Last week, the US Air Force quietly published an update to its uniform regulation, AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, which governs how Airmen are required to wear their uniforms. The new regulation included attachments that specifically covered turbans, hijabs, and beards for the first time. While AFI 36-2903 previously discussed “religious apparel,” this is the first time it was covered in such depth.
In addition, it prioritized accommodation Air Force wide. For example, previous versions often restricted accommodation — if it was even granted — to a single military installation.
The new regulation also lowers the level of approval required for some accommodations. For example, Wing Commanders (generally, the commander of the Air Force base) are authorized to approve
hijab, beard, turban or under-turban/patka, unshorn beards, unshorn hair, and indoor/outdoor head coverings.
Importantly, however, if the commander desires to disapprove that accommodation, the request has to be disapproved at AF Headquarters at Read more
Update: SPC Valdovinos has apparently now asked Fort Carson for a copy of the report, and, as is glaringly obvious and noted below, was told to file a FOIA. She’s complained no one told her she’d need to do that. You know who should have told her? Her supposed legal representation, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein. His incompetence is staggering.
Remember US Army SGT Cesilia Valdovinos? Back in April she was Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s golden ticket, with her story of Islamophobic persecution at the hands of the US Army garnering him international attention. Multiple headlines portended an upcoming lawsuit against the US military for its treatment of the Muslim Soldier.
SGT Valdovinos was promptly forgotten, including, it seems, by Mikey Weinstein.
The Colorado Springs Gazette, on the other hand, stayed on the story and obtained a copy of the local investigation directed by the Brigade Commander, Col David Zinn. The investigator, Capt Jeremey Kinder, included
more than a dozen interviews in assembling a 67-page report. It cleared the Army of the discrimination claims but also showed the service has plenty of learning to do.
“I find that better communication with all parties involved would have de-escalated the situation and recommend that future inspections of a personal nature be conducted in complete privacy…”
The report also noted that SGT — now SPC, following an unrelated demotion — Valdovinos Read more
As has now been widely reported, US Army SPC Cesilia Valdovinos — who converted to Islam in March 2016 — has claimed discrimination over her wear of the hijab, for which she was granted a religious accommodation just last summer. According to Valdovinos, a senior enlisted leader required her to remove her hijab to prove her hair was being correctly worn underneath it. (While the accommodation was granted, she is still required to maintain certain standards, even under the hijab.) The reason for the “inspection” was the belief her hair was not properly maintained while under her hijab, as was required. When she removed the hijab, her hair was, indeed, down — though Valdovinos says it was because it was held up by the hijab itself. Valdovinos apparently found this exchange inappropriate and filed an EO complaint.
There are aspects to this story on both sides that Read more
In an official article, the US Navy announced that Navy LT Jennifer Johnson was awarded status as one of the “best LGBT lawyers under 40” by the National LGBT Bar Association:
The association established the award to recognize legal professionals under the age of 40 who distinguished themselves in their field and advocated LGBT equality.
A previous release from the Navy (and the award website) indicates Navy LT Paul Wagoner was similarly recognized. Fortunately, there does not appear to be an organization that only recognizes lawyers who have heterosexual sex, nor does the Navy appear to highlight such JAGs.
Johnson’s public recognition by the US military is supremely ironic, given Read more
In an act that almost amounted to a display of principle, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF finally spoke out against US Air Force MSgts Laura and Mark Magee — both Muslim service members. The Magees were the focus of a “Through Airmen’s Eyes” article put out by the Air Force early last week which highlighted their faith. The article was entitled “Nevada ANG chaplain [sic]: ‘I want people to know Islam is not evil’“. (The title should have said “…chaplain’s assistant,” not “chaplain”.)
Weinstein’s group put out a statement saying [emphasis added]:
MRFF objects to it just as strongly as it has to the many articles published by the Air Force highlighting the faith of Christian airmen [sic]…
The MRFF complaint gives only a single example that it says violates Air Force regulations, citing the article which quoted MSgt Mark Magee saying: Read more
Military troops of faith — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and others — have long served in the US military. They have done so with honor and distinction, earning the highest accolades and making the highest sacrifices.
And former Army officer Sue Fulton thinks they shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military at all.
As discussed by Sonny Hernandez, in an interview with the New York Times Fulton was aghast that military chaplains have the gall to claim their God is greater than their government — and they should therefore not be in the military:
Some chaplains argue: ‘My first responsibility is to God.’ Well, if your responsibility is to God and not the Army, you need to get out of the Army.
Hernandez accurately summarized Fulton’s intolerant and ultimately unconstitutional advocacy:
[When] Fulton argues that chaplains should get out of the military if God is first in their lives, she is establishing a religion over theirs…She is [saying] the Constitution only works one way, and that the Defense Department’s policy on pluralism is extended only to those with convictions are agreeable to hers.
Fulton’s declaration is utterly ridiculous — and bigoted. Millions of troops before 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
Update: New articles identify the student as Sana Hamze.
Update: Norwich University in Vermont has reportedly granted the same unnamed applicant the right to wear a hijab in her uniform. CAIR implies the student may yet take legal action against the Citadel. Alumni from Norwich reacted similarly to those at the Citadel, with at least one noting Norwich has a civilian program for those who do not wish to adhere to the rules of the military corps of cadets.
The Citadel, “The Military College of South Carolina,” has denied a request for a waiver from an incoming cadet to wear a hijab with her cadet uniform, among other exceptions. From the President of The Citadel, retired LtGen John Rosa:
The Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform. Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model. The standardization of cadets in apparel, overall appearance, actions and privileges is essential to the learning goals and objectives of the college. This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit…
The Citadel recognizes the importance of a cadet’s spiritual and religious beliefs, providing services for specific needs whenever possible…
The prospective cadet, who had already Read more