Sunday, February 12, 2006

Religion in the military and the overthrow of American liberal democracy

So let me get this straight: Gays and lesbians -- loyal, honourable Americans willing to die for their country -- aren't allowed in the military, at least not openly. But evangelical Christians, for example, are now allowed to speak openly about their religious beliefs?

The Post reports: "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."

Yes, there is something to be said for the free religious expression. But this is the military. It isn't a marketplace of ideas, where different beliefs and opinions can be expressed openly and evaluated freely. It's an organization with a rigid hierarchy, a chain of command, orders to be obeyed, superiors and subordinates. Free religious expression works in a horizontal organization, but not necessarily in a vertical one, where subordinates may experience real or imagined pressure to conform to certain beliefs, to obey not just a superior's orders but his or her private religious beliefs.

One hopes that superior officers will be "sensitive" to the concerns of subordinates, but will that always be the case? What if free religious expression is perceived in some cases as insensitivity? Does the military need that? After all: "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."

This is obviously a victory for groups like Focus on the Family, which pressured the military to amend the original guidelines. Can everyone see that the religious right is seeking to take over the country? Whether it's the Supreme Court or the Air Force, their dreams of theocracy, of the overthrow of American liberal democracy, are fast becoming reality.

(See also The Carpetbagger Report, Echidne of the Snakes, TalkLeft, and Alternate Brain.)

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  • And if an airman speaks up and says, "Respectfully, Sir, I completely disagree with that superstitious garbage," he can be charged with insubordinate behaviour or placed on section punishment.

    Here endeth unit cohesion.

    By Blogger Dave, at 11:45 PM  

  • Well, gee, those 'reforms' at the Air Force Academy sure lasted a long time, didn't they? I hear they're moving the NSA out to Colorado too. I think they're packing that state. Isn't that where NORAD is? (If NORAD still exists.) You know, underground command bunker/center/endoftheworld/doomsday place? Spooky. But then they're spooky anyway, I guess...

    By Blogger Neil Shakespeare, at 12:22 AM  

  • Michael, before I retired from the counseling field, we were taught that taking advantage of any power differential was abusive. There is no system with more clear differences of power that the military (read: Marine D.I. screaming at a recruit). And this aspect of it does not even take the issue of separation of church and state into account. Freedom of religion is not the freedom to exploit a power differential, no matter how much the Right Wing argues for it. You make good points.

    By Blogger Carol Gee, at 1:52 PM  

  • Thank you Dave, Neil, Carol, and Jeff for your comments. This is quite a worrisome development. I just don't see what place religion should have in the military. Or can have without posing serious problems to morale and, as Dave puts it, cohesion.

    As for cspanjunky's comment -- well, it obviously doesn't apply to this post, and, whether I agree with his/her sentiments or not, I wish such commenters wouldn't spam like this.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 5:25 PM  

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