24 September 2010

BUB: Religion and the US Military

While religion can be a touchy subject - and one we usually avoid here on GN (aside from the occasional swipes at Islamorons) - there is a bunch of news recently about religion and the US military, so we thought we'd take a quick spin through it.

There's a fight over a Christian concert at Ft Bragg.

A Christian event on Saturday for Fort Bragg soldiers and members of the surrounding area is unconstitutional and should be canceled, according to a national watchdog group.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said in a statement Thursday that the planned event — a concert and other activities called "Rock the Fort" — improperly enlists the military in a bid by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to win Christian converts.

The Charlotte-based ministry has sponsored similar events on military bases around the country. According to the BGEA's website, Saturday's event in Fayetteville is different because civilians as well as military personnel will be able to attend.

This on the heels of another controversial episode at Ft Eustis, where soldiers electing not to attend a Christian concert were locked down and forced to perform extra work when they opted not to attend the concert there.

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts. As I've written in a number of other posts, "spiritual fitness" is just the military's new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking "an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God."


FDL has a slightly scary article on the extent to which some officers view the US military as their own personal Christian institution, and the DADT fight is just a manifestation of that.

Too many in powerful positions in the military continue to act as though it is a fundamentalist Christian institution. [NPR reporter Jeff] Sharlet talks about a conversation he had with three-star Air Force General John Regni, in which Regni declared he had never heard of the establishment clause and Sharlet even had to read him the first amendment. There is a widespread sentiment in the military, according to Sharlet, that it is the last institution that is "safe for Christians," and which upholds "Christian" values, precisely due to its ban on homosexuality.


Those officers would do well to learn some tolerance from the Sikhs who are now slowly joining the Army as rules on their religious garb and appearance are addressed.

The 31-year-old is now US Army Captain Rattan, since July the head dentist at the Fort Drum base in New York.
In what appears to be a quiet shift, the US military since last year has allowed Rattan and two other Sikhs to serve while retaining their turbans and beards, which are required by their faith.
Rattan and another Sikh who received approval last year -- Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a doctor -- said in interviews that their superiors had welcomed them warmly.
Kalsi, 34, said that on his first day of training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, a first sergeant pulled him out of the crowd and told the soldiers about the Sikh's long ordeal to enlist.
"These were his words: 'The Army is made up of different shades of green, and if you have any objection to him being here, you need to tell me now,'" Kalsi said. "It was great; everybody clapped."

By: Brant

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