As part of the academic environment at the Academy, policies on forums and speakers often result in “unusual choices” for speakers, some of whom are not even favorably disposed to the military. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the AF Academy has invited three former Islamic terrorists who have converted to Christianity to speak as a portion of an annual political forum. One of the speakers has “criticized Palestinian sympathizers,” and has been accused by Eileen Fleming, a freelance blogger and Palestinian advocate, of fabricating his terrorist past.
Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation was quick to criticize the decision to invite Christian speakers. Said David Antoon, MRFF board member:
What’s troublesome to me is this is pure ideology and it has nothing to do with academics…This is the Air Force Academy. It used to be an academic institution of excellence. It has become a political Bible college with the evangelicals holding so much influence with what’s going on there.
The criticisms come even though the MRFF didn’t know the men, hadn’t researched their background, and did not address the other people, topics, or ideologies of the forum. Apparently, the only issue with which the MRFF was concerned was the men’s Christianity.
Update: In response to concerns that the three men were Christians, another Gazette article notes that the Academy said the three would constrain their comments to, shockingly, the topic of the forum (terrorism).
The Religion Clause notes a recent military appeals court decision (US v Webster) that found a Muslim soldier who “missed movement” (was absent from his unit’s deployment) was rightfully convicted.
The soldier had pled guilty, then sought to reverse that plea. The soldier’s initial contention was that he could not deploy to Iraq because his internet research of Muslims had led him to believe that it was wrong to kill fellow Muslims.
This advice was not only inconsistent with what the Muslim Chaplain said, but it was also irrelevant: his commander gave him the opportunity to deploy in a non-combatant role. He filed conscientious objector status on the same day he missed movement; the court noted that CO status applied to those who objected to war, not to those who objected to one aspect of a certain war. The court also affirmed that his commander attempted to accomodate the soldier’s religious beliefs.
“I look at this as a job, but I also look at it as a ministry…” – Tony Dungy, Colts Head Coach
The Indianapolis Colts’ head football coach Tony Dungy recently announced he would not retire, but would return to coach next season.
Dungy’s outspoken Christian faith, the Colts’ 2007 Super Bowl victory, and his best-selling book have made him a unique and reluctant celebrity. (See the “Perspective” section of this post.) Dungy had been criticized for leading the Colts to 13 regular season wins this year, only to be eliminated in the first game of the playoffs.
The experience gives Dungy the ability to continue his Christian witness even though his team didn’t win–a reminder to people that being a Christian does not guarantee “success” (at least not by the world’s standards).
Religious Freedom Day takes place annually on January 16th by Presidential proclamation (2008). The day commemorates the Virginia Legislature’s passing of Thomas Jefferson’s “Statute for Religious Freedom,” which occurred on January 16th, 1786. Notably, this was before the Constitution (signed in 1787), of which Jefferson had no part, and the Bill of Rights (passed in 1789), of which Jefferson was one of the leading proponents.
Many on both sides of the issue consider the statute to be pivotal to the modern struggle of religious freedom and church/state separation. It is interesting that the day gets very little mainstream media attention, particularly given the “culture wars” and church/state issues that have seemed so dramatic over the past few years.
The purpose and background of RFD can be seen on the privately-funded site ReligiousFreedomDay.com.
An interesting article chronicles Navy Commander Rich McDaniel and his family while he is deployed. Some interesting quotes:
On their family’s role in the Navy:
Together and yet so often apart, the McDaniels believe their family unit has been called to a peculiar mission in life — as missionaries to the Navy community, serving God and country in peacetime and war.
On finding a church as a military member–and balancing the God and family priorities:
In some churches…the focus tends to be on “How can you serve others and how can you serve in the church?” While he endorses that…it can be heartbreaking to know he has only a few days with his wife after one to three months at sea and she feels duty-bound to stay in the nursery during Sunday morning worship because it’s her usual ministry at the church…People don’t understand why it’s so important for her to be [with] her husband [when he] happens to be home with little to no notice.
An interesting article on CNN.com that comments on US soldiers and their faiths during December–when three faiths have significant religious events: U.S. troops turn to faith amid realities of war.
As noted in a prior post, Michael Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation intend to expand their recent lawsuit against the military, intending to impact religion in the military as a whole. The MRFF’s lawsuit against the Air Force Academy was thrown out in 2006. Like the Academy suit, the recent lawsuit is based on an individual event, but Weinstein intends to similarly use it to (in his words) Read more
The Christian Post notes that Christians across the country will unite in 2 days of prayer for American servicemen this weekend, as part of the larger “Pray for America,” which “recognizes the need to pray for the U.S. military and America:”
Pray for our soldiers and sailors now serving throughout the world and for the recovery of those wounded in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pray for an awareness of Christ in the lives of our military.
Pray for our military families dealing with the separation of their loved ones and for those whose loved ones have paid the ultimate sacrifice.