13 February 2006

What’s the proper balance between the two constitutional references to church-state relations? If you ask Ted Haggard, it’s a 2:1 cocktail, heavy on the protection of majority religions. After intensive lobbying by the Air Force’s “‘evangelical friends,’” the military branch¬†revised¬†its much-debated religious sensitivity guidelines by cutting 3/4 of the guidelines, and leaving four references to the Constitution’s free exercise clause, which evangelical groups see as favoring their cause of allowing military chaplains to evangelize freely and continue using religion-specific prayers at official functions, and only two references in the gutted document to the establishment clause, which Air Force critics value for protecting members of minority religions and nonbelievers from the coercive proselytizing efforts of superior officers. The new guidelines, which come in the midst of a lawsuit over the Air Force’s religious atmosphere, can still be milked by a few die-hard crusaders, such as North Carolina Representative Walter Jones, who argues that until chaplains can freely practice their religion by praying in Jesus’s name at all official military ceremonies, there’s to work to be done.