A lengthy but interesting article by US Marine Lt Sam Jacobson covers his experience as a Jew in the Marine Corps, from his drill instructor asking if he needed kosher meals to the US military flying “interested Jews” to special religious services while fighting in Iraq. At points he describes a “generous mood of religious accommodation” and even the presence of a “no preference” room during a time dedicated for religious services.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Jacobson’s story is the theme he reveals of how gruff military members sometimes deal with the increasingly “sensitive” subject of religion.
He gets ‘scolded’ for sleeping during the time dedicated for religious exercise, but admits sleeping was a closely controlled exercise in training: Read more
Military Archbishop Timothy Broglio has previously expressed his opposition to the repeal of the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In a recent article, however, he articulated his opposition not strictly on religious grounds, but on Constitutional ones:
The archbishop explained that while individuals may have a legal right to declare their sexual preferences, they have no comparable “right” to serve in the military at the same time.
Rather, he said, the military reserves to itself the right to deny individuals that privilege — just as soldiers may forfeit the privilege of military service in many other ways, through their speech and behavior. Read more
Michael Weinstein has repeatedly demonstrated an animosity toward the association of the US military with the Christian Bible. In 2009, his Military Religious Freedom Foundation opposed a Chaplain bringing Swahili Bibles to Iraq, despite the fact they were requested by third country nationals supporting the US military effort. The “religious freedom” organization opposed support for the religious freedom of US allies.
In 2007, Weinstein highly publicized a cropped photograph of a US Army trainee posing with his M-16 and his Bible — alongside a similarly photographed Hamas suicide bomber. (The photos can be seen here; the original article was written by Jason Leopold, currently an editor for TruthOut, for which Weinstein is a board member and fundraiser.) Weinstein’s MRFF is quoted saying “fundamentalist Christianity” in the US military “is starting to mirror Islamic fundamentalism.” (Tellingly, he never made similar statements about photos of Jewish Soldiers and their weapons, some of which can be seen here.)
Weinstein’s most recent complaint is Read more
The Colorado Springs Independent, which previously reported on both Michael Weinstein’s declaration of “war” on the Air Force Academy and his letter to the Secretary of Defense, apparently obtained access to three cadets to discuss the religious climate at USAFA.
The members of the Cadet Interfaith Council had little negative to say: speaking of religious mistreatment, a Jewish cadet says “not much of that goes on these days;” a Buddhist has “not experienced any discrimination due to his faith.” The Protestant of the three agrees.
All agree with a cadet’s statement that
Right now, I think it might be getting blown out of proportion.
(It is worth noting these cadets were likely provided by the Academy for the purpose of the interview. Given the opportunity, Weinstein could likely produce cadets supporting his point of view.)
Superintendent LtGen Michael Gould is also quoted, and the article offers an intriguing look at religious “complaints” over the past two years. Ironically, there Read more
President Obama’s religious faith continues to be a topic of discussion in the mainstream press. A recent article discussed an interview in which he said he is a “Christian by choice.”
Interestingly, at the end of the article, Obama said this:
“This is a country that is still predominantly Christian. But we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own.”
The perspective is interesting; Americans United for the Separation of Church and State made a point of saying that Obama “got it:” Read more
A small but building group of atheists has decided to take LtGen Frank Helmick at his word, when in his defense of Rock the Fort at Fort Bragg he said he would
provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similar non-Federal entities that address the needs of Soldiers on this Installation.
The group, apparently led by US Army Specialist Justin Griffith, are beginning coordination to hold an atheist “Freedom Festival” next year at Fort Bragg (complete with website):
Our goal is to organize and promote an event to be held at Ft. Bragg with the support of MWR, just like the “Rock the Fort” evangelical Christian event held on 9/25/10.
…Please join this group and help us plan an event for Skeptics, Free-Thinkers, Agnostics, Atheists, and those who just want to enjoy a day FREE from religion.
Good on’em. While the group may be ideologically at odds with most Read more
An article by Agence France-Presse, published at Military.com, notes the recent exceptions provided to three Sikh applicants to the US military. An anecdote tells of Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi’s experience in initial training:
On his first day of training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, a first sergeant pulled [Kalsi] out of the crowd and Read more
Religious freedom in the armed forces — something the US military takes very seriously — sometimes goes beyond the servicemembers that most are apt to think of. In the case of Fort Hood, Texas, it also applied to the children. As noted by the Army news release:
Students and staff from Fort Hood’s Smith Middle School took part…in an event known as “See You at the Pole” Sept. 22.
SYATP is an annual, student-led global day event that draws students from across the world to their school’s flagpoles to pray for their nation, schools, students and teachers, according to the website.
More than 20 students and faculty members took part bringing their own prayers and a group prayer. Read more