The Fort Hood shootings have raised questions again about how the military should handle the personal religious beliefs of its soldiers, whether they are evangelical Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, and so on. What is the proper role of religion -- and personal religious belief -- in the U.S. armed forces? Should a particular religious affiliation disqualify someone from active military service? How far should the military go to accommodate personal religious beliefs and practices?
Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham on November 9, 2009 1:33 PM
Some of us are working for the day when the divided loyalties under scrutiny will not be whether to defend one's nation or to kill a co-religionist, but whether to kill or not kill another human being at all. In the meantime, barring people from the military on religious grounds is not the answer. Intelligence and vigilance that surface terrorism, extremism and psychological instability are.
Posted by Katharine Henderson, on November 13, 2009 4:32 PM
Muslim citizens have been and are loyal members of this nation. They have served capably in the past and will do so in the future. Sadly, just as was the case with secularists during the Cold War, they will have to endure increased scrutiny since a substantial minority of their fellows has turned against American values.
Posted by John Mark Reynolds, on November 13, 2009 3:12 PM
Hasan's alleged actions have made it loud and clear to me that the Muslim American community needs to stand up and take responsibility for extremist views within its midst. Even if individuals like Hasan represent a fringe minority, we need credible religious scholars to unequivocally denounce such acts and demonstrate how and why such acts are a violation of God's law.
Posted by Hadia Mubarak, on November 13, 2009 10:40 AM
Religious belief and military service are part and parcel of the societies of most countries. Generally, they have been able to find compatibility. There have been times of antagonism and difficulty in the U.S. in this regards, but for the most part, members of the American military services have found ways to live the religious values they hold while serving, and we have all benefited as a result.
Posted by Ramdas Lamb, on November 12, 2009 11:56 AM
The military cannot accommodate any belief system that undermines those commitments. No nation can accommodate those who would turn themselves into terrorists against their own neighbors, citizens, and fellow soldiers.
Posted by R. Albert Mohler Jr., on November 11, 2009 5:32 PM
Few would disagree on the importance of a soldier's mental health and stability. And the spiritual component is vital to anyone who looks to and needs God's help. It may not be a universal panacea to all religious-based intolerance and violence, but the collective efforts of chaplains both in war and peacetime stand as a testament to the value and effectiveness of spiritual counseling and prayer.
Posted by Phil Davis, on November 11, 2009 3:31 PM
When ministering turns to proselytizing and privileging one faith over another, and when the tens of thousands of Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists proudly serving their country are rendered the "other," highly imperative troop cohesion and morale is compromised.
Posted by Aseem Shukla, on November 11, 2009 12:33 PM
That being said, I don't think religion ought to be a factor in whether or not one is in the military. On the battlefield, I doubt it makes anyone much difference if his or her battle buddy is a pro-life Catholic or a Bible-thumping Evangelical. I think, on the battlefield, differences dissipate because everyone is working for a common good, and nobody wants anybody to be felled by the enemy.
Posted by Susan K. Smith, on November 11, 2009 11:18 AM
No major faith, including the five major world religions I have studied and taught, threatens the safety and security of the U.S. or its citizens. Religious extremists of any faith are a threat but they should be treated as any other extremists, religious or non-religious.
Posted by John Esposito, on November 11, 2009 10:58 AM
Without question, all of the men and women who give their lives to military service should be allowed to practice their faith or choose to practice no faith without fear of prejudice or retribution. There is no place in the military for proselytization among military personnel or by military personnel in relation to citizens at home or abroad.
Posted by Welton Gaddy, on November 10, 2009 5:35 PM
God should be welcomed into the army, whether as Adonai, Lord Jesus, Allah, or any of the other names by which God is known. So should the presence of those who believe that God does not exist. And all should play by the same rules.
Posted by Brad Hirschfield, on November 10, 2009 1:04 PM
Demonization of American Muslims is under way among conservative American Christians who think wrongly that President Obama is showing his true colors as a Muslim and Muslims shouldn't be in the military. But this is not the first time that anxiety within right-wing Christianity has objected to government service based on faith. Stopping the phobia from spreading from the fringes of faith into the mainstream demands that faith leaders speak up now.
Posted by Robert Parham, on November 10, 2009 11:44 AM
It is up to the chaplains to cultivate a climate of respect for each religion in the services. The increasing religious diversity in the military makes this a crucial job. It is a challenging job for chaplains, but chaplains must agree to respect all religions--that's why they cannot evangelize or proselytize. There is an ever more demanding task of gaining greater knowledge and depth of understanding of the many religions represented in the unit.
Posted by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, on November 9, 2009 6:03 PM
Military officers are representatives of the U.S. government, and should not tell subordinates that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. Nor should I, as a math professor at a state institution, tell my students that all gods are make believe.
Posted by Herb Silverman, on November 9, 2009 5:59 PM
The particular nature of this man's religious belief, not his general "religious affiliation," is the issue. When someone shouts "Allahu Akbar" before taking aim at a roomful of people, I'd say that's a sign that religious fanaticism -- specifically, a brand of Islamic religious fanaticism -- had something to do with his state of mind.
Posted by Susan Jacoby, on November 9, 2009 1:51 PM
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