You can be excused for missing this story, since I can’t find a single article in the mainstream press about it. (I certainly missed it!) I can’t even find a conservative Christian rant on the subject, which is pretty amazing really. Guest Post: Air Force Adds Asatru and Heathen to Religious Preference List.
I used to cover minority religions quite a bit on this blog, because I think it says a lot about how the country views “the other.” (Icht Bien Ein Auslander!) The last time I covered the topic regularly was a few years back when the Wiccans were suing the Department of Veterans Affairs for the right to have the pentacle placed on grave markers and on cenotaphs. Well, that seems like it wasn’t the end of the story.
It seems that none of the regular services would recognize Asatru or Heathen members. As of July 29, 2014, the US Air Force does recognize them. And the amazing thing is, they were able to move that mountain without resorting to a law suit. (The Humanists had just sued the Air Force – and won.)
The Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard still do not recognize Asatru. The VA apparently already recognizes Heathen beliefs, as the Hammer of Thor (the most-used symbol) is available to be ordered on a grave marker.
The Air Force has been sued in recent years for making cadets attend Christian programs. Then they got beat up by the Christians when they designated an area for the Wiccans and other nature religions. (The Asatruar will have to speak for themselves, but my understanding is that although a lot of ceremonies happen outdoors, they do not practice a nature religion.)
Religious Freedom is supposed to be a cornerstone of our republic. But a lot of people only want that freedom for themselves and their friends. (They like to discount things like The Treaty of Tripoli – and in particular article 11 of that treaty – which was negotiated under George Washington’s administration, and sent to the Senate by John Adams’ administration. It was ratified by the Senate on the tenth of June 1797.)
If you don’t support freedom of speech for everyone, even the people who upset you, then you don’t support free speech. If you don’t support freedom of religion for all religions, then who is it that you want to suppress?
In an interesting coincidence, there is an article in Der Spiegle about why Germany has been (and remains) utterly incapable of prosecuting Nazi war criminals.
According to historian Andreas Eichmüller, of the 6,500 members of the SS who served in Auschwitz and survived the war, only 29 were convicted in West Germany and reunified Germany, while about 20 were convicted in East Germany.
How you treat people who are not exactly like you, matters. Maybe more than you think.