First up from the God Machine this week is an update to a story we’ve been following involving the U.S. Air Force and a religious oath as a precondition to military service.
To briefly recap for those new to the story, the Pentagon requires servicemen and women sign an oath for re-enlistment, which concludes, “So help me God.” In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit those final four words without penalty, but the Air Force has made it mandatory.
An airman was recently told he would be excluded from military service, regardless of his qualifications, unless he does as the Air Force requires and swears an oath to God. Faced with a likely lawsuit, the Air Force backed down this week and made the oath optional.
Some in the religious right movement really aren’t pleased.
Televangelist Pat Robertson says it’s “crazy” that the U.S. Air Force will now allow servicemen and women to omit the words “so help me God” from official oaths.“What is wrong with the Air Force?” he beseeched viewers on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club” on Thursday.
The TV preacher seemed especially incensed by Military Religious Freedom Foundation President Mikey Weinstein for pushing the issue.
“There’s a left-wing radical named Mikey Weinstein who has got a group about people against religion or whatever he calls it, and he has just terrorized the armed forces,” Robertson said. “You think you’re supposed to be tough, you’re supposed to defend us, and you got one little Jewish radical who is scaring the pants off of you.”
The televangelist added, “You want these guys flying the airplanes to defend us when you got one little guy terrorizing them? That’s what it amounts to.… How can [the Air Force] fly the bombers to defend us if they cave to one little guy?”
For what it’s worth, the Air Force didn’t “cave” to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation; it instead chose to stick to the U.S. Constitution, which mandates “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Also from the God Machine this week:
* This ought to generate some interesting responses: “Orange County, Florida’s public school district has twice allowed a Christian group to pass out Bibles to its students, prompting a self-identified Satanist group to seek equal treatment. A religious organization called The Satanic Temple announced on Sunday that they will provide ‘Satanic materials to students during the new school year. Among the materials to be distributed are pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school’ ” (thanks to reader D.R. for the tip).
* As recently as the 1950s, Egypt’s Jewish community had roughly 100,000 people. Today, it’s down to just 12 individuals.
* Faith and climate: “As the UN Climate Summit approaches, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recorded a new video calling for ‘the end of the fossil fuel era.’ … Uploaded to YouTube by The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the video addressed rising greenhouse gas emissions and climate degradation which wreak havoc primarily on the poor and underprivileged. ‘Time is running out,’ Tutu urged.”
* And Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green is moving forward with his $800 million, eight-story Bible museum in Washington, D.C. But Green still sees a nagging problem: “The building, he says, is not quite close enough to the National Mall…. Green knows how much location matters.”