Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Schwartz: Don't endorse religious programs

Sep. 16, 2011 - 02:21PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 16, 2011 - 02:21PM  |  
Comments
Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz's memo cautioned eaders at all levels to balance the Constitution's protection of religious freedom and the prohibition on government intrusion.
Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz's memo cautioned eaders at all levels to balance the Constitution's protection of religious freedom and the prohibition on government intrusion. (Chris Maddaloni / Staff)
  • Filed Under

The Air Force's top officer has issued a stern reminder to leaders about religion and their jobs: Don't proselytize or show favoritism toward a particular faith.

Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz sent a servicewide memo Sept. 1 cautioning leaders at all levels to balance the Constitution's protection of religious freedom and the prohibition on government intrusion.

"We have seen instances where well-meaning commanders and senior noncommissioned officers appeared to advance a particular religious view among their subordinates, calling into question their impartiality and objectivity. We can learn from these instances," said Lt. Col. Sam Highley, Schwartz's spokesman.

The memo came about a month after the Air Force http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/08/air-force-nuclear-ethics-course-yanked-080411/">suspended an ethics course for new nuclear missile officers that contained biblical references, and announced a review of all ethics and character development training.

In the memo, titled "Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion," Schwartz wrote leaders must avoid even the appearance of using their position to proselytize.

"Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity," Schwartz wrote. "The potential result is a degradation of the unit's morale, good order and discipline."

Air Force leaders discovered Christian-based themes in the ethics course for nuclear officers after the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation obtained course materials through a Freedom of Information Act request. The organization handed over the documents to http://truth-out.org/">truth-out.org, which posted them on its website.

Schwartz's memo does not mention any specific incidents but stresses commanders must refrain from appearing to endorse religious programs such as those provided by the Chaplain Corps.

"I expect chaplains, not commanders, to notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs," Schwartz wrote.

Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, called the memo a strong mandate of "constitutional religious compliance."

"While MRFF wishes that such a letter had been sent by the chief of staff of the Air Force a very long time ago, the old adage ‘Better late than never' most certainly applies," Weinstein said in a statement to Air Force Times.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

Keep airmen, cut waste
How airmen say the Air Force could save money

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook