NEW YORK (Apr. 21)
The American Jewish Congress has called upon Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger to bar members of the armed forces from participating in activities of violent racist groups.
In a letter to Weinberger, AJCongress president Theodore Mann expressed dismay that soldiers and marines in North Carolina are active members of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, as reported in the press.
“We were particularly disturbed,” Mann wrote, “to read that an army spokesman stated that the military was powerless to take any disciplinary action against the soldiers involved.”
Members of the armed forces should not be permitted to participate in the activities of “groups engaged in violent acts of racial hatred,” he said. Mann recalled that the U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected an Air Force officer’s request to wear a yarmulka because it would interfere with the armed forces’ mission to foster “unity, commitment and esprit de corps.”
Mann observed that if “a yarmulka undermines ‘unity, commitment and esprit de corps,’ then surely active membership in groups engaged in acts of violent racial hatred is inconsistent with service in the armed forces.”
Federal courts, he noted, have upheld the government’s right to dismiss an officer candidate from the Reserve Officers Training Corps because of membership in the Nazi Party.
American citizens, Mann asserted, are entitled to feel that the armed forces protect “democracy, toleration, and equality,” which he declared are political values embodied in the Constitution. Armed forces members who belong to organizations that reject the authority of the Constitution betray their military oaths, his letter stated.