From the Washington Post:
The U.S. military is being buffeted by dueling legal claims over religion, with one set of plaintiffs contending that the Pentagon is suppressing evangelical Christianity and another set arguing just the opposite -- that the brass gives the most aggressive evangelicals free rein to proselytize in uniform.I generally believe that when both sides are unhappy about a situation, it means that a even compromise has been reached. Unfortunately, that isn't really the case here.
In the latest lawsuit, an evangelical Christian chaplain is charging the Navy with violating his First Amendment rights by forbidding him to pray "in the name of Jesus" at public ceremonies.The other lawsuit, brought by Reagan White House official Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, contends that some Evangelicals within the military "believe they have an illimitable right to push their biblical worldview in the military, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, up and down the chain of command. ... Our view is that you certainly have that right at certain times and places that are well established by the U.S. Constitution and our case law. ... But you can't do it on the job when you're wearing the uniform during the workday."
Chaplain Gordon J. Klingenschmitt filed the lawsuit Oct. 25 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with assistance from the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville-based public interest law firm that sued the Pentagon over its policy of requiring U.S. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear a Muslim head covering.
Klingenschmitt's suit alleges that the Navy has effectively established a "civic religion" and is "suppressing [his] Christian faith" by requiring him to offer nonsectarian prayers when speaking to diverse groups of sailors.
The reason that my 'both sides angry = good compromise' reading doesn't work here is that in an organization as large as the U.S. military (second largest in the world in terms of active personnel) uniform enforcement of standards is impossible.
In some parts of the military, the line is being held against creeping theocracy. The fundies, by now used to being able to pretty much do as they please, get pissed and sue. In other parts of the military, theocratic sentiments are not just tolerated but encouraged. In those situations, people dedicated to the separation of Church and State are forced to take legal means to correct the situation.
The title of this post is 'The Military as Microcosm.' As an imperfect, though concentrated cross-section of the country, the military is facing a problem that the rest of the country will soon be forced to face. While this election may see Democrats make gains across the country, the regional differences in public approval of mixing Christianity and Government will remain.
Retired Navy Capt. Gary R. Pollitt, executive director of the Military Chaplains Association, a private, nonprofit group says "The only thing I can safely predict is, get ready for new controversies over the place of evangelism in the armed forces."
He's right, but don't expect the coming controversies to be limited to the armed forces.
Evangelism Military Christianists