Religion in the military

Here’s an interesting opinion piece from the LA Times. Its author, Michael Weinstein, is the guy behind the investigation of the AF Academy for being a hot-bed of evangelical christian “hazing.”

Some of the allegations included:

The report said that during basic training, cadets who declined to go to chapel after dinner were organized into a “Heathen Flight” and marched back to their dormitories. It said the Air Force’s “Chaplain of the Year” urged cadets to proselytize among their classmates or “burn in the fires of hell”; that mandatory cadet meetings often began with explicitly Christian prayers; and that numerous faculty members introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged students to become born again during the term.

I generally support this guy, who’s a former Academy grad and who’s had sons attend there, although I’m not sure of the conspiratorial bent of this latest piece. He intimates that it was a big behind the scenes plot to sneak these “…Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces…” to the soldiers in Iraq. More likely, this group “Operation Straight Up” just blended into the many groups that are part of DoD’s “America Supports You” program. It probably just slipped through the cracks.

Still, Mr. Weinstein’s crusade (nice touch, right?) does help point out the hyper-religiosity in the military. I’ve learned to just live with it, but you really can’t avoid the Christian faith on any military base. Very nearly every military ceremony will begin with a chaplain (always christian) offering prayer. Everyone is asked to bow their heads and listen as “we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.” At the wing staff meeting where I’m located, fortunately the wing chaplain offers an inspirational quote, mostly secular, rather than a prayer. I’ve heard, though, that some wing staff meetings across the Air Force where a prayer is offered every time. And you know those staff meetings aren’t optional.

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