Saturday, September 17, 2011

Air Force Chief of Staff Cautions Commanders Against Endorsing Religion

Yesterday's Air Force Times reports on a Sept. 1 Memorandum (full text) issued by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. titled "Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion." The memo reads in part:
Leaders at all levels ... 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....
Chaplain Corps programs, including activities such as religious studies, faith sharing and prayer meetings are vital to commanders' support of individual Airmen's needs and provide opportunities for the free exercise of religion. Although commanders are responsible for these programs, they must refrain from appearing to officially endorse religion.... Therefore, I expect chaplains, not commanders, to notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs.
The memo appears to be directed at situations such as last February's Air Force Academy National Prayer Luncheon which, while financed by the Chapel Tithes and Offerings Fund, was promoted by the command structure. (See prior posting.) A suit challenging the Luncheon was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.