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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Tags: compelled, employment, ordered, prayer, work

Comment by kris feenstra on September 22, 2011 at 2:04pm

I've always had mixed feelings on this.  When I was an air cadet, we had two annual parades during which the chaplain would offer a prayer.  It didn't really bother me as he was the one praying, not me, and he kept the God stuff down to a minimum (though I may not be recalling correctly). While I'm sure the prayer was sincere, its inclusion in the ceremonies seemed more like a vestigial tradition.


The important factor for me is that I didn't have to do anything in acknowledgement.  I didn't have to bow my head, speak any phrase, or remove headdress.  I just stood at attention patiently making bets with myself on which cadet was going to pass out (there's always at least one that does).


Removing headdress would bother me somewhat.  It sort of crosses that border from what is observational to what is participatory.  If I were in your shoes though, I'd have complied with the order.  Even as a mere cadet, it was my job to follow orders from my superiors.  There would have been no emergent need to disobey the order, so if I had an issue, I'd observe the proper channels for airing my grievance.  That said, being a cadet wasn't a career, so there's a clear limitation to the comparison.  If I raise a fuss in a volunteer paramilitary organization, who really gives a fuck?  The fallout would be negligible (for me at least).


To sum it up: in principle, I think it's wrong, but in practice, I don't have any relevant experience to put that wrongness into its appropriate context.

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 kris feenstra on September 23, 2011 at 2:48am

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.


Why should that offend?  I wouldn't bow my head; it goes against my personal convictions.  I would't ask anyone not to pray at my dinner table.  I'd even wait for them to finish, but I would never join in or bow my head.  I'd simply prefer taht every person can act in accordance with their own beliefs without needing others to get dragged into it as well.  Besides, if the reasoning is that it's their house and their traditions, the Canadian Navy is not any religious person's property or domain.  It's part of the armed forces of a secular nation.  


Traditions need to change to meet the values of modern culture and to fulfill the needs to those serving.  We've been progressive on other fronts.  Women were allowed to serve in active combat duty in 1987.  Openly LGBT persons have been allowed serve in the Canadian Armed Forces since 1992.  Why are we dragging our heels on religion?  Let those who want to bask in the glory of God do it on their own time.  Shit changes.  

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.


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