The Jewish Welfare Board’s Jewish Chaplains Council has organized an effort called “Torahs for Our Troops,” with the intent of providing Jewish servicemembers with the religious materials they require for their spiritual needs:
[Jewish] chaplains have asked [the] JWB Jewish Chaplains Council to provide them with small, lightweight but fully kosher Torah scrolls to accompany them from site to site, as they move around ships and the combat theater…For Jews, writing or helping to write a Torah is an important mitzvah. JWB is giving people the opportunity to fulfill this religious obligation by contributing toward the completion of these new Torahs, as well as a way to thank those men and women who serve in the armed forces…
As noted many times on this site, obtaining spiritual resources for servicemembers in theatre and around the world can be challenging, despite the seemingly constant call and supply of ‘care packages.’ The JWB/JCC move is an admirable effort to help military Chaplains provide for the needs of their troops. This not only provides moral support for our troops as they are deployed in defense of our country; it also ensures US soldiers’ rights to religious free exercise regardless of their location.
Despite the positive attempts by the JWB and Jewish Chaplains to support Jewish members of the US military, their efforts are not without potential controversy Read more
Trijicon, the maker of the gun sight that has a Bible reference on it, has volunteered to remove the references and cease marking future sights to be used by the US and foreign governments. It will also provide free kits to remove the markings from those sights that have already been deployed. The company issued a press release that was picked up by Fox, CNN, and other news organizations.
The offer to pre-empt an official call for their removal, while unexpected, is actually an excellent public relations decision both from a business and faith perspective. It avoids a “confrontation” over contracts and religious controversy, and it permits Trijicon to be viewed as both forthright and amenable to its customer, even if it does not have to be. While some Christians in similar situations may dig their heels in, there is no moral imperative that requires Trijicon to refuse to accede to the feelings of its customer. Their offer alleviates the concerns of the military and diffuses the public scandal.
For its part, the stern government reaction (as noted by General Petraeus, at least) undermines those who have claimed this was an unConstitutional collusion Read more
The latest “breaking scandal” on religion and the military is nearly laughable. In short:
- Trijicon has a well-known reputation for building high quality weapons sights.
- The US military contracted with them to buy their commercial rifle sights.
- The company includes an abbreviated Bible reference in the model name on the sight.
- ABC News reported that Michael Weinstein has called these “Jesus rifles.”
This “controversy” is so contrived as to be ridiculous. However, if you’d like to read more, what follows is a cross-section of the comments made and the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind them. Read more
A few weeks ago, the Air Force Times solicited comments from its readers after noting the “improved religious climate” at the US Air Force Academy. They asked:
What do you think? Have you found the service and its members to be tolerant of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Wiccans and others who are not Christians?
It would appear, based on the most recent Air Force Times article, that the responses were largely positive. The article is entitled “Respect healthy for different faiths,” which seems to indicate a positive environment for “different faiths” within the Air Force.
Within the article, however, the author focuses on those who take issue with Christianity in the military, rather than the ‘healthy respect’ that is apparently evident. The article begins with the presumption of truth in claims that the culture of the Air Force causes an ‘assumption’ of Christianity:
A predominance of Christians in the Air Force creates an atmosphere that assumes all airmen are Christians, allowing prayers and other religious displays at everything from football games and holiday parties to commander’s calls and change-of-command ceremonies, according to non-Christian airmen interviewed by Air Force Times.
While there is a “predominance of Christians” in the United States and in its military, the presence of prayer is not inherently a Christian endeavor, and Read more
Updated with President Obama’s proclamation.
Each year since 1993 the President has declared January 16th to be “Religious Freedom Day,” in order to remember the passage of Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (see 2009). President Obama does not appear to have issued his proclamation for tomorrow yet (now available), though the day has been a topic of discussion in varying forums across the internet.
Jefferson’s statute continues to be a strong expression for the value of religious liberty even today. Though the statute has been discussed in many places and in great depth, there are two important points to take from the statute: Read more
Chalker v Gates, the lawsuit which pitted the MRFF and an atheist Soldier against the Department of Defense, has been dismissed. The case was brought by Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and US Army Specialist Dustin Chalker. The primary complaint was that Chalker was forced to attend formations at which Christian prayers were given, though Weinstein used the lawsuit as a forum to accuse the military of promoting Christianity.
According to various reports,
US District Judge Kathryn Vratil ruled Thursday that Chalker failed to exhaust all available remedies before filing suit.
Weinstein has said he will appeal the decision.
The ruling that dismissed the lawsuit (pdf) is slightly more complex than the media summary. The ruling stated: Read more
In September, Michael and Bonnie Weinstein filed a civil lawsuit against the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and Gordon Klingenschmitt. The primary issue seems to be Klingenschmitt’s “imprecatory prayer” against Weinstein and Barry Lynn, as was noted in a previous analysis. (Weinstein has amended his lawsuit twice in the intervening months, but only the original is currently publicly available.) This case will be interesting for religious freedom in general, not just in the military, since it may delineate what control–if any–the government is willing to place on public prayer. Initial commentators, including allies of the Weinsteins, doubted they would succeed in their suit. However, despite the initial furor, there has been little in the media since.
The case continues, however. It appears one of the initial issues will be jurisdiction, which is a legitimate question in this case. Weinstein is a resident of New Mexico, the CFGC is headquartered in Texas, and Klingenschmitt is presumed to be a resident of Colorado. Weinstein is suing in Texas district court. Since the CFGC is in Dallas, it would appear to make sense that Weinstein would sue the CFGC in Texas.
However, the CFGC’s connection to the complaint is tenuous. As noted already, the precipitating action in this litigation appears to be a prayer by Klingenschmitt, not anything done or said by the CFGC or its head, Jim Ammerman. The CFGC’s role in the prayer is nonexistent, except insomuch as Klingenschmitt is a Read more
Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and co-author of Is Christianity Good for the World with Pastor Douglas Wilson, takes on religion in the US military in his latest article in Vanity Fair, for which is he a contributing writer.
The lead-in to the article demonstrates a set of false assumptions which are never substantiated within the article:
It’s no secret that conservative Christians dominate the US military, but when higher-ups start talking about conversion missions, it’s time to worry.
Hitchens never provides evidence that any ideological belief, never mind conservative Christianity, “dominates” the US military. He also misrepresents Read more