Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Military and Respect for Religious Minorities

The Air Force and the Navy are both struggling with the question of how to respect differing religious views. It doesn't seem that they are being very successful.

Part of the problem is that there are so many different religious groups in the country and in the military today. In 1945 there were 10 organizations that "endorsed" chaplains for the military. Today there are 240. That wouldn't be a problem if people respected each others beliefs, but of course that isn't happening.

The Air Force discourages public prayer at mandatory meetings (staff meetings, promotion ceremonies, etc.) that reference or promote a particular religion. But even so, there have been accusations of anti-Semetism at the Air Force Academy.
An Air Force task force concluded that some students and staff at the school have the perception that the academy favors evangelical Christians and is intolerant of those who do not share their faith.
Incidents such as "the head football coach [telling] players that he expected to see them in church," are not helping. (No Jews, no Muslims, no Wiccans, etc. allowed on the football team coach? Or is it just that you feel you have the right to impose your beliefs on others based on your position?) This is clearly unacceptable in a government institution. Let him go coach for Notre Dame or Southern Methodist University or some other private university of his choice.

The problems are not limited to the Air Force; their problems are just mostly in the news, due to the problems at the acadmey. The Navy is also struggling though they are making chaplains just as unhappy as the serving personnel. (One chaplain is alleging that he was overly restricted in his ability to preach his faith.)

Certainly people going into battle deserve to be able to pray according to their beliefs, and even receive religious counseling. But if they are ridiculed, or their beliefs discounted or insulted in public ceremonies, does that help anyone? What impact on "unit cohesion" or morale? Will we as country founded on religious freedoms see religious minorities driven out of the service? I hope not. But I don't see tolerance for other faiths being high on the priority of many faiths these days, and I would hope we could get beyond tolerance to respect.

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