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View Diary: From homeschooled fundie to free-thinker (123 comments)

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  •  Discussion groups are fine (14+ / 0-)

    What I worry about is somebody making themselves a leader within that group, but that's natural human behavior.

    When I was in Baghdad in 2005, I had a handful of pagan friends stationed there with me. Since we didn't have a DoD approved "Distinctive Faith Leader", we were legally prohibited from meeting for religious purposes. So instead we had a "book club". :D

    •  VERY interesting! (6+ / 0-)

      (BTW, an old friend of mine is Pagan and was in the Army; there are a surprising number of Pagans in uniform.)

      Very interesting that the DOD is looking for a "Distinctive Faith Leader" as you describe it.  I think they're trying to do their best but occasionally run into the limits of conventional thinking on these issues.

      For example until about 1967, "conscientious objector" status depended upon demonstrating adherence to any of a number of specific faith traditions that claimed that the deity specifically prohibited participation in warfare (e.g. Quakers, Mennonites, etc.).  Eventually there was a court case over that, wherein the complainant argued that as a Buddhist, the proscription for warfare did not arise with the deity but as a philosophical principle derived from "doing no harm."  The complainant won, and the law was changed to "belief in a deity or a principle that holds an equivalent position in an individual's life..."

      So here you've said that DoD recognizes religions where there is a specific leadership, contrasted to Pagan circles in which there is no specific leadership aside from what may occur in each individual meeting of a circle.  

      Looks like there's need to do some educational outreach, because this could also affect people in other traditions who operate in the same manner, as groups of equals who study scriptures, discuss religious principles, participate in religious rituals or exercises of whatever kind.  Someone needs to write a clear and concise paper and get it into the hands of "whoever" is responsible for these things.  

      Above all, that document needs to demonstrate that this issue affects a very large number of faiths, arguably every faith and tradition that does not have a central hierarchy in the manner of the Catholic Church.  And it needs to provide a concrete proposal for how DoD can move forward on this.

      What I'd suggest is something like a "designated contact person" to a group, who does not have a "leadership" role as such in the group, but who has the delegated functional authority from the group to interface between that group and whatever command hierarchy is associated with e.g. the chaplaincy.  

      I'd be willing to bet that with some effort, DoD rules will change accordingly.  It's just a matter of demonstrating the need and providing a proposal.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 06:54:14 PM PDT

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      •  How do they handle Quakers? (2+ / 0-)
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        G2geek, samddobermann

        Don't remember if Mike Weinstein and Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have anything geared to this. They are primarily focused on exposing and eradicating discrimination. That could at least include knowledge of what is going on to promote more freedom to establish these kinds of groups.

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 09:27:09 PM PDT

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        •  I didn't know there were Quakers in uniform... (0+ / 0-)

          ... at least not in combat roles, since pacifism is a central tenet of the Society of Friends.  

          But in any case I don't have even a faint clue as to an answer.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 12:19:44 AM PDT

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          •  I think there are some who serve in (0+ / 0-)

            non combat positions- at least I remember being surprised to find out there were any Quakers who would serve. Probably too small to trigger any adjustment of the rules you are considering.

            Mike and Chris would be quite likely to have some idea what may be going on. Even though it isn't exactly their focus, non Christian groups trying to have their own services would be targets for discrimination and may have contacted the MRFF for help in dealing with that.

            "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

            by Ginny in CO on Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 02:17:33 PM PDT

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      •  Policy may have changed (5+ / 0-)

        But when I was in, a "Distinctive Faith leader" was somebody approved of by a legitimate and DoD-approved ordaining body to represent that religion. Which, as you can imagine, is an even harder standard for pagans to meet. The alternative was to see if you could get sponsored by another religion, typically the Unitarians were a big help with that.

        But really, while it's nice of the UUs to facilitate our DFLs, it still feels like "separate but equal" on the part of the DoD policy.

        •  here they may be thinking of divinity school or... (1+ / 0-)
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          .... similar graduate or professional educational background that DFLs may have as a qualification.  As far as I know there isn't anything like that for Wicca or other forms of Paganism.  

          But I wonder about this: what mechanism of recognition applies to the Native American Church and other First Nations religious organizations, and to Buddhist organizations?  Perhaps there's a model to look at there.  

          Or they could be thinking in hierarchies since the military is a huge functional hierarchy where every role is clearly defined, and it may be that they can't haven't fully adjusted to the idea that certain religions don't work like that.

          If the preceding paragraph is true, this is on its way to changing.  You've probably heard of John Robb.  USAF Intel (Ret.), and a highly respected military theorist whose ideas are now pervasively present throughout DoD doctrine.  I know the guy, he's ferociously brilliant and also very progressive though he wouldn't use that word.  

          Some of his key memes are "global guerrillas" and "leaderless resistance" and so on: for years he has been promoting the idea that US defense doctrine needs to deal with the realities of subnational groups using these modes of organizing.  At some point during the Iraq conflict and the evolutionary arms race between IEDs & countermeasures (I actually worked on that informally before it became "news"), the message got through to the Pentagon that organizationally "flat" insurgencies are a real factor to reckon with in conflicts, and Robb's ideas were catapulted into prominence.  

          The point here is, DoD is starting to adjust to a worldview in which things are quite a bit more messy & ad-hoc than the world of nation-states with clearly defined chains of command and orders of battle.  There were a lot of mid-grade officers during the Iraq war who were very much engaged with these ideas (though many of them left during that time).  So I think that as DoD thinking about the nature of conflicts and adversaries changes, the thinking about organizational structures in general will change.  And from there, the idea will spread to encompass certain aspects of American military culture, including the reliance on clearly-defined hierarchies in all situations.  That may lead to a more liberal environment for minority religions with flat organizational structures.

          Where things go from here depends in large measure on who is CinC for the next four years.  With Obama we will see continued progress.  With Mitt, stagnation.  With Santorum, the religious right will get full license to infiltrate & recruit, and we will have a (much more) serious crisis on our hands in terms of religious right penetration of the armed forces.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 12:18:09 AM PDT

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