A federal court has ruled that the Army must grant conscientious objector status to an Alaska-based soldier whose application was previously denied. Historically, the Army has insisted that a CO object to all war, not just “this” war, and the soldier’s previous comments seemed to indicate that he looked forward to combat. The soldier indicated that his objection developed as a result of what he saw in Iraq. The judge did concede that the military had a legitimate concern on the “timing” of the CO application, but that it could not deny it based solely on that cause.
The text of the ruling can be seen at the Religion Clause.
As noted at the ADF, the AP has reported that an Army Private contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation after the Army autopsied his deceased infant son. The Private indicated that he was Muslim and objected to the autopsy on religious grounds. Reports indicate that the MRFF plans to include this, as everything else, in their ongoing lawsuit.
While the situation is regrettable, it is not isolated to this military case or this religion. Many government offices perform autopsies over the religious objections of the family, and the courts have apparently supported their ability to do so–particularly when the cause of death is suspect, as it was in this case. It is not, then, a case of military “anti-Islamic prejudice and bigotry,” as Michael Weinstein asserts.
It is also worth noting that the religious opposition to autopsy is equally valid in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. There is no objection to the practice in their core doctrines, though “interpretation” in each could lead to the conclusion.
According to an AF.mil article, the Air Force has announced the winners of the 2007 Chaplain Service Awards. Among many others was included the “Spirit of the Four Chaplains Award,” which honors the memory of the four Chaplains lost on the USAT Dorchester 65 years ago this year. In the quartet there was a Catholic Priest, Jewish Rabbi, and two Protestant Chaplains. More information on the four Chaplains can be seen on the website of the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, which
exists to further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people.
“Unity without uniformity” may be an excellent way to describe the necessary relationships among those of varying faiths in the military today–where Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines work together without any requirement that they necessarily believe the same tenets (or are required to accept the truth claims of another system).
An AF.mil article highlights the unique circumstances of a Jewish US Air Force Chaplain in Iraq. The article notes that he is the only AF Jewish Chaplain in the AOR, though a recent article at the Jerusalem Post indicates that there are four more in the US Army also deployed there.
In a typically scathing commentary, Mr. Michael Weinstein lambasted the move of General Caslen, currently Commandant at West Point, to lead an infantry division out of Hawaii. Caslen was one of several flag officers who appeared on a Christian Embassy video investigated by the Inspector General last year (previous post).
Expanding his hyperbolic and alliterative repertoire, Weinstein called this a “tragic trifecta of travesty” and likened the General to Iraqi militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. He also criticized Caslen’s association with OCF, which he said was a
virulently fundamentalist Christian organization devoted to gaining unconstitutional control of the U.S. armed forces…
As with everything else, Weinstein has promised to add this to his ongoing lawsuit (in fact, he said it would go to the “head of the list”).
The ACLJ, which is sometimes referred to as the Christian version of the ACLU, renewed its call for a petition to protect the right of military Chaplains to pray within the dictates of their faiths, even outside scheduled sectarian services. This appears to be an update to a similar push last year. While there are no explicit rules that prohibit a sectarian prayer outside of a religious service (those that did exist were rescinded by act of Congress), the “sensitivity” of the subject has led many to avoid any perception of it whatsoever.
The ACLJ also noted an as-yet unpublished story out of Iraq which contends that a Christian service was “suppressed” because of the “Chaplain’s theology.”
While the religious situation in the military is not nearly so dire as the ACLJ (or the MRFF) would sometimes seem to think, there are people on both sides that do believe it is, and they are making concerted efforts to influence both the military and national opinion.
UPDATE: OneNewsNow picks up the story here.
As if a reminder was needed of the danger of the military fighter pilot profession, a T-38 crashed at Sheppard AFB today. It was the second in 8 days (after a crash at Columbus AFB), and has led the AF to tentatively ground the entire fleet. The T-38 is the primary jet aircraft used to train future fighter and bomber pilots.
As covered by Fox, CNN, and AF.mil.
As previously noted, the National Day of Prayer is May 1st, by virtue of Presidential declaration and in accordance with US law. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has complained that the NDP “task force” (associated with Focus on the Family) has coordinated with military bases and Chaplains for the observance. Using his oft-repeated hyperbolic and alliterative talking points, Weinstein promised
that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation fully [intended] to include this despicable collusion in [their] current Federal litigation against the Department of Defense as yet another stunning example of a pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape [of] religious liberties…
Jason Leopold, a former journalist and frequent voice for the MRFF, took issue with the fact that coordinators for the task force were required to sign a statement that ‘confirmed their commitment to Christ.’ Read more