Prayer in mandatory ceremonies

To whom it may concern,

I have been in the active duty Air Force for almost two years, and since my completion of basic training in January of ’15, I have been to many commanders calls, promotion ceremonies, and graduation ceremonies, and am curious about prayers at these events. I keep hearing that it’s tradition, but I believe that these “all inclusive” prayers that use terminology such as “lord” “God” and “almighty” are excluding people who fall outside the traditional Christian spectrum. With the Establishment clause in the first amendment, I believe prayer should be reserved for private reflection, volunteer events lead by the chapel, retirement ceremonies where it is requested by the retiree, and funerals of religious members; not publicly endorsed by a government agency. Is there a movement against these public prayers, or am I the first to make a complaint about this?


(name withheld)

Hi (name withheld) …

I’m Chris Rodda, MRFF’s research director.
You are far from the first to complain about this. In fact, it’s one of the most frequent complaints we receive, and MRFF has successfully gone after various commanders and other officers and NCOs to stop their inappropriate praying on quite a few occasions.
You are exactly right in your examples of when and where it’s acceptable to have prayers as opposed to when it’s not. As we always put it, prayers at certain military events being acceptable is a matter of “appropriate time, place, and manner.”
If you run into any specific situation where you want to speak up about inappropriate prayers or other inappropriate promotions of religion, the regulation to use is AFI 1-1, Section 2.12, which states:
2.12. Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.
If you don’t feel that you can say anything yourself for fear of retaliation, please let us know the specifics of the situation or event and we will take care of it while of course keeping you anonymous.



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