Dobson, Miers and Ted Olsen (once again)

He’s baaaaaaaccccckkkkk. Meaning Ted Olsen over at the Christianity Today blog. He collected several hundred HHGR links (OK, OK, I didn’t count them all) so you don’t have to. Now, I call that servant leadership. Greater love hath no blogger …

Also, note that the Air Force is being asked to ban religious conversions at the academy, in the name of free speech and religious liberty of course. Forget all about the United Nations and that Universal Declaration of Human Rights thing (especially Article 18). Some forms of free speech are more equal than others.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Avram

    Terry, where in the article that you linked to does it say that conversions are going to be banned at the Air Force academy?

    All it says is that the US District Court has ordered the academy to keep USAF members from proselytizing other USAF members while on duty, and forbidden the academy from establishing religion. Nothing in that keeps anyone who wants to from converting.

  • Dan Berger

    Notice the stipulation “while on duty.”

    When I was in, we were told that we were “on duty” all the time. On the other hand, “free speech” is not so free in the military; you are not free to thumb your nose at your CO, or even to whistle the Mickey Mouse Club Theme when carrying out an order you think stupid.

    (Been there, done that.)

    On the other hand, this sort of stipulation does tend to trample on the religious freedoms of those (Muslims, for example) whose faith teaches that proselytizing is a duty.

  • Michael

    Psychologists have a “duty” to protect confidentiality and preserve the patient/therapist relationship, but not in the military where no such privilege exists.

    When you put on a uniform, those Constitutional rights go out the window.

    And besides, I thought we weren’t paying attention to what “furners” think and their crazy treaties and laws.

  • Avram

    Dan, I’m pretty darn sure that the only people whose religious freedoms are being “trampled” by this ruling are those at the Air Force who’ve been using rank and numbers to put pressure on the religious minorities to convert. The actual minorities are probably relieved.

    BTW, Terry, have you seen this article on the issue from Yale Divinity School?

  • Dan Berger

    Avram, I absolutely agree with your statement of the facts but I was commenting on the reported wording of the proposed settlement. The wording was much broader than simply “don’t pull rank to force a conversion.”

    That, of course, is still a conscience problem for a Muslim since conversion by the sword is part of the faith…

  • Avram

    Have you actually talked to any Muslims about that, Dan? I’m pretty sure most American Muslims don’t make a habit of running around with swords converting people.

  • Michael

    I think Air Force cadets have more concern about Baptists with Bibles than Muslims with swords. At least with the swords, you can see them when they approach in the dining hall and prepare yourself. :)

  • Dan Berger

    It’s been covered well elsewhere; consider Islamic history, the oral tradition, and the rules set out for non-Muslims.

    If you prefer, read a smiley for my ellipsis; it’s what I intended but since posts don’t come out in Courier it might not be recognized.

    Or, you could address the substantive part of my post.

  • tmatt

    Read the Yale stuff. Much of it has been undercut by reporting in the Colorado papers.

    My position is the same as always: You do not need to ban offensive speech in order to slam the door on anyone — left or right — who uses the academic process to push a personal agenda affecting grades, readings, assignments, etc.

    If there are evangelical muggers, shut the guys down. It seems there were some. Good. Shut them down.

    But this is NOT the agenda in the lawsuit. We are talking speech code here. And this is another round in the battle over military chaplains. Simple as that.

  • tmatt


    Oh, forgot your point. You are saying that the right to conversion is protected, so long as someone does that totally alone, perhaps in a closet somewhere, without talking to another soul?

    Sounds rather totalitarian to me.

    The right to conversion is meaningless without the right to free public speech and evangelism.

    Thus spoke Desmond Tutu at the 1982 World Council of Churches in Canada. He was right then. He is right now.

  • David

    What’s a “furner” (third post from the top)?

  • Michael


  • Michael

    Terry, you do realize that free speech doesn’t exist in the military? That the Air Force Academy is not a pubilc university? That an a military employee, chaplains’ first responsibility is to their commander?

    Evangelizing (nee’ prostyletizing) on the government dime in a military academy is far outside the bounds of code words like “speech code” or even “political correctness.” If this were the University of Virginia, that’s one thing. But the military academies are nothing like a public university and being a military chaplain is nothing like being a streetcorner evangelist on a soapbox.

  • Dan Berger

    Michael’s hit the nail on the head here. We who have worn the uniform know very well that we give up many rights when we raise our right hands and swear to uphold and defend the Constitution.

    The question is twofold: first, is it legitimate for a chaplain (who is, after all, a religious leader in uniform) to ever try to persuade someone of the truth of the chaplain’s beliefs? second, what speech content is legitimate within a military organization, when and where?

    It still seems to me, as to TMatt, that the proposed settlement goes far beyond the offense.

  • Dan Berger

    This, incidentally and given what Michael pointed out about commissioned psychologists/psychiatrists, raises other issues like the sanctity of the confessional–or what privacy protection can legitimately expected by someone who turns to a chaplain for counseling.

    Counseling is, after all, one of the chaplain’s primary responsibilities.

  • Avram

    You are saying that the right to conversion is protected, so long as someone does that totally alone, perhaps in a closet somewhere, without talking to another soul?

    Maybe while travelling on a road to Damascus. I hear it does happen every so often.

    Look, speech codes are almost certainly the wrong solution; actually punishing the people who take advantage of their position to push their religion onto the cadets is a better one, as long as it’s done so as to make the reasons for the punishment clear. I agree with you there. It’s sadly in the nature of bureaucracies to favor rules over letting people use their judgment.

    That doesn’t mean that forbidding prosylitizing on duty is the same as forbidding conversion.

    And as far as sounding totalitarian goes, this is the military. If you, as a civilian, were forced to live under the same levelof discipline and submission to authority as a soldier, you’d consider that totalitarian, wouldn’t you?

  • Avram

    Dan, sorry, my irony detector must be mis-calibrated.

  • Joe Perez

    tmatt says this is a speech code thing. If it were I’d be crying foul, too. But I’m not so sure. These military issues seem to get framed in such tricky ways by ideologues it’s hard to tell what’s really going on. I do know this, though: it’s really ironic to see the conservative religionists get all huffy puffy at the thought that they won’t be allowed to
    “involuntarily convert, pressure, exert, or persuade a fellow member of the USAF to accept their own religious beliefs while on duty” while they have no problem with “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  • Avram

    I thought Terry was a liberal religionist? Though I guess it depends on what you mean by those terms. (It’s possible, for example, to be conservative in matter of relgious belief and liberal in politics, or the other way around.)