Back in June I posted about the controversy at the US Air Force Academy concerning superior officers proselytizing to cadets and some incidents of religious intimidation against non-christians and non-believers. In August the Pentagon issued guidelines meant to protect religious liberty by discouraging public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements.
Once the guidelines were issued it seemed the issue was addressed.
Religious conservatives organized a response and pressured the Pentagon to revise the guidelines. The new version was issued last week.
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.
Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, the Air Force’s chief of chaplains, acknowledged in a telephone interview yesterday that the changes reflect the criticism from evangelicals.
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, an Albuquerque lawyer who is suing the Air Force over its policy on religion, questioned the sentence allowing commanders to share their faith when it is “reasonably clear” that they are speaking personally, not officially.
“Reasonably clear from whose perspective, the superior’s or the subordinate’s?” asked Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate. “When a senior member of your chain of command wants to speak to you ‘reasonably’ about religion, saying ‘Get out of my face, sir!’ is not an option.”
Basically what religious conservatives did was get the Pentagon to relax the rules against superior officers and chaplains proselytizing to cadets.
Proselytizing is not exercising your religious beliefs. Going to church or prayer is practicing your religion. Proselytizing is being a pain in the ass by telling someone, whether they want to hear it or not, about why they should join your church or religion.
Teachers are prevented from doing the same thing to students in school, so why are Air Force officers at the academy exempt?