I‘ve been screaming that there is no such thing as ‘non-sectarian’ prayer for years. There is no universal method of prayer, and many religions don’t even have such a thing. Still, the conventional wisdom in the military is that as long as you don’t say “Jesus” it’s somehow legal for them to pray at you (and force you to hear it and/or stand at attention for it).
This came from a field grade officer in the US Navy, and it illustrates exactly this point.
I’m currently deployed onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Interestingly, it wasn’t so long ago that someone filed a complaint about this ship’s evening prayer. That complaint was dismissed because the prayer is considered non-denominational and doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights. Never mind that it blasts over the PA system at about 90 decibels (the speaker is located right next to my bed in my stateroom…awesome!).
At any rate, in honor of the most recent holiday, they brought a Jewish Rabbi Chaplain onboard. I don’t really have a problem with that part because I understand that the DOD sees this as providing for the well-being of its many Jewish personnel. The problem I have is that on Saturday (day before Easter) the evening prayer was delivered by this Rabbi in Hebrew. I’m pretty sure that by doing that, the whole “non-denominational” aspect of the prayer went out the window.
I’ve been an atheist for over 20 years and I already find the evening prayer barely tolerable as I feel it violates the separation of church and state. This ship seems especially bad for some reason I can’t put my finger on (could be the speaker placement…yeah, I’m bitter about that!). This latest development puts me over the edge but given the history and disposition of previous complaints, I can’t imagine that my complaints will be taken seriously by the chain of command.
<WITHHELD> I’m in a somewhat tenuous situation anyway. The fact that our strike group admiral, the ship’s CO and just about every O-6 onboard knows me on sight (not for being an atheist) means that I would have to make the complaint anonymously or face some sort of backlash. It’s a pretty shitty position to be in.
By the way, my online record has had “ZA” for my religion for about two years now. As soon as I saw it as an option, I changed it. Thanks for getting the word out about that.
Anyway, hopefully you find this particular turn of events interesting. I know I did! Take care, and keep fighting the good fight.
NAME AND RANK WITHHELD
PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION OBFUSCATED
Even if non-sectarian prayer existed, it’s still unconstitutionalFirst of all, the Establishment Clause has already been found to mean this:
“Government can’t favor one religion over another, AND… Government can’t favor religion over non-religion.”
It is one of the fundamental principles of the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the Constitution forbids not only state practices that “aid one religion . . . or prefer one religion over another,” but also those practices that “aid all religions” and thus endorse or prefer religion over nonreligion. Everson, 330 U.S. at 15. See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 53 (1985)(“[T]he individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all”); see also County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 589-94, 598-602 (1989); Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1, 17 (1989); Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 (1961).
Your Christian Privilege is showing
A very high-ranking chaplain once told me that he was all-inclusive because he didn’t say “In Jesus Name” during his invocations. I told him that was his Christian privilege showing, and he was taken aback. I asked him if he’d ever seen any soldiers turn to face towards Mecca. He had not. The chaplain paused, then offered that he wouldn’t stop them. How kind of a concession! Would he wait for them to pull out their smart phones to attempt to face the correct direction? (and is that through the Earth?)
Then I ‘explained’ that perhaps my ‘atheist version of prayer’ is to scream really loud, mostly in swear words. Then the chaplain smiled and said “Oh, I see what you mean.”
All versions of prayer need to be opt-in. I shouldn’t have to stand up and bow my head every time someone retires or gets promoted (I refuse to bow, but I have to stand). Religion has no place in a change of command ceremony, nor a change of responsibility.
Why is it there? “In Jesus name, you are the commander of 44th BCT!”…? We’re working on it. It’s going to take some time, but we will fix this.