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February 13, 2006

NJDC on Air Force Guidelines: Good News for the Far-Right

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

NJDC Executive Director Ira N. Forman today issued the following statement regarding the recently-released Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force (for more information and background, please see the links below the statement):

These interim guidelines are great news for the extreme-right GOP House members who lobbied for them, and for Evangelical military chaplains and officers -- they should feel plenty comfortable 'sharing' their majority faith with others. But that wasn't exactly a problem before; just ask those cadets of minority faiths -- or no faith at all -- who have fallen victim to proselytizing or religious intolerance at the hands of their superiors.

These guidelines were supposed to protect the religious liberty of Air Force Academy cadets of all faiths -- not just the rights of the cadets' superiors to evangelize. And in this regard, the guidelines strike the wrong balance, and they are a dramatic step backwards from the initial guidelines released last year. We don't have to guess at the significant impact of GOP congressional meddling and lobbying from far-right groups like Focus on the Family; the Air Force's chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, all-but admits that these interim guidelines were strongly steered by their intolerant far-right push.

Under these guidelines, top officers can advance their majority faith with the full authority of their positions; cadets can be required to attend meetings where denominational prayers are offered. Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) -- who pushed vociferously for the watering-down of these guidelines, and who addressed 'the mythical wall of separation between church and state' during a House Armed Services Committee meeting on this subject in May -- would be proud.

 Please also see recent blog posts on this topic here and here.