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Jewish Veterans Oppose Sectarian Prayer in Military

Two Jewish veterans testified in Congress against allowing chaplains to engage in sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Association and a former U.S. Air Force judge advocate general, and Rabbi Bruce Kahn, a retired Navy chaplain, were among five witnesses to appear Tuesday before the subcommittee on military personnel of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

The subcommittee was considering arguments arising out of recent controversies over Christian chaplains who name Jesus in their prayers for groups of troops that include more than one denomination or faith, as well as atheists, among other sectarian practices.

A number of conservative groups, including several represented at the hearing, say military regulations prohibiting such invocations are an infringement on the religious freedoms of the chaplains.

Weinstein and Kahn argued that the religious freedoms of the troops tended by the chaplains must be preeminent. “The challenge is for the chaplain to adjust to the legitimate requirements of the troops, not for the troops to adjust to the denominational practices of the chaplain,” Kahn, who is now active in civil rights advocacy, said in prepared testimony.

Among the groups submitting written testimony were the Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, both also advocating against allowing sectarian prayer in nondenominational settings.

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