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Christian Airmen Everywhere Rejoice
February 10, 2006 9:33 AM   Subscribe

USAF Changes Guidelines to Allow Religious Discrimination Apparently, mainstream media considers this close to a non-story : "The Air Force released new guidelines for religious expression, dropping a requirement for chaplains to respect others' rights to their own beliefs and no longer cautioning top officers about promoting their personal religious views." ( AP ) The NYT carried a a one paragraph AP release on this. Forbes carried an extended AP story. Other coverage ? Well, there's the Daily Kos, Metafilter...
posted by troutfishing (54 comments total)

 
Well, won't it be interesting if it turns out there's a chaplain in the USAF who is a Muslim, but has been hiding it?
posted by davejay at 9:41 AM on February 10, 2006


The part that worries me is the bit about how chaplains no longer have to respect the beliefs of others. That's not a long step away from being cashiered because you're not Christian.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:50 AM on February 10, 2006


Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion -- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.
He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven…
--Mark Twain.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:52 AM on February 10, 2006


The next step: who is a "real" Christian?

The One True Faith: The Western Branch of American Reformed Presbo-Lutheranism.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:54 AM on February 10, 2006


"The revised guidelines say nothing should be understood to limit the substance of voluntary discussions of religion where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and can be reasonably free of potential coercion."

In the armed services? Sorry, maybe I'm missing something here but in an environment like this where you are expected to follow orders, no matter what, I find it hard to believe that a superior officer spouting off about his religious beliefs would not be expected to have influence on his subordinates.

I mean if an enlisted guy starts talking Allah in front of Captain Christian, does anyone seriously think their won't be some fallout?
posted by j.p. Hung at 9:56 AM on February 10, 2006


I'm sure this'll help them hit their recruitment numbers, nothing like some discimination to get the kids to sign up.

Wouldn't the military be better served by allowing anyone who wanted to serve, to server?

I'd like a roadside bomb served up with some bedside attempted conversion please. Hold the brimstone.
posted by fenriq at 9:57 AM on February 10, 2006


I think these changes were implemented to stop shit like what happened at that airforce academy for the last couple of years.
posted by Dreamghost at 10:04 AM on February 10, 2006


Wait, Mark Twain actually wrote something clever? Color me amazed. As for the U.S.A.F., glad to see they've created one more disincentive for people to join the military.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2006


Sorry, requiring a Christian to hide his or her Christianity is what is discriminatory. There is a happy medium between religious coercion and religious oppression, and they are required to find it under our Constitution.

(I'm following this closely as I have a son at USAFA. Thank God I don't have to depend on the media for this or any other story regarding that institution.)
posted by konolia at 10:07 AM on February 10, 2006


I mean if an enlisted guy starts talking Allah in front of Captain Christian, does anyone seriously think their won't be some fallout?

I should hope not, considering they worship the same deity.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:08 AM on February 10, 2006


This post is pretty lame--it's not hard to find sources adding some context here. The Air Force Academy has been dealing with this type of discrimination, if not ignoring it, for a long while. Given that the place also has scandals involving cheating and worst of all, rape, it comes as no surprise that this type of thing is allowed to happen.

As to why the Air Force has its head so much further up its ass than the other branches (Boykins aside) it's clear that their officer corps if trained in a highly permissive, highly anti-woman and anti-secular environment. And beyond that, they don't actually get shot at or do anything helpful that often, IMHO. (Christian tough-guys pushing a button to do their dirty work and so on.) This is really fucked up. Could an airman decide not to defend my freedoms because I'm an atheist?
posted by bardic at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2006


I don't think roadside bombs are much of a threat to pilots.

In other appalling news :

"Christian" Press Service Publishes Anti-Mohammed Cartoons To Incite Islamic World ? [ warning - self link ]
posted by troutfishing at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2006


To my previous comment. I dont get dropping the requirement for chaplains to respect others rights to theie own beliefs.

But i say as a human being you should do that anyways.
posted by Dreamghost at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2006


(Dreamghost beat me to it.)
posted by bardic at 10:10 AM on February 10, 2006


And as far as annoyance goes, it would be lovely if I could ban the Mormons and the JW's from knocking on my door, but I am a big girl and I can deal with it my own self. I don't need legislation to protect me from being annoyed that would hinder their right to free speech and their right to practice their faith. And believe me, USAFA cadets have their own ways of dealing with annoying classmates, no matter what the cause of the annoyance.
posted by konolia at 10:11 AM on February 10, 2006


Bardic, don't depend on the media to inform you about the "rape scandals" either. Let's just say a lot of what is in the media is totally, totally inaccurate.
posted by konolia at 10:12 AM on February 10, 2006


konolia, the AF Academy is not a social club, it's a taxpayer funded school. If you choose to go there, you choose to abide by the Constitution, which holds that no single religion can be held up above another. If a chaplain is Christian, fine, but she has no right to proselytize while on the goverment dollar. And an atheist, Jewish, or Muslim cadet has the right to advance their career free from the worry that not believing in their given officer's sky-god could screw them eventually.
posted by bardic at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2006


"This post is pretty lame--it's not hard to find sources adding some context here. The Air Force Academy has been dealing with this type of discrimination, if not ignoring it, for a long while."

Has the USAF been dealing with discrimination or ignoring it ? I'm not clear on what your're claiming there.

I assumed folks here were aware of the story's background - and the general principle of the separation of church and state as well. Perhaps I was wrong on that.
posted by troutfishing at 10:19 AM on February 10, 2006


Sorry, requiring a Christian to hide his or her Christianity is what is discriminatory.

Help! Help! The majority is being repressed.
posted by three blind mice at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2006


konolia, should I just rely on what you have to say? Yeah, that's a good one. How about I rely on the testimony of the women who were actually raped? Oh, that's right--she was threatened if she came forward with her allegations. Oh, and it wasn't one woman--their were 54 allegations made. But thank you for your predictable bleating about how this isn't a story--maybe people will take the time to realize what a messed up institution the AF Academy is, and how it's poisoned the rest of the USAF.
posted by bardic at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2006


Sorry, requiring a Christian to hide his or her Christianity is what is discriminatory.

No one's requiring Christians to hide their Christianity. There is no far reaching plot to destroy Christianity or to force Churches underground. Practice your faith. Hell, ask me politely to convert to your faith.

What the Constitution very plainly requires, however, is that government officials not use the color of US Law to proselytize, and that is precisely what has been happening at the USAFA.
posted by kosem at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2006


My how Christians love their persecution complex.

Not allowing them to actively debase other religions is discrimination against them. Mighty Christ-like of you.
posted by teece at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2006


And believe me, USAFA cadets have their own ways of dealing with annoying classmates, no matter what the cause of the annoyance.

What if the annoyance is a Jewish roomate who refuses to accept the divinty of Christ?

This I think is where the danger lies. There is clearly no mechanism in place to prevent mass-harassment. Many people on this board get very upset at the pile-on that happens to contrary view points, imagine that in the real world (well as real as the AFA is) with physical consequences.
posted by ozomatli at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2006


The air-force is pretty much the easiest, most "laid-back" branch of the military. You're much less likely to get shot at.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2006


Claude Allen, White House domestic policy adviser and Jesse Helms wannabe, resigns....related?
posted by If I Had An Anus at 10:45 AM on February 10, 2006


they really really really want it to be solely "Onward Christian Soldiers", no?

with the current enlistment shortages and no end to the endless wars in sight, do they really think that's what America's fighting forces should be like? No Jews, No Muslims, No atheists, no Hindus? Appalling.
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2006


and all the talk about winning their hearts and minds in the Middle East is not at all helped by having an armed services that's not diverse.
posted by amberglow at 10:47 AM on February 10, 2006


God is my co-pilot, but Jesus... you can be my wing man anytime.
posted by gigawhat? at 11:06 AM on February 10, 2006


"rape scandals" either. Let's just say a lot of what is in the media is totally, totally inaccurate.

THE BITCHES WERE ASKING FOR IT!: the last defense of the scoundrel rapist
posted by matteo at 11:07 AM on February 10, 2006



Help! Help! The majority is being repressed.


I hear white Christian males are under-represented in politics, too.
posted by matteo at 11:08 AM on February 10, 2006


We shouldn't want Christians in our military. All that Love and Peace and cheek turning is bad for a war....oh wait, these guys believe in Jesus, just not his teachings.

Additionally, We really really don't want evangelicals who want the world to end in a cataclysmic war (in their lifetime) to be the ones in charge of most of our NUKES do we?
posted by Megafly at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2006


"nothing should be understood to limit the substance of voluntary discussions of religion where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and can be reasonably free of potential coercion."

That seems reasonable to me.

They also omit a statement in the earlier version that chaplains "should respect the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs."

That doesn't seem so reasonable. When you are a chaplain having to minister to people from all faiths you are not doing a good job when you do not respect another person's religious beliefs. You certainly are failing a Jewish service person if you admonish them for failing to accept Christ as their saviour.

Konolia, congrats to your son - that is a fine institution he is in.
posted by caddis at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2006


What bothers me most of all about this is these religious zealots are the ones with their fingers on the nuclear trigger. Blackmail anyone? "Convert to my religion or face nook-leer annihilation.
posted by mk1gti at 11:17 AM on February 10, 2006


Sorry, requiring a Christian to hide his or her Christianity is what is discriminatory. There is a happy medium between religious coercion and religious oppression, and they are required to find it under our Constitution.
posted by konolia at 10:07 AM PST on February 10


Who's requiring Christians to hide their faith? Do you even read these things or do you just get emails from your son saying "Dear Mom they won't let me read the Bible p.s. those sluts were asking for it don't trust the LIEberal media" or what?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:17 AM on February 10, 2006


I think these changes were implemented to stop shit like what happened at that airforce academy for the last couple of years.

No, just the opposite. These changes are *more* of the shit "like what happened at the air force academy for the last couple of years." This is from the WaPo article:

The Air Force, under pressure from evangelical Christian groups and members of Congress, softened its guidelines on religious expression yesterday to emphasize that superior officers may discuss their faith with subordinates and that chaplains will not be required to offer nonsectarian prayers.
...
The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths. The original wording sought to tamp down religious fervor and to foster tolerance throughout the Air Force. It discouraged public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements.

But evangelical groups, such as the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, saw the guidelines as overly restrictive. They launched a nationwide petition drive, sounded alarms on Christian radio stations, and deluged the White House and Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne's office with e-mails calling the guidelines an infringement of the Constitution's guarantees of free speech and free exercise of religion.

Seventy-two members of Congress also signed a letter to President Bush criticizing the guidelines and urging him to issue an executive order guaranteeing the right of military chaplains to pray "in Jesus' name" rather than being forced to offer nonsectarian prayers at public ceremonies.


So, you see, the Air Force attempted to respond to the problems at the Academy, but was slapped down by the evangelical Right.

So now, a Christian chaplain could invoke Jesus at any official function, regardless of whether the audience contains non-Christians.

God, this pisses me off.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:22 AM on February 10, 2006


Bardic, don't depend on the media to inform you about the "rape scandals" either. Let's just say a lot of what is in the media is totally, totally inaccurate.
posted by konolia at 10:12 AM PST on February 10


Just wanted to quote that. Christ wept.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:23 AM on February 10, 2006


"Sorry, requiring a Christian to hide his or her Christianity is what is discriminatory. There is a happy medium between religious coercion and religious oppression, and they are required to find it under our Constitution."

Sorry to continue the pileon here, but the line of thinking that goes "We have to be tolerant of intolerance" is just batshit insane. If a Christian can't abide by tolerating others' beliefs, he shouldn't be in a secular organization, and by necessity all governmental organizations must be secular.
Time for you to read Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration again (and, y'know, expand the brainpower to make the leap from tolerance of different Christian sects to the broader tolerance of all religions).
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2006


(Does anyone else secretly hope for the rapture to come so that we won't have to deal with all the self-righteous fundamentalists?)
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on February 10, 2006


A statement from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who were instrumental in getting the air force to draw up the original guidelines.

troutfishing, I'm right there with you -- it's outrageous that this isn't being, and probably won't be, covered by anybody mainstream.
posted by gurple at 12:06 PM on February 10, 2006


(Does anyone else secretly hope for the rapture to come so that we won't have to deal with all the self-righteous fundamentalists?)

Nope. I'm openly petitioning for it. Hey, God, hurry up and call those idiots home! Oh crap. You don't want them either?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:16 PM on February 10, 2006


Won't you think of the possibilities?

Pastafarian colonel:
"..So, this is why the decline of pirates is causing global heating"

Lieutenant:
"Colonel says we need more pirates"

Sargeant:
"All you scoundrels start building the big flying pirate ship NOW!"
posted by qvantamon at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2006


bardic: And beyond that, they don't actually get shot at or do anything helpful that often, IMHO.

Well, screwyouverymuch, bardic -- while it's true that an Airmen is LESS likely to get shot at, there are thousands of Airmen currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan - war zones -- facing the same bullets and bombs that our brothers-in-arms face.

And WTF do you mean that the Air Force doesn't do "anything helpful that often?"

Back on topic: given the size of Air Force, the degree of tolerance (religious, ethnic, gender, etc) is remarkable. There are bad actors in every group. I know that some USAFA cadets have behaved criminally and immorally -- but please don't paint the entire Air Force (or US military) with that brush. The vast, overwhelming majority are good people who strive every day to be good people, good citizens, and provide honorable service to America.
posted by davidmsc at 12:39 PM on February 10, 2006


"don't paint the entire Air Force (or US military) with that brush" - who did ?

Meanwhile :

"Other issues that raised concerns amongst the two groups include:

* Protestant cadets were commonly told that Jesus had "called" them to the academy as part of God's plan for their lives.

* Cadets who chose not to attend after-dinner chapel services were made to suffer humiliation by being marched back to their dormitories in what was called the "Heathen Flight."

* Commission ceremonies for graduating officers have been held at off-campus churches.

* In December of 2003, in the academy's newspaper, hundreds of staff members -- including the then-dean of the faculty, the current dean of faculty, and 16 department heads or deputy department heads -- expressed their belief that "Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and directed students to contact them so they could "discuss Jesus."

* The academy commandant, Brigadier General Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility was to their God. He has also strongly endorsed National Prayer Day, an event sponsored by Focus on the Family and chaired by James Dobson's wife, Shirley.

* The academy has provided passes for Christian cadets who wish to attend church services and activities off campus, such as at New Life Church. They, however, have denied Jewish, Seven-Day Adventist, and those with other beliefs, the right to leave the campus for non-evangelical religious services.

* Several faculty members have introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged non-evangelical students to convert to evangelical Christianity throughout the course of the term.

* Staff and faculty members have led prayer sessions at several mandatory school activities, such as academic exams, meals at the dining hall, awards ceremonies, military-training-event dinners, and basic training cadet cadre meetings. [ source ] "
posted by troutfishing at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2006


Word, davidmsc. My retired LTC dad is one of that vast, overwhelming majority. I'm going to see if I can get him to add his voice to those who want the AFA to provide better direction to help the cadets provide more honorable service to America in the future.

Which, more than at any other time in history I think, means no religious discrimination.
posted by gurple at 12:57 PM on February 10, 2006


a ton of solid data
posted by troutfishing at 12:54 PM PST on February 10


Troutfishing, if they're not allowed to do things like that anymore then it is clearly oppression. Also I would like to point out that I know someone at the Academy and he insists that all those rape allegations were just a bunch of nonsense and it's pointless to even investigate it. Well I have to go write a paper now, toodles.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2006


Well the, that's settled.

All hunky dory at the Air Force Academy, move along folks !
posted by troutfishing at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2006


Whathemotherfuck?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:28 PM on February 10, 2006


Hmm, so, OK, the Air Force now has carte blanche to become God's Vengeance Raining From The Skies. Jesus' Flaming Sword of Justice. And they have most of the nuclear bombs. Great!

Seriously, people, isn't this enough yet?

All these born-again officers swore to defend the Constitution of the United States, and now they're putting the Holy Word of God (as they understand it) ABOVE THAT OATH. Note that their version of the Holy Word of God is not in agreement with much of the Constitution. They are breaking their oath to serve the People of the United States, who are not all Evangelical Christians, and therefore I don't think they qualify as defenders of the Constitution, and they should be fired.

Once "God" controls the military, he's going to attack "His" enemies. Which will likely include any of us that aren't solidly on God's Team. Get it?
posted by zoogleplex at 2:53 PM on February 10, 2006


And believe me, USAFA cadets have their own ways of dealing with annoying classmates, no matter what the cause of the annoyance.

DID YOU ORDER THE "CODE RED"!?!?!??!?
posted by beth at 3:36 PM on February 10, 2006


Beth is on fire today.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:34 PM on February 10, 2006


Note that there are Muslim chaplains in the services -- the USAF had three in 2001. (Get yer Chaplain Kits here. Supplies are limited. Oh, and limited to the Big Three monotheistic religions ...)

I think it's positive that the guidelines are endorsed by the NCMAF, which seems sufficiently broad-based (and does include Muslims). It may have been that the previous guidelines were too strict for evangelicals, and that preventing them from "worshipping Jesus" rather than God was deemed more harmful than the alternative discomfort felt by those with more mainstream views (but where's the mainstream in the US now? the SBC...). But in any case this does little to put a barrier in the way of the evangelical effort to target and recruit the USAF (its leader's home church is on a hill looking up at the Academy, and specifically reachest out to cadets).

The question is going to be how these chaplains, freed to insist on their Jesus-oriented faith, are going to minister to troops in the aggregate and the specific.
posted by dhartung at 9:38 PM on February 10, 2006


Oh, most aggressively I'd guess.
posted by troutfishing at 10:21 PM on February 10, 2006


So now, a Christian chaplain could invoke Jesus at any official function, regardless of whether the audience contains non-Christians.

God, this pisses me off.


(in theory:)

Why? If a Jew invoked Hachem at an official function, I would be happy. If a Muslim prayed to Allah, that would be fine, too. Maybe someone wants to pray to the Great Spirit, or do something Wiccan. That would be fine with me, too.

Just because it is happening at an official function doesn't mean a religion is being established, or that attendees of the function must convert or feel oppressed. I would much prefer an inclusive system in official functions that lets people of any faith take turns praying, if that is what they want to do.

The AFA stuff up to now definitely sounds fishy. I should read more about it.
posted by bugmuncher at 12:29 AM on February 11, 2006


Hashem.

Hachem was the world series of poker champion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:46 AM on February 11, 2006


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