This morning, as a serving member of my countrys' Navy, I participated in "Ceremonial Divisions",  a formal parade where a visiting dignitary inspects the troops, medals are awarded, speeches are made. At one point during "Divvies", we are ordered to "Remove Headdress" while the School Chaplain recites a prayer.


Anyone have an opinion on what is essentially being ordered to participate in a prayer?  While I direct this question to serving or former members of the Armed Services (of any country) I am interested in everyones' opinion.


For the record, I remove my hat, and watch my fellow sailors, some of who are watching me <g>.  IMO, removing ones hat while the Padre talks to the skyfairy is simply "Obeying a Lawful Command"; failure to do so can (and does) get embarrassing and expensive.

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Comment by Dale Headley on September 22, 2011 at 4:46pm

   As both a student and teacher, I stood for the plege of allegiance and recited it; but I always omitted "under God," whether or not others noticed.  When required to be in church for some reason, I will stand when others pray to show respect for their customs; but I keep my mouth shut tight.  

   I believe that it is permissible - even advisable - to show respect for the rights of others to express their beliefs (I would remove my hat); but I would not go so far as to show respect for the beliefs themselves.

Comment by Jenny dunlap on September 22, 2011 at 4:51pm

As a former active duty US Air Force enlisted member, married to a 20 years-and-counting ADAF husband, having been raised an Army brat - my opinion after 36 years experience is the same as Dale's.  I want respect, I give respect; this does not in any way necessitate involvement or participation.  Every dinner, promotion ceremony, graduation or party is appended by the chaplain saying a prayer.  I just sigh (quietly, to myself), stand up respectfully and look around to see who else is looking around.  Sometimes I wink at the other "sinners".  It's fun.

Comment by Lewal on September 22, 2011 at 6:18pm

I've been fairly obnoxious about this and with little to no consequence. I don't go out of my way to disrespect anyone, but that doesn't mean I have to respect their wishes when acting in the capacity of a chaplain, as opposed to someone who comes above me in the pecking order I signed into. My usual approach is to simply ignore them. For example, when a chaplain once asked my platoon to gather around in a circle and hold hands in prayer, I took a step back, sat down and took the opportunity to relax. I got eyed a little, but I figure that's on them. When my team leader asked "what was up with that" afterward, I simply told him that I wasn't a Christian. He said "Oh," no questions asked. Another time we were at a banquet and a chaplain rose to pray, as did everyone else, and I stood for the first half and sat down for the second. In my experience you can usually pass on these "orders" relatively hassle-free.

Comment by Spike on September 22, 2011 at 9:47pm

Just go with the flow; it won't kill ya! You can laugh (under your breath of course!) at the ridiculousness of people who believe their prayers actually accomplish something...

Comment by Dustin on September 22, 2011 at 9:50pm

Signing up for the Navy means you need to have some sort of respect for the tradition imo.  If the chaplain was going on and on about Jesus this and Jesus that , then I would have filed complaints to whatever routes were appropriate but I would not have made a scene.  


It's not like they are ordering you to repeat back the nonsense, all you have to do is just take off your headdress.  Seems pretty fine to me.  


What if the guy was reading an excerpt from Shakespeare about war and peace or something like that and asked you to do the same, would you still complain?  

Comment by Darrell Mont on September 22, 2011 at 11:00pm

When I am in another person's home for dinner and they hold hands to pray before the meal I always hold hands and bow my head. EVERYONE in my life is aware that I am an Atheist, but that doesn't give me license to offend. I actually enjoy the fellowship of parcticipating in a small ritual with close friends. I don't believe that sky daddy has somehow made the food better or anything like that and they know that. When those same people come to my house, there is no prayer before dinner and no one asks. I think that the setting, as it's self, is able to establish social boundries. I spent 10 years in the Army infantry (3/27 Wolfhounds!). Everyone is aware when they join that there are Chaplains and they pray before events. No surprise. I see no harm done.

Comment by Matthew Wood on September 23, 2011 at 1:10am

When I was in the Air Force, I remember attending a Change of Command a time or two. I also remember having a prayer. One time, I felt a bit peeved by this and asked my flight chief if the prayer infringed on constitutional rights.


He was non-religious (I'm not sure if he was an atheist, but definitely anti-religion) and I poked an prodded, offering such lines as "It is an official Air Force ceremony, so doesn't the prayer violate the Establishment Clause?" 


I forget what exactly he said, but he said I didn't have to participate in the prayer, just stand there (like he did).


I give respect and do the motions, but I always found it interesting whilst I was serving that they would have prayer for official base or Air Force functions.

Comment by Justin Humphrey on September 23, 2011 at 5:52am

I'm in the navy now and I would take my cover off but that is it. If it was a regular occurance I would make a fuss about it since I think it's a seperation of church and state issue personnally. A goverment run program shouldn't have prayer in it. It's just an old habbit that it hasn't gotten rid of yet.

Comment by Lewal on September 23, 2011 at 7:41am

Really boils down to what it always does; where do you draw the line at a compromise of your integrity in the name of compassion? You can call it "respect," but it's compassion to spare them the righteousness of truth.

Comment by Stephen Macken on September 23, 2011 at 6:12pm

H. L. Mencken once said, "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."


One of the things I get from this is that you may not have any respect for another's beliefs but you don't go out of your way to cause offense either. If you look at the above in a social context, you wouldn't insult another man by telling him his wife is a dog and his children thick, would you? That would make you rude, to say the least.


In the context of the OP, I'd have to say that while it jars to have to bare and bow the head, don't think of it as showing deference to god, gods, goddesses or space teapots, but more showing deference to the service to which you belong. You are obeying a lawful order, nothing more and nothing less. In a Menckenesque way, you are merely nodding politely and biting your tongue.


The time to fight that battle is not standing on deck but through proper grievance procedures and channels. But, considering how conservative the military is, it may be a long time before you see any change, and even if it comes, it may not last... "don't ask, don't tell", remember that?



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