U.S. Air Force Commended for its Guidelines on Religious Exercise
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism along with the American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee issued the following statement commending the Air Forces interim guidelines governing the free exercise of religion by its personnel and its chaplains.
Contact : American Jewish Congress – Marc Stern 917.660.4689
American Jewish Committee – Richard Foltin, 202.785.4200 x 13
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism – Rabbi David Saperstein, 202.387.2800
The following statement was issued jointly by the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
Washington, February 9, 2006 -We commend the Air Force for its issuance of interim guidelines governing the free exercise of religion by its personnel and its chaplains. These guidelines, the product of an extensive consultative process, go far in addressing the unfortunate situation which prevailed at the Air Force Academy not more than a year ago in which officers in command authority abused their positions to advance their own religious agendas. They make clear the duty of chaplains to serve all members of the Air Force regardless of faith, and appropriately warn against abusing the position of trust chaplains enjoy to engage in unwelcome proselytizing. The statement also emphasizes the importance of commanding officers accommodating the religious practices of all faiths where possible.
An early version of the interim guidelines was more detailed than the final version. It is a matter of some regret that some of that detail was eliminated because we think it would have made the drafters’ intent clearer. We are confident that those responsible for the rules will see to it that they are enforced according to their spirit.
The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael W. Wynne, Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Mosley and Special Advisor Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff persevered in this effort , despite challenges from some members of Congress and others who failed to understand the fundamental limits the American Constitution imposes on its officials.
The Air Force has promised to consider comments and revise the document based on experience and the comments it receives. We look forward to participating in that process.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.