Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Air Force Issues Guideline for Religious Expression

After the Task Force investigating religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy asked for guidance from higher up the chain of command, the Air Force has issued some guidelines on the limits for official religious expression.

The guidelines say that "public prayer should not usually be included" in official meetings, classes or sporting events. "A brief non-sectarian prayer" may be recited in ceremonies of special importance "to add a heightened sense of seriousness or solemnity."

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a retired Navy chaplain who was hired to help draft the guidelines, said:
They urge commanders to welcome requests for accommodation of religious practices, and they place no restrictions on "voluntary, peer to peer" discussions of faith. But they say officers must be "sensitive" to the potential for comments about their own faith to be perceived as official statements, and they say chaplains "must be as sensitive to those who do not welcome offerings of faith, as they are generous in sharing their faith with those who do."

Differences about the role of religion in the military permeate all branches of the military. In addition to a story about the new Air Force Guidelines, today's Washington Post has two other insightful stories religion in the military. Both are about divisions that some evangelical chaplains are causing within the chaplain corp. Here and here are links to those stories.

Clearly, the hostility that some evangelical's feel for the religious pluralism that the First Amendment guarantees is threatening to the cohesiveness, unity and morale of the military. Those chaplains who cannot uphold the Constitution in good conscience should resign from service as military chaplains.

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