Army Rescinds Letter Urging Cadets to Join Christian Groups

The U.S. Army has rescinded an ROTC memo suggesting that cadets join certain Christian organizations.

The move came in response to a complaint filed by the American Jewish Congress, whose Washington representative, Mark Pelavin, said he was “pleased” with the decision.

“This is the kind of response that we both hoped for, and anticipated,” he said.

A July 15 memo from an ROTC commander said, in part, “The officer’s Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry offer religious activities that stress values essential to effective leadership development.”

The memo, signed by the ROTC First Region commanding officer, Maj. Gen. James Lyle, also gave the group’s phone numbers and said participation in them was voluntary. The First Region is based at Ft. Bragg, N.C. Lyle sent the memo to the program’s three region commanders.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a standardized program of instruction done in coordination with universities around the country, whereby college students receive training that qualifies them to be commissioned officers in the military.

‘WELL BEYOND BOUNDS OF ARMY PRACTICE’

AJCongress President David Kahn wrote to Army Secretary Togo West Jr. on July 21, after the memo was brought to the attention of the Jewish group, Pelavin said.

Kahn noted in his letter that AJCongress had no problem with the memo’s proposition that the Army’s future leadership should understand the importance of religion to members of the military.

AJCongress was concerned, however, with the memo’s singling out Christian organizations to the exclusion of others, Pelavin said.

“The original memo clearly went well beyond the bounds of Army practice or government practice,” he said.

In a Sept. 16 letter to Kahn, Sara Lister, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said the memo was rescinded because of “legitimate concern.”

The Army rescinded the original memo and any memos that may have been prompted by the original memo, Lister said.

Writing on behalf of West, Lister noted in her letter, “I understand your concern that however well-intentioned, the ROTC cadet memo-randum focuses on two Christian organizations to the exclusion of other religious faiths and other organizations.”

No other groups complained about the memo, and Lister said that as far as the Army knew, the memo was the first of its kind.

In an AJCongress news release, Kahn said, “Secretary Lister’s assurance that ‘Army policy does not favor the establishment of one faith or faith group over another’ is particularly welcome.”

Said Pelavin: “Having the memo rescinded is quite positive. We’ve sent the message not only to the person who sent this memo, but to commanders throughout the military.”

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