POW/MIA display tables — symbolically empty tables representing those who did not come home — have long been a fixture in military dining halls and formal ceremonies. They’ve also been a sore spot for militant secularists, who object to the traditional inclusion of a Bible on the table. Prior controversies have been discussed before, including one at Patrick Air Force Base earlier this year that resulted in the table being completely removed because it was “divisive.”
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has now gotten into the fray, complaining to the US Navy that an official Navy blog included an info graphic of the traditional table — complete with Bible:
Weinstein had a predictably adjective-filled response: Read more
A group of military religious freedom supporters — and at least one critic — will appear before the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee this week to testify on the state of religious liberty in the US military.
Advocates for military religious freedom invited to the hearing include
- Michael Berry, Liberty Institute attorney who acted on behalf of cadets at the US Air Force Academy this year
- Retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews, an outspoken advocate for military religious freedom
- Travis Weber, Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, US Naval Academy graduate and former Naval aviator.
Their organizations are also part of the Restore Military Religious Freedom coalition.
On the critics side, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein Read more
Update: The Navy has reversed the decision of NEXCOM, saying it was made without consultation with Navy leadership. The Bibles will be returned to the hotel rooms and will not be removed. Retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews had called on the Navy to reverse the policy. The Navy now joins the Air Force in having been attacked for its lodging facility Bibles — and, for the moment, withstood the attack. Also at the Christian Post, OneNewsNow, the Washington Times, Religion News Service, the New American, and USA Today.
As first reported by the American Family Association, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with the US Navy because there were Gideon Bibles in the nightstands at Navy lodging facilities.
So the Navy decided to remove them.
“The current direction is to remove all religious material from Navy Lodge guest rooms,” read an email to a Navy chaplain from The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM).
Jason Torpy of the MAAF tried a few years ago to Read more
A report at FoxNews highlights a message from US Army Col. Kevin Glasz, brigade commander of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, regarding respect for Islam during Ramadan:
“This is a period of great personal restraint and commitment in addition to renewed focus on worship,” Brigade Commander Col. Kevin Glasz wrote. “I’d like to encourage you to learn just a little more about this religion, but more importantly, I’m asking you to be considerate and do not consume food or drink in front of our Muslim colleagues; it is a simple, yet respectful action.”
In contrast from policies governing US military personnel in Bahrain, which was highlighted here last month, the USUHS is in Maryland, and there are no laws in Maryland governing Ramadan.
Optimistically viewed, it is just a supportive statement from the military to help others respect the faiths of those around them. But as an anonymous Marine officer is quoted in pointing out, this kind of “supportive statement” is only used in reference to Islam: Read more
Update: Jason Torpy revived the issue enough to generate a Navy Times article, though it contained no new information. In fact, a Navy official reiterated a point made below — even humanists can’t really put bounds on a definition of “humanism:”
“Humanism’s not a defined term across the country,” the official said. “There’s a group of Jewish Humanists. The Humanist Society was once the Humanist Society of Friends, a Quaker organization.”
The official, referring to Heap, continued: “I don’t know that he represents a religious organization by any accepted definition.”
Tom Carpenter, a former Marine pilot and one of the founders of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy — the homosexual advocacy group that lobbied for the repeal of DADT — has attacked the Navy chaplaincy for not approving the chaplaincy application of Jason Heap, a self-described non-theistic humanist. Tragically, if not predictably, Carpenter seems to base his attack on “evidence” that does not exist [emphasis added]:
…The Navy Chief of Chaplains rejected the application of Jason Heap, a highly qualified chaplain candidate who would have been the first Humanist military chaplain. All the evidence leads invariably to the conclusion this decision was based upon a Constitutionally prohibited “religious test.”
What public evidence is there the Navy rejected the application based on a “religious test?” None whatsoever.
Carpenter implies — repeatedly — the Navy Read more
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman John Fleming (R-La) recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that was critical of the way the Department of Defense has implemented the religious liberty provisions of the 2014 NDAA — legislation they authored.
In short, the two say the military has focused on accommodation of religious clothing and failed to specifically address religious expression [emphasis added]: Read more
Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.
The Christian Post, like many sites, focused on the apparent ability to wear religious accoutrements:
The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.
While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.
The US Navy appeared to try to quell Read more
A host of websites have reported the US Department of Defense has “relaxed” its rules regarding religious accommodation. More accurately, the military has updated its policies on requesting such accommodations in a manner that does seem to imply they will be more amenable to such requests. Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17 (DoDI 1300.17) now has “Change 1”, which can be found here (PDF).
“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members,” [Pentagon spokesman Navy LtCmdr Nathan Christensen] said, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.”
When a service member requests such an accommodation, he added, department officials balance the need of the service member against the need to accomplish the military mission. Such a request is denied only if an official determines that mission accomplishment needs outweigh the need of the service member, Christensen said.
The key word in the quote and the instruction itself — the DoD will accommodate.
These changes include an apparent allowance of religious facial hair and “body art,” as well as direct responses to the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) requiring the US military to accommodate religious expression: Read more