Col Gregory Gross, the judge presiding over the murder trial of US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan for the Fort Hood massacre, followed through on his threat and issued an order that Hasan must shave — or he will be shaved.
Gross…issued his order Thursday after a hearing to determine whether a federal religious freedom law applied to Hasan’s case. Soldiers may be granted permission to grow beards for religious reasons, and six soldiers have been allowed to do so: a rabbi, two Muslim doctors and three Sikhs, according to Army records.
Hasan said he is violating regulations not out of disrespect, but of religious requirement:
Hasan told the judge last week that he grew a beard because his Muslim faith requires it, not as a show of disrespect. Gross ruled Thursday that the defense didn’t prove Hasan is growing a beard for sincere religious reasons.
While the whole concept might sound a bit odd to outsiders, forced Read more
The Jewish online magazine Tablet covers the story of US Army Chaplain (LtCol) Larry Bazer, who recently returned from a deployment as the “only Jewish chaplain in Afghanistan.”
The article contains some interesting commentaries on the chaplaincy in general, as well as some specifics related to life as a Jewish chaplain:
The [Camp Phoenix] chapel, said Bazer, “was a cozy little place”: a small, nondescript room built of plywood. During the day it was devoid of any religious symbols, but during the evenings a few crosses would turn it into a Protestant chapel, or some icons into a Catholic church. On Friday nights, candles and challah—sent each month by the “challah lady,” a Long Island Jewish woman—made it a synagogue.
Chaplain Bazer’s congregations varied from none to nearly 20 as he traveled Afghanistan as the only Jewish Read more
The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has said US Army JROTC uniform policies are discriminatory after Demin Zawity, a freshman at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, TN, was told she could not wear her Islamic headscarf while in the Army uniform.
There’s no reason for them to have a policy that excludes people such as Zawity, said Gadeir Abbas, a CAIR staff attorney. It paves the way to encourage all faiths to participate, he added.
While noble-sounding, Abbas’ statement was ignorant. JROTC programs are designed to be nearly identical to their ROTC and operational military equivalents — including following generally the same uniform rules. In this case, the JROTC rule accurately reflects US military policy (to which there have been some notable exceptions).
Abbas also made a misleading and potentially incendiary statement: Read more
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution carries an article on the recent complaint of a Jewish Army trainee regarding religious discrimination (see previous discussion).
The AJC notes that there were three “offenses”:
- The trainee was told to remove his yarmulke. As previously discussed, the drill sergeant was incorrect Read more
As noted at Fox News, a US Army trainee complained of religious discrimination after superiors used remarks denigrating to the Jewish faith and required him to remove his yarmulke. (As previously noted, some religious attire is authorized in uniform; in fact, the yarmulke is the only such attire specifically mentioned.)
The soldier also was the victim of assault. According to Fox News, the Army does not believe the events are connected. Michael Weinstein, however, not only believes they are, but believes that those responsible must be Christians.
[T]hese ever more frequent, tragic matters [are the result] of unbridled, military-sponsored Christian religious oppression…
Like every allegation, Weinstein said he intends to include this in his lawsuit(s).
Also noted at the Religion Clause.
According to local news reports, the debate between Weinstein and Sekulow at the Air Force Academy was “cordial.” Presumably, both sides are working on their after-action reports, as none have yet been published. According to the Fox report, Weinstein had demanded to speak at the Academy and the debate was the format the Academy agreed upon. The only content yet known about the debate includes Weinstein’s assertion that Jewish servicemen not be allowed to wear a yarmulke, while Sekulow maintained they should.* Weinstein also made known his intentions to file another lawsuit against the Air Force, this one including plaintiffs that have standing. The debate can be heard here.
*Neither Weinstein nor Sekulow were entirely correct about the yarmulke. While Rabbi Goldman did lose his lawsuit in 1986 in which he sued to wear the yarmulke, the 1988 (updated in 2003) version of Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17 specifically allows the wearing of a yarmulke. There are still “exceptions,” but the Jewish headgear is the only religious apparel specifically mentioned.