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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Air Force releases interim religion guidelines

Interim guidelines on religion, released by the Air Force Aug. 29, encourage sensitivity and make distinctions between official communications and personal faith expressions. The guidelines will be finalized after senior Air Force officials meet this month.

The guidance was requested in a June report from an Air Force investigative panel, which found “perceptions” of religious intolerance at the 4,300-student Air Force Academy but no evidence of widespread discrimination. Just before the report’s release, MeLinda Morton, an ELCA chaplain who served at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., resigned, telling The Lutheran that school officials had engaged in a “departure from the Constitution” ("ELCA chaplain resigns from Air Force," August 2005).

Morton said Gen. Charles Baldwin, head of Air Force chaplains, “indicated his intention and desire to restructure the Air Force chaplaincy along unconstitutional lines ... to have chaplains operate primarily out of denominational priorities and engage in proselytization. But everyone in the military is expected to appropriately accommodate the tenets of their faith with their position.”

Baldwin denies saying that, adding, “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution .... The idea that I have emphasized chaplains maintaining their denominational identity is exactly right, but not for the reason Melinda Morton mentioned.” Baldwin said a lack of denominational identity would be “opposite to the free exercise of religion.”


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