, and the late June message was a “reiteration” or reminder of that status. However, the latest release was notable (making the local news in many places) and very specifically clarified the somewhat vague HPCON C- with detailed mandatory procedures and prohibitions – including a specific statement on religious services – even those off military installations.
As printed in the Navy message (PDF):
5.A.7.B.4. (U) SERVICE MEMBERS ARE PROHIBITED FROM VISITING, PATRONIZING, OR ENGAGING IN THE FOLLOWING OFF-INSTALLATION SPECIFIC FACILITIES, SERVICES, OR ACTIVITIES…
5.A.7.B.4.F. (U) DINE-IN RESTAURANTS (TAKE-OUT AUTHORIZED), BARS, NIGHT CLUBS, CASINOS, CONFERENCES, SPORTING EVENTS, CONCERTS, PUBLIC CELEBRATIONS, PARADES, PUBLIC BEACHES, AMUSEMENT PARKS OR OTHER EVENTS DESIGNED TO PROMOTE LARGE GATHERINGS, TO INCLUDE INDOOR RELIGIOUS SERVICES.
While seemingly Read more