Chris Rodda has long been a “creative” writer, despite her sometimes claim to be an apparent amateur historian. While she has been quick to call out the errors of others with whom she disagrees, she ignores the errors of those who are on her side. She has also published a bevy of, to put it nicely, misleading writings. For someone so quick to call others “liars,” she has a very unique view of the truth.
With that in mind, Rodda published a blog yesterday with an attention-grabbing title:
National Defense Authorization Act to Include Military Training on How to Force Religion on Others.
Like much of what she writes, though, her title wasn’t true. (Most obviously, the NDAA hasn’t left either side of Congress yet, much less gone through conference committee or to the President. In other words, the NDAA doesn’t “include” anything yet.)
The short version of a long, meandering blog (Rodda has never been one for being succinct), is that Rodda is upset about Senate bill 4049, which was introduced in the Senate only a couple of weeks ago. Within it, the Senate requires the US military to conduct training on “Religious Accommodation” that must include:
- Federal statutes, DoD Instructions, Service regulations regarding religious liberty and accommodation for members of the Armed Forces
- The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993
- Section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013
- Section 528 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016
Of that content, Rodda takes issue only with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA is fairly short, and it says the government cannot “substantially burden” exercise of religion, with some Read more
- The US Air Force hasn’t had a male Secretary of the Air Force since 2013.
- The outgoing Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force is African American. The incoming CMSAF is female and Asian American.
- The incoming Chief of Staff of the Air Force is African American.
- Of the last three Chiefs of Staff of the Air Force, two were Jewish.
- Both the US Army and US Air Force (acting) have been led by a homosexual Service Secretary.
Every day it seems there’s an article about the first woman to do something in the Air Force (with an all-female crew), or the Army (again), or the first black woman to do something in the Air Force, or the first Sikh woman to do something in the Army, or how many different ways the Air Force can launch aircraft with only one skin color or gender on board (and the Navy does it, too).
See “Diversity: You’re Doing it Wrong.”
Yet, somehow, the US military, and the US Air Force in particular, manage to be accused of institutional racism, gender discrimination, religious extremism, and intolerance — by those very same people. In recent days, US Air Force and other military leaders have been practically tripping over themselves running to microphones, hand-wringing and expressing contrition for unclear — or imagined — affronts. Or, in other cases, those leaders are simply making direct accusations against their own Service [emphasis added, capitalization original]: Read more
A few years ago, it seemed issues of religion in the military – scandals, some might say – dominated the news cycle for weeks out of the year. Every December the “top ten” religion media stories of the year included several regarding the US military. More recently, however, such “scandals” have fallen out of the news. To be sure, issues of religion in the military still pop up every now and then, but now those stories tend to involve actual issues of religion in the military, not manufactured outrage. Media stories are now far more likely to be about the changes that allow a Sikh to wear a turban or beard than about some random member of the military saying “have a blessed day” or having a Bible on their desk.
Part of the reason for this change has been the rise of religious liberty organizations who have defended the religious rights of US troops. The Becket Fund, First Liberty Institute, the ACLJ and others like them have become prominent and public defenders of religious freedom in the US military. While they were available to troops as a resource for many years, these organizations have gradually become more proactive, to the point that recent changes in US law and military policy have been proposed – and successfully passed – because of these groups. These laws and policies have dampened some of the prior years’ flail because they unified and standardized the military’s response to faith and free exercise. Rather than a cycle of military bases having repeats of the same kerfuffle, overarching policies govern the reaction of the entire DoD. (Sometimes.)
The end result is Read more
Last week, the US Air Force quietly published an update to its uniform regulation, AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, which governs how Airmen are required to wear their uniforms. The new regulation included attachments that specifically covered turbans, hijabs, and beards for the first time. While AFI 36-2903 previously discussed “religious apparel,” this is the first time it was covered in such depth.
In addition, it prioritized accommodation Air Force wide. For example, previous versions often restricted accommodation — if it was even granted — to a single military installation.
The new regulation also lowers the level of approval required for some accommodations. For example, Wing Commanders (generally, the commander of the Air Force base) are authorized to approve
hijab, beard, turban or under-turban/patka, unshorn beards, unshorn hair, and indoor/outdoor head coverings.
Importantly, however, if the commander desires to disapprove that accommodation, the request has to be disapproved at AF Headquarters at Read more
In June, A1C Sunjit Rathour became the first Sikh to graduate US Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB while wearing his turban and beard. In September he was the first to graduate from the Security Forces course.
Similarly, Gurchetan Singh will soon go to basic training before he joins the 194th Air National Guard wing as a Sikh wearing the articles of his faith.
While the ability to exercise one’s faith is important to one’s own religious practice, A1C Rathour also explained why it can be important for others: Read more
In a recent article the Air Force indicated that despite the recent publicity of Airmen and other military members being granted waivers to grow religious beards, there hasn’t been a marked increase in the requests:
The Air Force, citing privacy concerns, declined to identify how many airmen have obtained waivers based on religious exemptions but said the publicity surrounding approvals in recent years has not caused an increase in waiver requests.
The article also revealed that despite the publicity surrounding the “heathen” beard approval for SSgt Garrett Sopchak, he was actually the second Airman to get one for “norse heathenism”, after SSgt William Bailey in March.
The policy changes that have supported Read more
The Air Force Times reports on Air Force SSgt Garrett Sopchak, who just became the first US Air Force Airman to be allowed to wear a beard — because he adheres to Norse Heathen religious beliefs.
The Army granted a similar waiver last year, and beard exemptions have been granted for a growing number of Sikhs and Muslims — though not atheists.
Sopchak, a 28-year-old aerospace ground equipment craftsman at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, on July 8 become the first airman to get approval to wear a beard in accordance with his Heathen faith.
Sopchak said in a Tuesday interview that in the old sagas, a beard was Read more
Matthew Cox at Military.com reports the US Army has granted 60 religious accommodations to Sikhs entering the service, most recently to 14 high schoolers who will soon enlist:
Army Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, who is the president of the non-profit advocacy group that promotes Sikhism and military service, was surprised to learn there are 13 other high school students who will be allowed to enlist in the Army and openly serve as Sikhs.
This is a new milestone, he said.
“It shows progress,” Kalsi told Military.com, adding that he has been involved in this effort since he was granted the first such accommodation in 2009. “I was the first to get the accommodation for turban and beard way back in the day.”
Kalsi, who is also president and Read more