So my facebook feed this morning had a couple of folks worried about ‘the last days’ and ‘the decay of western society’
The cause? A breathless report worrying that soldiers in the US military may be court martialed for sharing their Christian faith.
At this point I did a daring, radical thing. I actually looked up the policy in question. It took me all of about 30 seconds to find it: it’s freely available at http://www.180fw.ang.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120820-005.pdf. Despite being reported in some circles as being ‘unreal’ or ‘a slap in the face to the military,’ it’s actually a completely unsurprising piece of HR policy that would not be out of place in any large government agency or private enterprise. The articles in question are as follows:
2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance
constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs
and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example,
they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious
beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion…
2.12.1. All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no
religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting
others whose viewpoints differ from your own.
A document exhorting individuals to ‘confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from you own’ is hardly indicative of the downfall of western civilisation. Unless, of course, you don’t want to respect others. Perhaps you genuinely feel that you should be allowed to use a position of authority to extend preferential treatment to adherents of one particular sect. Perhaps you feel that the government should be in the business of picking and choosing creeds. Perhaps you want your government be the official arbiter of acceptable belief, practice and religous affiliation in your country. After all, we already have examples of how well that works.
But if you are such a person, frankly you concern me far more than a well-written HR document outlining the principles of freedom of conscience and respectfulness towards others.