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
Last July, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF complained to the US military that Shields of Strength was combining US military trademarks with Bible verses on novelty dog tags. SoS did have authorization to use the military trademarks, but the Army told SoS to stop to prevent the “negative press.” A few weeks ago, the Marines did the same thing. First Liberty has come to their defense.
In an op-ed published at the Military Times earlier this week, First Liberty’s Mike Berry told the story:
Kenny Vaughan started Shields of Strength (“SoS”). SoS is a small, faith-based company from Texas that produces military-themed items inscribed with encouraging Bible verses. For more than two decades, Kenny has been making these inspirational replica dog tags for service members and first responders. To date, SoS has donated hundreds of thousands of its replica dog tags to military units…
Over the years, SoS replica dog tags became so popular and so nearly ubiquitous that, according to author and historian Stephen Mansfield, “aside from the official insignias they wear, [the SoS dog tag] is the emblem most often carried by members of the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Berry and First Liberty sent Read more
The National Cathedral published a photograph of the “blessing of a Bible” to be used for swearing-in within the new Space Force. The ceremony was featured in the Washington Post. Pictured were Rev. Randolph Hollerith, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Rev. Carl Wright of the Episcopal Church, and US Air Force Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (MajGen) Steven Schaick:
The gift they gave Chaplain Schaick was a King James Bible donated by The Museum of the Bible, which is in Washington, D.C., a few miles from the National Cathedral.
“Accept this Bible which we dedicate here today for the United States Space Force,” intones the Rev. Randolph Hollerith, dean of the National Cathedral, “that all may so diligently search your holy word and find in it the wisdom that leads to peace and salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.”
This was all too much for Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who issued a “full-throated” response: Read more
Sometimes lost in the “scandals” regarding religion in the US military is the fact that religion is still practiced frequently, and freely, by US troops around the world.
For example, in a variety of locations the US military supported Christmas celebrations, operations, and events. Notably, the camera often pointed away from some of the more direct Christmas iconography — but it was there.
Such discretion apparently wasn’t necessary for the worldwide celebration of Hanukkah, in which US troops were photographed celebrating the Jewish holiday from Japan to Afghanistan. Yes, even though Read more
Remember Shields of Strength?
In July, this site highlighted the complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein that caused the US military to tell Shields of Strength to stop putting Bible verses on their military-themed faux dog tags.
As noted at the time, contrary to Weinstein’s claims, the military is free to license its trademarks to anyone it wants — so long as it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs when it does so.
And that’s precisely what it did with the license to SoS.
First Liberty has now taken up the cause of Kenny Vaughan and Shields of Strength, sending a letter to the Army telling them what they already know: They’re guilty of viewpoint discrimination — restricting Shields of Strength only on the basis of the content of their beliefs. Said Mike Berry of First Liberty:
“The government grants licenses to people and entities all the time,” Berry said over the telephone. “What the government can’t do is discriminate when it grants those licenses. … It is basically saying ‘we’re happy to grant licenses to anyone, as long as it’s not religious.’ And that’s clearly what the Army is doing here.”
That’s precisely what the military is doing — and they’re clearly wrong to do so.
In July, Weinstein tried to Read more
In what amounts to a repeat of his prior attacks on Christians, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein last week published a release saying the MRFF “fervently denounces” the Christian group OCF performing “spiritual commissioning” ceremonies for new officers. Officers’ Christian Fellowship is one of several para-church organizations that ministers to the military — and one Weinstein seems to hold much animus toward.
Oddly, Weinstein declined to provide his own typically vociferous and alliterative quote, and instead deferred to an “anonymous” letter from a purported retired Army Colonel — who is also “on the membership rolls” of OCF. Referring to OCF’s Command magazine, which covered the commissioning, the Colonel
demand[ed] a retraction and full apology from OCF…Their old-guard OCF leadership will continue to push their radical agenda. Therefore, I ask that ALL COMMISSIONING sources, including all federal Service Academies and state ROTC universities, review Officer Christian Fellowship chapter local practices on their respective campuses…
To be clear, a retired O-6 — who said he had supported OCF both as a cadet and Academy faculty member — apparently lacked the intestinal fortitude to tell OCF his thoughts and instead “filed” a public complaint through the MRFF.
Beyond his hurt feelings, it’s not clear.
The complaint says Read more
As noted at the Religion Clause, a Federal District Court in Arizona found that a plaintiff did not have standing to sue over Flagstaff’s annual “Grand Menorah Lighting” held at the City Hall. It turns out the plaintiff, Jack Taylor, only even knew about it because he’d read about it in the paper. As quoted at the Religion Clause [emphasis added],
Plaintiff did not allege that he has had direct contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall, or any other religious ceremony purportedly held in City Hall. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff’s contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall has, at most, been via newspaper articles Read more
Task & Purpose reports on a “leaked” US Naval Academy email that announced the advent of Satanic services to be held on the Academy grounds. (The story was subsequently picked up by the Military Times and FoxNews.) It turns out the email was “premature” and inaccurate:
a group of midshipmen “with beliefs aligned with those practiced by The Satanic Temple”…had requested a space for a “study group” to discuss their satanic beliefs — and not, as the email in question indicated, for holding satanic religious services.
The problem, of course, is The Satanic Temple isn’t a religious group. It’s an anti-religious group. From their own webpage [emphasis added]:
DO YOU WORSHIP SATAN?
No, nor do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural. The Satanic Temple believes Read more