Air Force Issues Religion Guidelines
From ChristianityToday:
Air Force Issues Religion Guidelines
Compiled by Ted Olsen | posted 08/30/2005 04:45 p.m.

Air Force, attempting religious sensitivity, drops prayer at most meetings

"Supervisors, commanders and leaders at every level bear a special responsibility to ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed as either official endorsement or disapproval of the decisions of individuals to hold particular religious beliefs or to hold no religious beliefs," say new religion guidelines issued to all Air Force commanders yesterday, two months after a report detailed complaints of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy.

Though the guidelines include such issues as evangelism, the role of chaplains, and the use of government computers in distributing religious e-mail, the issue that gets the most press today is the guidance on public prayer.

"Public prayer should not usually be included in official settings such as staff meetings, office meetings, classes or officially sanctioned activities such as sports events or practice sessions," the guidelines say.

However, they say, "extraordinary circumstances may drive exceptions. … These circumstances might include mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat, and natural disasters."

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, the retired Navy chaplain at the head of the group drafting the guidelines, said the prayer guidelines may bring the most dramatic change in Air Force life.

"In many places throughout the Air Force, people have told me that if they have four meetings in a day, they have four prayers," he told The Washington Post.

"Voluntary, peer to peer discussions" of faith are not limited under the guidelines, but they do warn that "in official circumstances, particularly situations where superior/subordinate relationships are involved, individuals need to be sensitive to the potential that personal expressions may appear to be official expressions."

The Colorado Springs Gazette notes that "sharing one's faith while on duty, one of the critics' biggest complaints, is not banned under the guidelines."

The Gazette is the only news outlet to quote Fisher DeBerry, the Air Force Academy football coach who was berated for hanging a banner in the locker room that said, "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

De Berry told the Gazette "that he hadn't seen the guidelines and wasn't sure how they would affect team routines. 'Our locker room is a very sacred place,' he said. 'Not sacred because of religion but in that it's just a place for the players. We haven't made any decisions about our locker room yet. All of it is personal, so if we do anything, it will be left up to the individual player.' Athletic department spokesman Troy Garnhart said the guidelines left it unclear what was permissible in locker rooms."

One person who is amply quoted by almost every news agency is Mikey Weinstein, an academy graduate who says his sons received anti-Semitic slurs at the school, says he still inteds to sue.

"The Air Force's official policy remains that the Air Force reserves the right to evangelize anyone in the Air Force that it determines to be unchurched," he told the Associated Press.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he was even more irate. "It's a declaration of war, as far as I'm concerned, on the Constitution. I hope everybody comprehensively and joyously celebrates whatever religion that they want — or no religion — but they cannot engage the machinery of the state."


Quote:Hey, go to Israel and tell them that!

Weinstein completely lost it when talking to the Gazette: "These guidelines do nothing more than contribute to what appears to be an imperious, fascistic contagion that is sweeping throughout this country through evangelical Christians trying to infuse their religious thought into the machinery of the state."

The Denver Rocky Mountain News disagrees. The guidelines, the paper says in an editorial, "spell out the obvious, … with admirable clarity and very little overkill. No, make that no evident overkill at all. … . We hope no one tries to portray these guidelines as an attack on evangelical Christians, who have been accused - rightly in some cases and wrongly in others - of overly aggressive proselytizing at the academy."


Quote:Speaking of "aggressive proselytizing," how are Abe Foxman and the myriad "Holocuast" education programs and museums doing these days?

It's unlikely that the guidelines will be read as an attack on evangelical Christians. For example, Focus on the Family, which has devoted airtime and other resources to covering the debate, praised the earlier Air Force Academy report.

The U.S. armed forces typically has no qualms with public displays of religious affiliation (except maybe Islam). When I went to the processing station on-base, they had the official prayers of each branch of the armed forces on display against the wall. They also had a chapel and a stand with free pocket New Testaments. If you were an atheist and told the guys there that you were offended, they'd probably tell you to shove it.
90% of the people on this forum are rolling their eyes at the above description, but think about it this way: at the founding of the U.S., it would have been absolutely unthinkable by the Protestant majority to support Catholic priest chaplains or allow a military archdiocese. Catholics in the U.S. military probably get things better today than they would in the armies of some "Catholic" countries.

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