By Emily Smith, CNN
(CNN) - The U.S. Air Force Academy has decided to make phrase "so help me God" optional in its honor code after an activist group protested that requiring all cadets to recite it violates their rights.
The complete oath reads: "We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does, so help me God."
Cadets are required to recite the oath when they complete basic training. It is also taken by the entire cadet wing each year as re-affirmation of their commitment to the honor code, said AFA spokesman Major Brus Vidal.
(CNN) – A Catholic priest has gone to court, saying the partial government shutdown is preventing him from providing religious services– even voluntarily– on a U.S. military base.
Father Ray Leonard filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, saying he "wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge... but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so."
Leonard is a newly hired civilian employee, scheduled to start work October 1 to provide Catholic religious services at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.
The priest was one of thousands of civilian military employees and contractors furloughed because of the failure of Congress to reach a deal on funding the federal government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has since recalled some Defense Department workers, but civilian military chaplains were excluded.
By David R. Wheeler, special to CNN
(CNN) - Like many congregations, The Mennonite Worker Community of Minneapolis held a worship service and picnic this Fourth of July - but instead of extolling the virtues of America, they called attention to its faults.
The annual service is “a sort of anti-patriotic holiday,” says Mark Van Steenwyk, whose community focuses on simplicity, prayer and peacemaking. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is out. Reflecting on the contradictions between the gospel and the American Dream are in.
“We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives," reads a prayer the Mennonite community recites each year, "but lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the Earth.”
Anti-patriots like Van Steenwyk say their movement, which has grown more vocal in recent years, is simply an honest way to read – and live out – Jesus' teachings on nonviolence. But it's hard to look at groups like The Mennonite Community and not see an implicit criticism of God-and-country cheerleading by mainstream Christians and ripples of centuries-old church-state tensions.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel put religious studies over military duties. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) - As I have read recent neoconservative diatribes against President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel – including charges that he is an anti-Semite and a full-page advertisement attacking him in The New York Times on Thursday – I have asked myself, “What would George Washington do?"
In his Farewell Address, published on September 19, 1796, Washington offered his hard-won wisdom on such matters as church and state, partisan politics, and foreign policy.
On foreign policy, Washington declared our independence from friends and foes alike, warning against the “evils” produced by “permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others.” To love or hate another nation too deeply, he observed, “is in some degree to become a slave ... to its animosity or to its affection.”
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Military development. Academics. Athletics. Three pillars of Army values that cadets at America's most prestigious military academy live by.
But West Point cadet Blake Page says there is one other unspoken pillar at the United States Military Academy: religion.
That's why, with just five months left before graduation, Page quit.
And he did it in a most public fashion – in a fiery blog post.
"The tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution," wrote Page, 24, in The Huffington Post.
"These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation. These transgressions are nearly always committed in the name of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity."
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – To English speakers, the name of Israel’s anti-Hamas campaign sounds pretty straightforward: “Operation Pillar of Defense.”
But reading the name of the Israeli operation in Hebrew might provoke some head-scratching. In Hebrew, the Israel Defense Forces have branded their recently launched anti-Hamas effort as “Operation Pillar of Cloud.”
An IDF spokesman explained that most Israelis would recognize “Pillar of Cloud” as a biblical reference.
(CNN)–CNN's Elise Labott reports a proposed law would require Israelis ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military.
By Alan Duke, CNN
(CNN) – A same-sex ceremony between an enlisted woman and a civilian woman on a U.S. Army post last month drew protests from lawmakers Thursday.
The "private religious ceremony" took place at Fort Polk in Louisiana in May, post spokesman Scott Stearns said, but he would confirm few other details.
Rep. John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican whose congressional district includes the Army post, said the military confirmed to him that the same-sex ceremony was performed by an Army chaplain in the chapel.
The incident was an inevitable consequence of the end of the don't ask, don't tell policy in September, which previously banned homosexuals from military service, Fleming said.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
(CNN) – Today is a day to remember those who have given their lives in the service of their country. It is also a day to reflect on war.
In my new book, "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," I explore 27 texts that have served as “scripture” of sorts in American public life. Each of these texts addresses the meaning of “America” and “Americans,” and each has provoked much commentary and controversy.
Here are the five best, in my view, on the meaning and ends of war.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.