Military Judge to Rule on Whether to Ban Female Guards From Touching Muslim Detainees

Image via REUTERS / RNS

How far does the U.S. military have to go to provide religious accommodations for locked-up al-Qaida terrorism suspects?

That’s the question before a military judge who is weighing whether female guards should be banned from touching detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Five of the military’s “high-value” detainees asked the judge Oct. 30 to permanently forbid women guards from touching the prisoners. Their Muslim traditions, they say, prohibit women other than their wives or relatives from touching them.

But the two female guards who sometimes shackle or escort the detainees say a ban on touching violates their equal employment rights. They have won support from members of Congress and the Obama administration who called the ban “outrageous.”

Army Chaplains Need Training to Help Suicidal Soldiers

Photo via REUTERS / Adrees Latif / RNS

Two U.S. Army Chaplains bow their heads in prayer during an Easter service. Photo via REUTERS / Adrees Latif / RNS

Chaplains who are part of the Army’s first line of defense against suicide say they need more training in how to prevent soldiers from killing themselves, according to a Rand Corp. survey published online April 7.

Nearly all the chaplains and chaplain assistants surveyed said they have dealt with suicidal soldiers, and most said they encourage troubled soldiers to get help. Because of confidentiality, roughly half said they would be reluctant to alert someone in the chain of command about the soldier, and roughly a third said they would not call a crisis hotline for the GI.

In addition, the study found that chaplains and chaplain assistants hold some of the same negative views about therapy that often discourage soldiers from seeing a behavioral health specialist. Most in the survey agreed that service members who seek help for suicidal thoughts would be seen differently by their peers. About half said they would be embarrassed.

Researchers said they believe this may be why chaplains are reluctant to intervene when a soldier comes to them with signs of suicidal thinking. 

'Demilitarize the Police!'

AS A FORMER reserve police officer who has taught ethics at two police academies, I followed the news very closely after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson in nearby Ferguson, Mo. When I saw the military equipment of the St. Louis County Police—especially the sharpshooter on top of an armored vehicle aiming his rifle at the protesters—I said to my wife, “This may turn out to be very, very bad.”

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Army Approves 'Humanist' As Religious Preference

Ray Bradley during a meeting for Central North Carolina Atheists and Humanists. Photo by John Nichols, courtesy U.S. Army/RNS

More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military.

“I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” said Bradley, who is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and works on supporting readiness of the Army Reserve’s medical staff.

Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.

Catholic Chaplains Given Marching Orders Barring Service to Gay Couples

Air Force Capt. Mike Carey, a chaplain at Scott Air Force Base in Ill. RNS photo by Robert Cohen/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Catholic military chaplains cannot be forced to witness or bless a same-sex marriage, nor are they allowed to take part in any marriage counseling retreats that are open to gay couples under new rules issued by the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

The rules, sent to chaplains on Sept. 18 by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the AMS, also bar chaplains from taking part in a funeral for a Catholic if that participation “would give the impression that the church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships.”

But the new rules also set out conditions that would allow Catholic military commanders to comply, without violating their beliefs, with rules giving same-sex couples under their command federal employee benefits as required by law.

Humanists Want a Military Chaplain to Call their Own

Photo courtesy RNS.

Jason Heap, who is applying to be the first Humanist chaplain in the military. Photo courtesy RNS.

If Jason Heap has his way, he’ll trade his Oxford tweeds for the crisp whites of a newly minted U.S. Navy chaplain.

“This is my chance to give back to my country,” said Heap, 38. “I want to use my skills on behalf of our people in the service. Hopefully, the Navy will see where I can be useful.”

But Heap’s goal is not assured. He fits the requirements — with master’s degrees from both Brite Divinity School and Oxford University. His paperwork is complete. He passed the physical tests and has been interviewed by a Navy chaplain. The only thing he does not have is an endorsement from a religious organization approved by the Navy.