Friday, September 29, 2006

Welcome new blogger!

I would like to welcome our newest Blogger, Scott Wendorf. Scott is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, having served as a Lieutenant and an Intelligence officer.

Welcome to the Blog, Scott! I hope you will tell us a little more about yourself, and begin sharing your thoughts about the Military and Unitarian Universalism.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Muslim Prayer Center in Quantico

While reading the base paper recently, I saw that the regular "Chaplain's Corner" was about fasting as a form of worship, written by a Muslim chaplain. I did a little research on the base website, and learned that we have a Muslim prayer center. Here's what the paper had to say about its opening:

The prayer center is the first of its kind to be established aboard a Marine Corps base. The center serves to express the Marine Corps’ recognition of diversity among service members and the commitment to provide continued support to all Marines regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

The ceremony for the center, located in building 3043 on Catlin Avenue, attracted local as well as international interest, to include media from foreign agencies like Al Jazeera and the Egyptian Press Agency.

Special guest speakers were Rear Adm. Louis Iasiello, the Chief of Navy Chaplains; Gen. Michael Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps; and Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

The ceremony began with a recitation from the Qur’an by Navy Lt. Abuhena Saifulislam, Quantico’s Muslim chaplain, first in Arabic and then translated into English. Navy Capt. David Kloak, deputy chaplain of the Marine Corps, gave the invocation which was followed by the colors presentation and playing of the national anthem.

After an introduction from Brig. Gen. Thomas Conant, director of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command Capabilities Development Directorate, the guest speakers were each given a chance to talk about the prayer center.

“Prayer is an icon of religious respect,” Iasiello said. “Today, at Quantico, religious respect takes the form of a center.”

When it was England’s turn to speak, he told the audience that Muslim Americans have been serving in the armed forced since World War I. He then pointed out several Muslim veterans still alive today and present at the ceremony representing World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and other operations.

“People come to America for freedom and liberty,” England said. “And religion is just one of those freedoms.”

After the speakers’ remarks, Hagee and England unveiled the dedication plaque on the building. The plaque has Arabic writing which is translated below as, “In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,” a statement from the Qur’an.

The center was created to provide Muslim military personnel, family members and international military officers with a suitable place to conduct religious services.

According to Quantico’s plans, this interim facility will serve as the prayer center until an extension is built on the Marine Memorial Chapel. The new extension will be named the Religious Activities and Family Support Center and will contain a Muslim prayer room.

I haven't seen any evidence of evangelical activity around here, other than my conversations with a former co-worker.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Action Alert from MRFF

Hello all,

From time to time, I feel that a piece of information comes to my attention that we should pass along to many UU's who are associated with the military... and this notice from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation seemed to me to be one of those items.

And so, I present it for your perusal...

Help Protect the Constitutional Rights of Military Personnel
The Defense Authorization Act is stalled in Congress over a provision that
states "chaplains in each of the military services would have the prerogative to
pray according to the dictates of their own conscience."

This means that chaplains would be allowed to pray in Jesus' name at mandatory military formations, directly violating the United States Constitution and gravely
compromising the rights of military personnel.

Mikey Weinstein, the Military
Religious Freedom Foundation's (MRFF) president and founder, has already sent a
letter to key congressional officials asking for their support. Now we need your

Write or Call Your Elected Officials
Send a letter or make a quick
phone call to your elected officials. Let them know that you believe this
provision would be detrimental to the men and women serving in our armed forces.

Here are some key ideas to touch on:
United States military is the preeminent
defender of our Constitutional rights and at this very moment is fighting a
global war on terror to preserve those Constitutional liberties that make
America so unique;
Military personnel deserve to know their government
officials are working to prevent fundamentalist values from infiltrating our
nation's armed forces;
The passage of this provision would undermine our
Constitution and dissolve the rights of the brave people who serve in our
nation's armed forces;
Passing this provision would further the erosion of
tolerance and respect at our nation's military academies and military
installations throughout the world;
This provision should not be about
political parties - it should about what is best for the men and women who serve
our country.

Contact Your Representative
Contact Your Senator

Letter to Key Congressional Officials

Dear Senator,

As you move forward
in the critical debate over whether or not to include language in the Defense
Authorization Act that would allow sectarian prayers at nondenominational and
mandatory military events, I urge you to keep in mind both the precious rights
of the military personnel that are at stake and the Constitutional guarantees of
the separation of church and state that you are required to uphold.
United States military is the preeminent defender of our Constitutional rights
and at this very moment is fighting a global war on terror to preserve those
Constitutional liberties that make America so unique.
If we lose sight of
these treasured freedoms, and allow fundamentalist values to infiltrate our
nation’s armed forces, how can we in good conscience send our men and women into
the line of fire to fight against religious fundamentalists throughout the
There is a pandemic of intolerance spreading throughout our military,
creating a deep and dangerous divide between military personnel. In the past
several years, there have been countless reports of egregious Constitutional
violations within the various branches of our armed forces – chaplains invoking
Jesus’ name at mandatory formations, the use of anti-Semitic and other
inflammatory slurs, the misuse of official email accounts by military leadership
to promote religious events and illegal proselytizing and evangelizing.
family has a long and proud history of service in our nation’s armed forces – I
am a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and the son of a Naval
Academy graduate. My sons and daughter-in- law have matriculated at the Air
Force Academy. I have seen the climate of tolerance and respect at the USAFA
deteriorate before my eyes – my own sons have been the targets of anti-Semitic
rhetoric and coercive evangelizing. My daughter-in-law, a practicing
non-evangelical Christian, has also been made to feel as though her faith is not
enough. She has received blatantly illegal emails, via official military
communication channels, promoting fundamentalist Christian theology and has
experienced illegal proselytizing from her superiors and peers.
I am gravely
concerned that the passage of this provision would undermine our Constitution
and further erode the already tenuous situation at our nation’s military
academies and at the 702 U.S. military installations located in 132 countries
throughout the world.
This debate should not be an issue of who is on the
left or right of the political spectrum; rather, it should be an issue of what
is best for our noble and honorable armed forces. Please make the right decision
for our country by helping to ensure this detrimental provision does not pass in
the Defense Authorization Act.


Mikey Weinstein

President and Founder,
Military Religious Freedom Foundation