Tuesday, June 30, 2020

No Shipmate, You Can't Go To Church/Synagogue/Mosque/Oak Tree

When you join the military you give up a lot. Your freedom is curtailed in ways that are almost unimaginable to the civilian. We know that, we accept it.

Can there be occasions where this steps over the line? In any large organization’s response to emerging crisis, well meaning leaders can overreach or make decisions that are in a grey area between can/should/maybe/shouldn’t.

For those with access to message traffic, I will refer you to the FRAGO as outlined in DTG R 232340Z JUN 20, SUBJ/CUSFF/NAVNORTH FRAGORD 20-024.013 IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID19).

Here is just one of many copies of Page 13s that I’ve had Sailors, officer and enlisted, send to me over the weekend that has them concerned. Read it over.

Did you catch that? Here is the meat from para 1.a.vi;
Specific Prohibited activities: Service members shall not visit/engage in the following off-installation facilities/activities: …. Include(ing) indoor religious services
Anyone who served for any length of time knows that for many of our Shipmates who adhere to their confession of choice, one of the best things for them when they are home is that they can attend proper services that – try as they can – their Navy Chaplain simply cannot meet.

As such, a plan that bans off base religious activities justified by hopes they can be handled by base chapel services simply is non-executable.

What about those who live off base, 30-45 minutes or even an hour+ from base? What if, as is happening nationwide, their house of worship follows COVID-19 safety protocols of masks and social distancing? Why is attending there prohibited?

More importantly, why are we unnecessarily forcing our Sailors to choose between the free exercise of religion and the UCMJ.

“Support and defend the Constitution…” includes;
…Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
I am not a Constitutional lawyer, and in any event, this isn’t Congress doing the prohibition. This is the Executive Branch.

Give me two lawyers and I’ll get four answers, but when you boil it down what we have is the head of the Executive Branch, the Commander in Chief, through the US Navy he leads, is telling people they cannot attend religious services off base – regardless of where they or their family reside.

So even if Sailors may not go, but in religious households, their spouse and children will go. They will then return home after services to live, eat, sleep, and socialize with that servicemember. As such, does this really decrease the COVID-19 vectors Sailors are exposed to?

No, it doesn’t. As such, what is the cost/benefit lay out for this prohibition?

In the end, I’ll tell you exactly what will happen. A non-zero percentage of Sailors will chose their relationship with their God on their own time over the Navy’s UCMJ. They will intentionally violate the P. 13 they signed. There is the damage. This policy degrades the Sailor, the Navy, and their respect for the UCMJ.

Many will follow the thinking of Algernon Sydney as outlined in his 1698 Discourses Concerning Government,
'That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed.'
That is the cost.

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