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Old 01-23-2006, 06:04 PM   #1
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Religious Persecution

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Former Army Chaplain Calls for Executive Order to End USAF's Religious Persecution

By Chad Groening
January 6, 2006

(AgapePress) - An Evangelical leader and retired military chaplain says the United States Air Force is engaged in religious persecution against evangelical Christianity with its new policy forbidding chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus.

Dr. Billy Baugham is Executive Director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers (ICECE). The retired Army chaplain agrees with the more than 70 members of Congress who have signed a letter urging President George W. Bush to issue an executive order to allow chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions.

Baugham feels the Air Force's written policy banning prayers in Jesus' name is a direct attack on a specific faith community. Those behind this policy "have targeted the Evangelicals in this to marginalize them," he asserts, "and if they're not marginalized, if they don't carry out these guidelines, they will be punished according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

The former U.S. military chaplain insists that what the military authorities are doing to the chaplains is wrong. "It's religious persecution from the very organization, the United States Air Force, that you would expect to protect American freedoms," he says.

The American Center for Law and Justice has gathered more than 173,000 signatures on a petition asking the President to correct this injustice by signing an executive order protecting the religious freedom of chaplains in the Air Force and other branches. However, Baugham believes Mr. Bush has hesitated to do so because he does not want to embarrass U.S. military officials.

"It would be egg on the face of the Air Force," the ICECE spokesman remarks, "and they ought to have egg on their face for what they've done. For the Commander in Chief to slap down the United States Air Force with an executive order is quite a thing. But he has that authority to do it, and we think he ought to do it."

The U.S. Air Force is discriminating against the Evangelical ministers in its ranks, Baugham maintains. And if the military branch continues trampling the constitutional rights of its Christian chaplains, he insists, it is only right that the executive branch should step in and put a stop to it.

agapepress article here
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Old 01-23-2006, 06:09 PM   #2
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Why have chaplins of various faiths if they are prohibited from functioning according to their faith?
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Old 01-23-2006, 08:11 PM   #3
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
Why have chaplins of various faiths if they are prohibited from functioning according to their faith?
If a chaplain who is also a rabbi (and there are a few) leads soldiers in prayer to "God," do you think that is just as potentially exclusionary as a chaplain who is also a minister leading soldiers in prayers to Jesus?

When my younger brother was stationed in Afghanistan (as a serviceman, not a chaplain--though he has in fact since become a rabbi), he would sometimes get together with the tiny handful of other Jewish soldiers and affiliated NGO workers, etc. stationed there, and they would just do the Hebrew prayers themselves. He had no problems whatsoever with his chaplain being a minister, and often shared prayers with him and the Christian soldiers, but those prayers were strictly nondenominational--or at least generically monotheist. I imagine there must be a Buddhist US soldier or two out there, but communal prayers are not generally an important part of their practice.
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Old 01-24-2006, 05:06 AM   #4
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Although there may be and I am sure there is, (although I haven't followed the stories, I've heard hints of it) a specific ordinance against praying in Jesus's name, does the practical result differ from the rules governing all the chaplains? What is the point of the ruling? Is it really to discriminate against the evangelicals or is it to provide a comfortable prayer environment for all the soldiers? Does the ruling prevent the chaplain from praying in Jesus's name in private prayer with Christian soldiers or just in a public setting where soldiers of all faiths are gathered. If it were to prevent the private needs of the Christian soldier, then I would have a problem with it. But persecution is a strong word. What are the penalties? Does the regulation restrict the chaplain in personal counseling, which may be the real value of the chaplains? Are the soldiers being allowed to practice their religions in a manner they see fit?

Although I have no problem with using Jesus's name in prayer, if the public prayer of a chaplain doesn't address all the soldiers there, then the chaplain is irrelevant in a public prayer session.

The chaplains are there to meet the spiritual needs of all the soldiers. The soldiers aren't there to meet the needs of the chaplain.

http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,83072,00.html
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Old 01-24-2006, 06:09 AM   #5
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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...010901812.html
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Old 01-24-2006, 10:53 AM   #6
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This one incident is actually part of a larger picture regarding chaplains in the military. Evangelicals have always felt "held back" due to the military's preference for more liturgical chaplains. Perhaps it is the military’s comfort with structure.
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Old 01-24-2006, 10:56 AM   #7
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Originally posted by yolland

If a chaplain who is also a rabbi (and there are a few) leads soldiers in prayer to "God," do you think that is just as potentially exclusionary as a chaplain who is also a minister leading soldiers in prayers to Jesus?
I would really hesitate to script a rabbi's prayers in case someone could argue that they felt excluded.

In fact, I think there would be greater benefits in exposing someone to the faith traditions of other religions as opposed to trying to create a generic happy middle.
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Old 01-24-2006, 01:13 PM   #8
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I can't imagine a rabbi not scripting them for such a situation, really--so many of our prayers reference concepts and patterns of speech which would be offputtingly unfamiliar for anyone else, and I just don't think that's what chaplains are there for. What I was more getting at is that Judaism, Christianity and Islam, at least, have enough in common that it's possible to craft prayers, and selectively choose texts, that would have resonance for people from all three faith communities and bring them collective solace and a sense of communality before God that must surely bring great comfort to people in such a situation. Of course if a Christian soldier, or a group of all-Christian soldiers, wish to discuss the Gospels or such with their Christian chaplain more privately, that's fine and appropriate. And if Jewish soldiers need to seek out other Jewish soldiers or locals in order to get a minyan (quorum for prayer) or pray together in Hebrew, no big deal. I just think that chaplains, regardless of their own faith background, have a special call to bring their flock together, so to speak, from the place that they're already at. Military service is a special environment.
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