Community is a valuable thing, but it's nothing without the people who make it up. Today in the Pagan News Beagle we talk about the important people in our community, both those who are no longer with us as well as those who continue to play an important part. Additionally, we talk about how our community is viewed by others and what we project out into the world.
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
There is a battle currently being fought right here on American soil. It isn't with guns or ships or planes, but with people and power dynamics. The current situation at the Great Lakes Naval Training facility is an indicator of this struggle--how and when does the U.S. military allow for the accommodation of religious freedom and expression for its service members.
On April 3, 2015 the commander of Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill enacted a decision to cancel religious services being provided by civilian volunteer clergy on the installation. This decision affected seven minority religious groups, effectively dismantling a web of emotional and spiritual support for the trainees that walk through those gates. The decision was justified and cited to be in line with the naval instruction regulating the use of personnel for religious support by the commander of RTC: “In March of 2014 the RTC Command Religious Program (CRP) began a review of how best to respond to the religious needs of recruits at RTC and whether the command was following the guidance contained in U.S. Navy regulations, which sets a hierarchy for which spiritual leaders should be utilized: command chaplains, accredited uniformed volunteers, contract clergy, and then civilian volunteer, if needed.”
A link to the Navy Times report on this can be found here: http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2015/04/22/military-religious-freedom-foundation-mikey-weinstein-navy-boot-camp-recruit-training-command/26205131/
Several official responses to this decision have already been sent, including a letter from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), claiming the violation of religious liberty rights on behalf of the trainees at RTC.
There is no argument that this decision is in fact a violation of religious liberty rights, but many are asking why the Navy would go to such lengths to deny minority faith groups the resources already in place for expression of their faith. I believe we are on a speeding train heading toward a cliff on this particular issue, and if it is not addressed quickly we will see very ugly consequences.
First and foremost, a discussion needs to be had on the purpose of military chaplains in uniform. I would like to borrow a statement from Ed Waggoner as it concerns a growing trend in chaplain dynamics: “U.S. military chaplaincies are at a crossroad. The bedrock rationale for the existence of chaplaincies is to provide for the free exercise of religion by rank-and-file military personnel. For the first time in their history, a significant contingent of endorsers and chaplains has recanted its professional responsibility to care for all personnel. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are entitled to all military benefits, including services provided through the chaplaincies. Chaplains volunteer for military careers of just such service. Unfortunately, some theologically and socially conservative Christian groups now cast themselves as victims of coercion and invert pastoral priorities: they insist that the military protect their religiously motivated refusal to serve all personnel. The chaplaincies are at serious risk of becoming strongholds of religiously defended discrimination rather than generous religious and moral service.”
Let’s dissect that statement for a moment. Military chaplaincy has been a centrally authorized function since 1775. It can be argued that the socially acceptable form of religious expression was overwhelmingly Abrahamic in nature, and Christian in particular. But as we have seen in the last half a century, alternative forms of spirituality and religious expression have become more mainstream and the U.S. military is a volunteer force of individuals pulled from American society. I feel Mr. Waggoner’s statement is apt (though a bit limited in scope) that the chaplain’s primary function is the support of all military personnel and their emotional and spiritual needs. Now, execution is an entirely different matter. In the civilian world, if your primary care specialist deems you need to see an orthopedist for example, they refer you to someone who deals with that. They don’t tell you you’re wrong for needing orthopedic treatment and try to convince you there is something else going on. This is how chaplaincy is also supposed to work. If a chaplain cannot meet the spiritual needs of a military service member, it falls on that chaplain to make the proper referral to someone who can. Hence, the introduction of civilian lay leaders and volunteers. These programs are essential for complimenting the spiritual outreach and effectiveness of the chaplain corps and actually work against the very argument most chaplains have about performing spiritual practices that are in direct violation of their personal beliefs. Cancelling the services at RTC is not only a clear violation of religious liberties for the trainees, but it puts undue stress on the staff to provide additional support they are either not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to provide. Additionally, we are setting the stage for a rise in possible suicide cases as well as drop outs due to stress and lack of emotional support. I cannot stand by the decision made by RTC, and as of now I do not see a functional reason for why it was made.
For the resources I used in this post and additional material on military chaplaincy: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0ByAY6igmY7VRfjlUbEFrdHlLNU9CNnh0Nnp2blBtYUJ4cHNfS2xxRk90R0gydXBLMUY2LTQ&usp=sharing
Welcome back to Faithful Friday, faithful readers! This week we'll be looking at the intersection of religion and society as a whole, particularly in regards to how the law and morality comes into play. Is compelling a Christian baker who believes homosexuality is a sin to make a wedding cake for a gay couple religious discrimination? Or is giving the baker the ability to refuse a license to discriminate? How might you raise a moral robot? These questions and more are addressed in the following stories.
It's that time of the week again, when we look around the world to see how religion is affecting and being affected by peoples' lives all over the globe. This week in Faithful Friday we take a look at the intersection of religion and activism—for both good and ill—from the revival of traditional Norse religion in Iceland to the oppression of ethnic minorities for their religious beliefs.
"The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities." --Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity
The Maetreum of Cybele is a 501c federally recognized tax-exempt organization, locked in a tax battle with the town of Catskill, who do not wish to grant a tax exemption to an "illegitimate religion." This legal battle has been drawn out for seven years, in an attempt to spend the Pagan monastery out of existence via legal fees. If you're not disturbed by this information, you should be....
The Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, allowing closely held for-profit businesses to deny access to contraception based on religious belief, opens up a huge can of worms. Or two. Or perhaps more.
The implications are widespread. For one thing, the court's ruling means the religious beliefs of the business trump those of the employee. The ruling was somewhat narrow in that it only affected businesses in which five or fewer people hold at least 50 percent of the stock, but it was still significant in that it essentially granted rights previously reserved for people to business entities....
The Maetreum of Cybele is seeking donations to fund its continuing legal fight to have its tax-exempt status recognized by the Town of Catskill. I was in court when a panel of appellate judges (New York's second-highest jurists) heard testimony which led to a ruling in the Maetreum's favor, one which was covered by the likes of Forbes and the New York Law Journal.
Like many small towns in this state, Catskill is apparently loathe to take a property off the tax rolls. Both state and federal governments continue to heap unfunded mandates on local municipalities, which must also manage rising health-care costs and a tax cap which ensures that the revenue will never keep up with the costs without cutting what the law will allow, such as programs for senior citizens and other "discretionary" expenses....