Air Force Statement on Religious Proselytizing and Religious Materials on Desks

UPDATE: In contrast to reports of an Air Force officer being told to remove a Bible from his desk, Air Force spokesperson Laurel Tingley told me that Air Force personnel are allowed to have religious materials in their desks. In answer to my question about the unnamed Air Force officer and his Bible, Tingley said in an email, “While we cannot verify this story, I can tell you that military members are allowed to have religious materials on their desks.”

Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty wrote to say that he is the source for the story Starnes reported. He said a veteran officer contacted him to say a superior office told him to remove the Bible from sight due to a complaint. If true, the incident sound like the work of an overzealous superior officer. However, it appears that the Air Force policy is to allow such materials to be in view on a desk. To me, it seems like a statement from an Air Force spokesperson should carry at least as much weight than an incident involving one member. If one member having a bad experience is worth a headline, it seems to me that an assurance from an official spokesperson should be worth one as well.

……………. (original post)

This statement was just sent to me by Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley on behalf of the Air Force:

“Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).  If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence.  Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis.

The Air Force is dedicated to creating an environment in which people can realize their highest potential without any consideration of one’s personal religious or other beliefs. We work to ensure that Airmen are free to exercise their Constitutional right to practice their religion — in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline; and that do not detract from accomplishing the military mission.”

This is very much like the DoD statement and draws a distinction between simply speaking about one’s faith and coercion.

Related Posts:

Is the Military Preparing to Court Martial Christians?

On the Military and Religious Proselytizing: Military Spokesman’s Original Comments Used Out of Context

The Military’s Policy on Proselytizing Is Not New and Is Consistent with Federal Law

Department of Defense Statement on Religious Proselytizing

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  • Patrocles

    We all wish that it’s possible to draw a clear line between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

    But, as the Bible-on-the-desk example shows, everyday life is too complicated – you can’t foresee all possible situations, and the “superiors” will have to make decisions under uncertainty.

    So, a lot depends on the general “attitude”:or “climate” spread by the administration: Will the superiors be encouraged to take, under uncertainty, a more allowing or a more forbidding stand?

    I would always prefer definite rules, but in such matters of conduct it’s hardly possible to deny the relevance of factors like “attitude” or “climate”.

  • Patrocles

    I agree with the official distinction bewteen “wanted” vs. “unwanted” sex, eh, religious communication.

    Only, we shouldn’t expect too much of it.

    As we homosexuals at least know, there’s a lot of asymmetric sex, eh, communication. In such cases, the weaker part, may be caught half way between inclination and fear (or digust).

    If the sex, eh, communication is a success, he will mostly remember the inclination and revive the sex as wanted. If it fails or if he is caught and confronted with the irritation of his peers/ his family, he will mostly remember his negative feelings and look at the sex as unwanted.

    For example, in Muslim countries, there’s officially a lot more “male-to-male rape” than “homosexuality”, and why? You bet that it’s much more comfortable for a young man to tell himself and others, that he was sexually harassed unwantedly.

    You see perhaps, that it’s just the same with evangelization or speaking about the young Muslim’s possible conversion. He will not touch the subject without at least little feelings of fear and digust, and if he’s caught by his peers, he will improve his situation by far, if he tells them (and himself) that the conversation was, basically, unwanted.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    I would think this is the real story, that a military officer sent an email to subordinates repeating the Southern Poverty Law Center’s anti-Christian propaganda. I just ran across it. Why the story has been turned around on the evangelicals seems backwards to me, but that’s the game these days. When your side screws up, attack the other guys.

    May 1, 2013

    When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently appeared before Congress, he was grilled by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., about an email sent by an officer at Fort Campbell, Ky., to three dozen subordinates, warning them to be on the lookout for soldiers connected with “domestic hate groups.”

    Among the groups listed in the 14-page email by Lt. Col. Frank Rich, the Second Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment Commander at Fort Campbell, were Christian organizations such as the American Family Association and Family Research Council (FRC), immigration reform groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and Atlas Shrugs, run by Pamela Geller and monitoring global jihadist activity.

    Officers are advised to look for uniformed members of these groups, described as anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.

    The email listed the groups alongside actual extremist and hate groups such as neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacist gangs.

    The list of “hate” groups in the email appears to be based on one compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Ironically, it was used by one Floyd Corkins, who, on Aug. 15, 2012, tried to go on a mass-shooting spree at FRC headquarters in Washington, D.C.