Followers of Ásatrú in the US military just won another victory for religious freedom.
Numerous religions are officially recognised by the US military, but those practicing Ásatrú have had their share of struggles. In an article by Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried on the Norse Mythology Blog, though, another step forward for religious freedom on the military was taken, as the US Department of Defense has just accepted a new “Heathen Resource Guide for Chaplains”.
The guide was written by the Open Halls Project Working Group, an organisation “set up to connect military heathens with civilian and military heathens throughout the world.” According to Josh Heath, one of the founders of the Open Halls Project:
Over the last year, we worked to get details about our request to get Heathen and Ásatrú added to the religious preference list. The head of the Department of Defense working group focused on developing a new system for those preferences asked us to produce a document explaining the basics of Heathenry.
We produced a document for him modeled on the Army Chaplain’s Handbook excerpt for Wicca. This basic framework assisted us in developing information that was generally applicable to the largest amount of Heathens possible. When we submitted this document to the chaplain who had requested it, he suggested a few changes which we inserted into the document. This document acts as a basic information sheet for any chaplain that might find himself or herself working with a Heathen service member.
A working group was selected to develop the document and they put their noses to the grindstone. This work is a product of the Open Halls Project and we would appreciate it being attributed to the organization, but it may be shared freely to all who might find it useful.
The resource guide is one of a number of victories for Ásatrú-practicing US soldiers in recent years. Thor’s Hammer was recently made a part of the “available emblems of belief for placement on government headstones and markers” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Ásatrú and Heathenism were also both added to the religious preference list of the U.S. Air Force.
The US Army, however, was a bit slow on the uptake, and have only now accepted the Resource Guide for Army chaplains. As such, heathen Army soldiers now have recourse in being able to turn to a chaplain who has some understanding of Ásatrú, should the need arise. There is not, however, yet any official recognition of an Ásatrú chaplain in the US military.
CORRECTION: This article originally reported that Ásatrú-practicing soldiers can now visit chaplains of their own faith. This is incorrect, and the article has been updated accordingly. The Grapevine apologises for this error.