Monday, August 20, 2012

New Air Force Document Promotes Free Exercise and Government Religious Neutrality

Earlier this month, the U.S. Air Force released a  new Directive on "Air Force Culture," Air Force Policy Directive 1, (Aug. 7, 2012). This brief Policy Directive was implemented by a much longer document, Air Force Instruction 1-1, (Aug. 7, 2012).  God and Country blog describes the new documents as a "parting gift to the Air Force" from newly-retired General Norton Schwartz. The documents consolidate and revise a number of other regulations, but add new content as well.  The Instruction has several sections that relate to the Air Force's attitude toward religion and religious beliefs of Air Force personnel:
1.7.4.1. Chaplain.  The Chaplain Corps provides spiritual care and the opportunity for Air Force members and their families to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.  This is accomplished through religious observances, pastoral care, and confidential counseling, and advising leadership on spiritual, ethical, moral, morale, core values, and religious accommodation issues....
1.7.4.4. Equal Opportunity (EO). The purpose of the EO program is to enhance unit cohesion, mission readiness, and mission accomplishment by ensuring equal treatment and employment opportunity for all members. The Air Force has a zero-tolerance policy towards unlawful discrimination of any kind, including sexual harassment.... Air Force members must not unlawfully discriminate against, harass, intimidate, or threaten another person on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, reprisal, or genetic information.....
2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.  For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.  Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity.  The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline.  Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air Force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.
2.12. Free Exercise of Religion and Religious Accommodation. Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to maintain an effective team.
2.12.1. All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no religious belief at all.  You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.
2.12.2. Your right to practice your religious beliefs does not excuse you from complying with directives, instructions, and lawful orders; however, you may request religious accommodation.  Requests can be  denied based on military necessity.  Commanders and supervisors at all levels are expected to ensure that requests for religious accommodation are dealt with fairly....
3.3.1. Tattoos/Brands/Body Markings.  Members may not have or obtain tattoos, brands, or other markings anywhere on the body that are: obscene; commonly associated with gangs, extremist, and/or supremacist organizations; or that advocate sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination....
(See prior related posting.)

2 comments:

jimbino said...

I don't see that there is any provision for atheist or humanist chaplains. Non-believing airmen will continue to be disadvantaged by either having to deal with a superstitious or religious one or forgo the considerable services that chaplains provide believers.

democommie said...

jimbino:

I would say only this.

I would find the least fucked-up chaplain on post or maybe try telling my boss that I needed to go to the nearest FSM facility which happens to be in Lost Wages, NV.

Seriously, chaplains are NOT mental health professionals. One need not be religious to use the services which the ARE competent to offer and administer. It's never a bad idea to request their help and tell them that you will have to go the Base Social Services office (I assume thatthey still have some analog to what was in place when I served) if he cannot/will not help.