Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Spirit and the Air Force Academy

The entire Cadet Wing of the Air Force Academy received an e-mail earlier this week from members within the wing, encouraging them to participate in Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is an organization that sends gifts in shoeboxes, to impoverished children throughout the world in over 100 countries. Air Force Officials have publically recognized that the e-mail should have been sent through the Chaplain Corps which is “responsible for advertising faith based programs and events.” Soon after, a second e-mail was sent to the Cadet Wing retracting and apologizing for any offense taken to the original message. It also explained that the original message would be sent out to the appropriate audience via the Chaplain Corps in the future. Not only has the original e-mail become a controversial topic, but also the program as a whole, including the involvement of the Air Force, is now being questioned.

Michael Weinstein, a former cadet in the Air Force and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, believes that no cadets should be eligible to participate in Operation Christmas Child. He claims that it is a promotion of Christianity partially because in every shoebox along with the gifts comes a religious message and also because of the specificity of the religious holiday. Weinstein believes this organization does not serve solely to provide children with a form holiday spirit, but rather to incorporate and persuade children into Christianity and therefore, the Air Force should not be involved seeing as it is governmentally affiliated.

The Air Force claims that typically, only specific people choose to be on a religiously affiliated mailing list, run by the Chaplain Corps, would have received a message promoting involvement in the OCC. The Air Force Academy corrected their mistake to the best of their abilities, explaining that the Academy is “religiously pluralistic” and feels that those on the Christian mailing list should still be given the option of working with Operation Christmas Child.

I do not believe that the original e-mail, or the Air Force Academy’s involvement with Operation Christmas Child is in violation of the Constitution. I highly doubt that any member of the Air Force would be coerced into Christianity because of the original e-mail sent out to the Cadet Wing seeing as those in the Air Force have reached an age where coercion is no longer a pressing issue. Also, the e-mail was not sent with religious intent, but rather a secular purpose with the intentions of supporting an organization that benefits the lives of less fortunate children. All Air Force members should be presented with the opportunity to participate in this sort of program, not just those on a religiously affiliated mailing list. Cadets were not being forced to accept nor become active in the program, but instead were being given the chance to help those in need. It seems to me that this is more of a community service opportunity for those making the gifts. The religious aspect of the program comes into play solely for the receivers of these gifts, when they open their box and find the message, which Air Force members would not be placing inside the boxes anyways. Therefore, I believe the program should be allowed in the Air Force Academy because in no way is the program forcing any form of Christianity upon it’s volunteers.


Grant Z said...

I agree with Ally. I believe there should not be a problem with promoting a charitable organization within the Air Force Academy, even if that organization has religious ties. In the end, the organization has a primary effect of helping underprivileged children, though it admittedly has a secondary effect of promoting Christianity to the children it helps. The key here is that no one is forced to participate in the program. The e-mail was just trying to get the word out about it.

Harry R. said...

I agree with Ally that this program should not be restricted. Such acts of charity should not be limited based solely on a religious background. Additionally, the government is not endorsing a religion by having a religious message present in a gift box given in an impoverished area in the world. This program's goal is to help those in need, not proselytize. Also, individual members of the Air Force are allowed to express their religious beliefs regardless of their service in the military except in extreme cases where the functioning of the military is (supposedly) at risk.