* Now here’s something that you don’t see every day: Christian ministers debunking the idiotic notion that procedures that prevent fundie Xians from imposing their views on everyone else constitute a form of discrimination.
Let’s be clear: Christians in the military are not under threat of constant, widespread persecution. Existing military regulations are in place to deal with any problems. Many, if not all, of the cases that Perkins cites as attacks on religious freedom are in actuality the opposite — they are actions taken by the military to ensure the religious freedom of everyone.
If anything, they reflect the military’s appropriate and admirable respect for the diversity of the armed forces and by extension, the diversity of our nation.
To give just one example: Perkins complained about the removal of a painting with a Bible quote in the dining hall of Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. That quote may hold meaning for some, but not all, of the airmen stationed there. Its presence in a chapel during worship would be wholly appropriate, but its placement in a public dining hall is an implicit endorsement of that religious perspective by the base’s military leadership. We doubt Perkins would have been similarly supportive if the base hung up a quotation from the Quran or a comment by a famous atheist.
The religious right has a skewed definition of religious freedom — and their interest lies only in preserving religious freedom for one very specific sectarian point of view. This is not what the Constitution calls for.
Religious freedom is our first freedom, the first clause of the First Amendment. Historically that freedom has been understood to protect an individual’s right to practice their faith freely up until the point where it interferes with someone else’s same right. It has meant that government should strive to stay out of matters of faith — and vice versa — for the better of both institutions.
The far right is making a concerted effort to redefine religious freedom as a catch-all concept that gives “authentic” Christians the right to do what they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. They seek to use positions of authority — including in the military — as platforms to proselytize their faith while seeking to limit the ability of people of other faiths to take a different perspective. When challenged, they present themselves as victims or martyrs and claim the mantle of religious freedom as the ultimate defense.
This is not what our Founding Fathers [Dear Ministers, “Founders” would be less sexist.] intended for civic life or for the military. Our government and our military must protect the rights of all members of the armed forces regardless of faith or belief. And they must be blind to the virtues of any one faith over another. All service members should feel comfortable practicing their faith — or not practicing any faith — as they protect our nation.
More. Like. This. Hat tip: @sarahposner
* My new guilty pleasure is Larkrise to Candelford. If you are as big a fan of late Victorian, early Edwardian fiction as I am, it’s great fun. One thing I’m enjoying is the matter-of-fact inclusion of Pagan cultural artifacts in the life of the villagers. Just one example: Queenie, the Larkrise wisewoman who keeps (and talks to) bees and who uses herbal remedies to heal sick children and help women hoping to conceive. In the second episode of the third season, Queenie leads a ritual to free the spirit of an ancient witch from an old local tree. Her invocation of the elements will be familiar to most modern Pagans. When the town god-botherer becomes upset about this display of “Paganism,” the postmistress, heroine of the series, explains to him that “Pagan” can simply mean a country-dweller.
* Speaking of “Pagan,” it may be time for me to repeat my regular rant about capitalization, especially as more and more Xians boost the signal on the use of “Pagan” as a slur. In English, we capitalize the names of umbrella religious groups and the names of specific religions. Thus, for example, we capitalize “Christianity” and we capitalize “Baptist,” “Methodist,” and “Lutheran.” We capitalize “Judaism,” and we capitalize “Reform,” “Orthodox,” and “Conservative.” We capitalize “Buddhism,” and we capitalize “Theravada” and “Mahayana.”
Thus, we capitalize “Paganism,” and we capitalize, for example, “Wicca,” “Asatru,” and “Kemetic.” As more and more of us are called to respond to media inquiries about the use of the word “Paganism,” it’s a great opportunity to educate members of the media. Paganism is an umbrella term that covers a variety of religions (not “faiths”) and it, and the individual religions under that umbrella, should be capitalized, just like other religions.
*Here’s Charles Loeffler‘s A Pagan Poem. Sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy. Listen for the trumpets; they’re the best part.