Friday, May 29, 2015

HEATHENS IN THE MILITARY: CALL TO ACTION

For six years, the Open Halls Project Working Group has worked for the addition of Ásatrú and Heathen to the U.S. Army's religious preference list as a faith option for soldiers.

For six years, Heathen soldiers have accommodated every administrative obstacle that has stood between them and recognition of their religious tradition.

Today, soldiers who follow the Old Way of Odin, Thor, Freya and the other Germanic gods and goddesses are still denied basic religious rights available to faiths that are recognized by the Army.

Today, Heathen soldiers ask you to stand with them.

The Open Halls Project Working Group hereby issues the following call to action to everyone who believes that religious freedom applies to all religious traditions.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

For more on the religion of Ásatrú and Heathenry, read

For more on Heathens around the world, read

For more on the Army's stonewalling of Heathen soldiers, read

For the successful campaign for recognition in the Air Force, read

THE PROBLEM

For service members belonging to non-traditional faiths within the predominantly Christian environment of the U.S. Army, it can be challenging to exercise simple freedoms that other faiths may take for granted.

These freedoms include the right to:

• have time off for attending worship
• hold religious services in one's own tradition
• keep items or books connected with one's faith
• when in large enough numbers, have a dedicated place of worship

These are freedoms enjoyed, where possible, by every recognized faith in the military – but not for followers of Heathenry.

This is why the issue of recognition of Heathenry within the various branches of the military is so important. Contrary to popular belief, military members do not give up their constitutional rights upon signing up. Service men and women do not forfeit their First Amendment rights. This leaves the problem that some of those who fight for our nation are being denied rights guaranteed by the Constitution that they swore to protect.

Additional benefits of having Heathen added to the Army's religious preference list include:

• ease of finding and connecting with other Heathens on post
• taking another step towards appointment of Heathen chaplains
• less need to prove legitimate reason for religious accommodation (including leave)
• less hassle regarding religious issues for family members of deceased soldiers

Since 2009, we have been working on getting the Army to add Ásatrú and Heathen to the list of religious preferences available for a soldier's Enlisted Record Brief / Officers Record Brief (ERB/ORB). In July 2014, the Air Force led the way forward by successfully adding the preferences Ásatrú and Heathen to the list of religions recognized by the Air Force.

Over the years, we were led to believe that we were near completion of this task for Army soldiers multiple times. We have been faced with constant challenges and years' worth of delays. In January of this year, we were led to believe that the Army would imminently approve the religious preferences.

However, after initially being informed by the relevant member of the Chaplaincy Corps that our request had gone through and that we were only waiting on the appropriate code for adding those preferences to a soldier’s record, the Chaplaincy backpedaled.

This left the campaign (and the soldiers represented) in a bureaucratic limbo.

We at the Open Halls Project Working Group find the current situation unacceptable.

The process to add our religious preference has taken far, far too long. This needs to be fixed, now.

CALL TO ACTION

Please send an email to any or all of the offices listed below, asking that Heathenry be added to the Army's religious preferences list immediately. Scroll down for email addresses and a sample message.

Please share this call to action. Send this information to any and all friends, family and colleagues who support equal rights for all religious groups.

Please let us know if you receive anything other than a respectful reply by contacting us at HeathenOpenHalls@gmail.com

EMAIL ADDRESSES

Armed Forces Chaplains Board (Department of Defense)
osd.afcb5120@mail.mil

Army Human Resources Command
askhrc.army@us.army.mil

Army Public Affairs Officer
usarmy.pentagon.hqda-dcs-g-1.mbx.public-affairs-office@mail.mil

Chief of Army Chaplains
usarmy.pentagon.hqda-occh.mbx.chief-of-chaplains@mail.mil

SAMPLE EMAIL MESSAGE

Feel free to use this sample email message. Simply select the text below, copy it, then paste it into the body of your email.

Don't forget to add your name at the bottom of your email message.

If you choose to write your own message, please be firm but respectful.

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

I email today to ask you to expedite the request to add Heathen to U.S. Army's official list of religious preferences available for a soldier's Enlisted Record Brief / Officers Record Brief (ERB/ORB). This request has been in process in one form or another for 6 years. That is an inordinate amount of time.

I am aware that the Department of Defense has a working group designated to make this process easier in the future. However, I truly believe that Heathen soldiers should not have to wait several more years for a bureaucratic system to be put in place before their faith tradition is recognized.

Heathen soldiers have honorably served in the U.S. military for many years, and many have left the service without ever having their faith recognized. They have faced discrimination and undue hardship in practicing their religious tradition.

This addition of this religious preference should be a simple process. Heathen soldiers have already jumped over every administrative hurdle placed before them.

Please add Heathen immediately to the religious preference list.

With respect,

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3 comments:

Marina Collier said...

I don't know if it is still going on, but there was a whole lot of Christian proselytizing going on in the military with the "blessing" of the higher command ranks. This is partly why the Pagans have been denied equal rights. There is a movement to turn this nation into a Christian theocracy, but it, until recently, has been on the quiet.

Carl Bonebright said...

Just a civ here, but I work on an Army base, with a .mil email. I've pinged all the addresses listed.

Tyler Ichenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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