Religious Bias and the Air Force
Lorie Johnson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:14:56 AM EST
One of the stated legislative goals of the Christian Coalition reads as follows:

Support Legislation Stopping Religious Discrimination Against Christians in the Military  Christian military chaplains are being told to use general terms when they pray publicly, and to not mention the name of Jesus.

In other words, chaplains are not permitted to say sectarian prayers at public or mandantory military events.

What's this all about? Is this religious discrimination, or a backlash to years of overt and militant religious discrimination by Christian chaplains? Is this more chipping at the Establishment Clause?

The controversy at the USAF Academy has been brewing for some time. Religious Tolerance.org has a thorough timeline of events, players and accusations about overt and aggressive Evangelical religious bias at the Academy. It is a tale of 'heathen flights', overt anti-Semitism, and aggressive coercion of non-evangelical Christians and people of other faiths.

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote:

The problem, as Rosa described it in a meeting last week with the Anti-Defamation League, "is very insidious." He said it would take "probably six years" to solve if only because until relatively recently the academy itself did not realize that it had a problem. In other words, a culture of militant Christianity, intimidation and outright bigotry was so entrenched and so ordinary that no one, with the understandable exception of the occasional victim, noticed that anything was amiss.

What, exactly, are we talking about? We are talking about what a former chaplain at the academy called a "systematic and pervasive" effort at religious proselytizing in which both students and faculty participated. We are talking about semi-official efforts to promote Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ." We are talking about e-mails sent to the entire student body with religious messages and classes that opened with a prayer and the intimidation -- a form of hazing -- of secular or non-Christian students by others.

A "culture of militant Christianity". No wonder the USAF brass had to crack down on them. The activity there should be seen as a sneak preview- and a warning-  of what life would be like under a theocratic government.

The USAF was in a difficult spot, and had to act to reduce the religious bias in their ranks. Here are some excerpts from their directive:

E. 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.

F. ABUSE OR DISRESPECT OF OUR WINGMEN OUR FELLOW AIR FORCE PEOPLE INCLUDING DISRESPECT BASED ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OR THE ABSENCE OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, IS UNACCEPTABLE.

G. WE WILL RECOGNIZE AND VALUE THE MANY HERITAGES, CULTURES, AND BELIEFS REPRESENTED AMONG US, AND BUILD A TEAM BY STRESSING OUR COMMON AIR FORCE HERITAGE: THE OATHS WE TOOK; THE CORE VALUES THAT WE EMBRACE; AND, THE MISSION THAT WE UNDERTAKE TO PROTECT OUR NATION.

H. AT A TIME WHEN MANY NATIONS ARE TORN APART BY RELIGIOUS STRIFE, WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT OUR ABILITY TO STAND TOGETHER AS AMERICANS AND AS AIRMEN THOSE WHO REPRESENT MANY RELIGIONS, SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER WITH THOSE WHO CLAIM NO RELIGION IS PART OF OUR HERITAGE, AND OUR STRENGTH.

*

 B. PUBLIC PRAYER OUTSIDE OF VOLUNTARY WORSHIP SETTINGS.

(1) 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.

(2) COMMON SENSE--AND MUTUAL RESPECT--SHOULD ALWAYS BE APPLIED AND EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES MAY DRIVE EXCEPTIONS. (NOTE: For example, there may be extraordinary circumstances where the potential benefits for the welfare of the command outweigh the potential of causing discomfort. These circumstances might include mass casualties, preparation for imminent
combat, and natural disasters.)

(3) CONSISTENT WITH LONG-STANDING MILITARY TRADITION, A BRIEF NON-SECTARIAN PRAYER MAY BE INCLUDED IN NON-ROUTINE MILITARY CEREMONIES OR EVENTS OF SPECIAL IMPORTANCE, SUCH AS A CHANGE-OF-COMMAND, PROMOTION CEREMONIES OR SIGNIFICANT CELEBRATIONS, WHERE THE PURPOSE OF THE PRAYER IS TO ADD A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF SERIOUSNESS OR SOLEMNITY, NOT TO ADVANCE SPECIFIC RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. MILITARY CHAPLAINS ARE TRAINED TO DEAL WITH SUCH EVENTS.

(4) IN ADDITION, A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION DOES NOT REQUIRE THE SAME CONSIDERATIONS AS PUBLIC PRAYER AND MAY BE APPROPRIATE IN OFFICIAL SETTINGS.

So far, so good. Note that this applies to all faiths, not just Christians. But here's the section of the directive that has the more militant evangelical Christians up in arms:

C. INDIVIDUAL SHARING OF RELIGIOUS FAITH.

(1) 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. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE WHEN SUBORDINATES ARE PRESENT AS PART OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS.

(2) THE MORE SENIOR THE INDIVIDUAL, THE MORE LIKELY THAT PERSONAL EXPRESSIONS MAY BE PERCEIVED TO BE OFFICIAL STATEMENTS. THE MORE SENIOR THE LEADER, THE MORE RESPONSIBILITY HE OR SHE HAS TO SEND THE MESSAGE THAT WE ARE A TEAM BASED ON TRUST, RESPECT, AND A COMMON MISSION TO DEFEND OUR NATION AND THAT WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ALL OUR PERSONNEL IS TO LIVE UP TO OUR OATHS, EMBRACE OUR SHARED AIR FORCE CORE VALUES, AND DO OUR DUTY.

(3) NOTHING IN THIS GUIDANCE SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD TO LIMIT VOLUNTARY, PEER TO PEER DISCUSSIONS.

For people who believe that this is a "Christian Nation" to not permit the 'official expression' of sectarian beliefs is a slap in the face to them. This is why they are attempting to get legislation to prohibit this perceived discrimination. It is only for Christian chaplains- other faiths would be excluded. Congress is now asking the President to protect prayer- Christian prayer only- in the military.

The militant activity in the USAF Academy should stand as an example and warning of what unfettered sectarian activity will do to an organization, and how non-believers will be treated.




Display:
Here's the official USAFA directive about the religious bias problem:

Chief's Sight Picture"

by Lorie Johnson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:23:49 AM EST


This gives people a view of what it looks like, when church and state merge -- in case anyone was wondering.

Here we have had employees of the people of the United States, coercing other employers to bend to their religious beliefs using tax payer funds, taxpayer facilities -- oh and, don't they have a job they are supposed to be doing?

The televangelists sometimes refer to themselves as "God's Air Force"  -- amusing pun -- but as I recall it the United States Air Force still belongs to the people of the United States.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 01:54:48 PM EST


If you want to know what the theocracy will be like, go to: http://www.gospeltruth.net/heresy/heresy_chap2.htm. Before you call me alarmist, remember that most American fundamentalists consider Calvin their spiritual father. If liberals want the average person to take the theocratic threat seriously, they better stop concentrating on abortion and homosexuality. If we're going to be honest, most people don't really care about those things unless they're gay or unintentionally pregnant.People don't act unless something impacts them personally. They need to realize that a theocracy will deeply intrude on virtually every aspect of their lives. If we want the public to take the Christian right seriously, we must make them understand that the danger is to everyone, not just minority groups like gays.

by Dave on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 11:34:22 PM EST
This is what I've been saying since...well, since I walked away from the dominionist group I grew up in.

If they win, we're all screwed, folks.  Even most of the folks who consider themselves "born-again Christians" like Jimmy Carter (who actually get that whole "love your brother as you love yourself" bit Jesus taught, and who believe salvation is both by faith and works) are going to be demonised and essentially outlawed because they aren't seen as "born-again enough" to the dominionists.

Also, Calvinism isn't the only thing to worry about--the origins of modern dominionism lie just as much in the pentecostal movement, particularly in "dominion theology" (yes, the term we use to this day to describe dominionism actually originated in the pentecostal community), "Third Wave" pentecostalism (known as the Brownsville, Toronto, "Kansas City Pastors", etc. movements), "deliverance ministry" and "spiritual warfare" movements in pentecostalism (which are, unfortunately, now spreading to the Southern Baptists), the "latter rain" movement which spawned dominion theology and "word faith" aka "name it and claim it", etc.  In fact, a very good argument can be made that dominionism largely started in the Assemblies of God and "neopentecostal" churches that sprang from the AoG (this dates quite literally all the way back to the late 30's in some aspects, and is documentable as early as the 50's and 60's; the AoG, and in particular a "businessmen's outreach" of the Assemblies known as the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, are in fact some of the original architects of the hijacking of the Republican Party and were involved with the persons who hijacked the SBC) and spread from there to other groups.  (The "premillenial dispensationalist" flavours of dominionism most definitely started in the AoG and other neopentecostal groups, incidentially.)


by dogemperor on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 04:01:10 PM EST
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