The recent Military Religion Question of the Day involved accusations that an Air National Guard Chaplain, LtCol Dan Hornok, was “blatantly proselytizing” in a commentary he published on an Air Force website. The article and initial commentary can be seen here.
The basic questions were:
- Was the Chaplain “blatantly proselytizing?”
- What if the writer had not been a Chaplain?
- What do the Chaplain’s words—and the critic’s—say about the spiritual environment in the military?
Was the Chaplain “blatantly proselytizing?”
The shortest, most accurate answer: Read more
While some seem to imply that only Christians associate their religious ideology with their military service, public examples on all sides demonstrate that is not the case.
A Pennsylvania paper recently covered a local story in which a group of pagan veterans are encouraging those with similar beliefs to, in their words, “come out of the broom closet.” Charles Arnold is the “‘national commander’ of the Pagan Veterans of the United States,” which he formed earlier this year. He says pagan veterans “number Read more
An Army article relates the story of Chaplain (Capt) Carl Subler, one of only two Catholic Chaplains in the RC-South portion of Afghanistan.
Like Chaplain Foley, Subler also carries a kit with him containing the necessary supplies to conduct Catholic Mass, even if its done by headlamp on a helicopter landing pad.
DoD Photo (Staff Sergeant Christine Jones)
An Airman in the group noted the importance of faith Read more
Though “watchdogs” are normally on the lookout for any connection between official US Air Force resources and remotely-religious events (as they sternly did earlier this year), a recent public event passed quietly and without controversy.
The US Air Force Band attended and provided the music for the National Menorah lighting at the White House on December 13th.
Though chilled by the winter weather, the band provided a warm performance and did an excellent job of supporting the US government’s public celebration of an important part of many Americans’–and some would say the nation’s–culture and religious heritage.
The entire ceremony can be watched at the National Menorah website.
First reported at the Religion Clause.
The US military is increasingly sensitive to associations with events that might be perceived as religious. While it strives to protect the free exercise rights of its members, it is also cognizant of criticisms of inappropriate interactions between a government institution and religion.
Few times is this more evident than near the end of the year, when the military struggles to support the religious celebrations of its members of varying religions. In general, there is little chance of offense between the varying religions that share holy days during this season. The greater possibility, in fact, is that critics of religion will be offended by the military’s support of military members’ religious celebrations.
The military’s handling of these events is not uniform, and there are no official policies on the support of public religious celebrations by military members. This has led to some interesting contrasts.
For example, military bases traditionally have displays during the “holiday” season, not unlike the White House’s National Christmas tree and Menorah. Searches for “Air Force Base” and “Christmas tree” show that, in the Air Force at least, there are still a great many military bases that do, in fact, light “Christmas” trees. However, expanding the search Read more
A US Air Force Air National Guard Chaplain recently wrote what became a surprisingly controversial commentary:
Although I haven’t written any books in my time, I often refer to a book that speaks to the subject of happiness. It’s called the Bible. The Bible tells us that 2,000 years ago, God sent his son Jesus into the world so that through his death on our behalf, we could have a personal relationship with him. Lest we forget, Christmas speaks of that birth and the happiness that came from that. Whether you share this belief or not, my wish for all of us is that no matter what religion you identify with, that we genuinely recognize that there is hope for happiness. It is important to remember that we are never alone, and that life eventually, and ultimately, will get better.
It was part of a commentary published by Chaplain (LtCol) Daniel Hornok in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, which is traditionally an emotional one for military members and their families. This is true of deployed servicemembers, certainly, but also for young troops who may be experiencing their first major holidays at a new base away from home. The Chaplain emphasized hope and the need to ‘look out for each other,’ an act that “may save a life.”
While the commentary of a Utah ANG Chaplain is probably not terribly widely read (with no offense intended to the Chaplain), and the topic (hope and support during the holidays) was one that is important to the military, it still managed to attract some negative Read more
An Associated Press article repeated at the local Gazette and other sources says of the US Air Force Academy:
Religious tolerance has improved dramatically since allegations five years ago that evangelical Christians harassed cadets who didn’t share their faith.
The article even quotes critic Michael Weinstein, who sued the Air Force for incidents at the Academy, agreeing with the assessment:
This is the first time we feel positive about things there.
While the initial complaints were that the Air Force was foisting Christianity on its cadets, the Air Force investigation instead determined that the situation was far simpler: cadets of minority faiths did not feel appropriately accommodated as was permissible under military regulations. Thus, the Air Force addressed Read more
As noted at the Air Force website, the top 3 US Air Force leaders distributed their 2009 holiday season greetings. They asked Airmen to “reflect on our blessings,” and expressed gratitude for deployed Airmen and fellow servicemembers serving in war. The leaders also specifically asked Air Force families to “reach out” to the familes of deployed servicemembers and single Airmen, and
welcome them into your holiday celebrations, in the spirit of giving and support that makes our greater Air Force family so special.
Ultimately, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy successfully transmitted a neutral note of goodwill for anything that happens to be going on during this specific time of year:
In all of the joyous ways that this holiday season is celebrated, we wish you and yours the very best–during this special time, and througout the New Year.
While admirably non-exclusive, the message is almost meaningless Read more