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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Religion, Citizenship, and the Armed Forces

At the 2010 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Lyman Smith of the University of South Florida and Charlotte E. Hunter of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute are presenting a paper titled " Strategies of Patriotism and Citizenship: Religious Minorities and the All Volunteer Force."

An individual’s propensity to serve in the U.S. military is a function both of personal inclination and the support a person receives from his or her community of identity. Historically, marginalized/minority religious communities of identity in the U.S. have encouraged their best and brightest to pursue military service as one means by which the community can be recognized as worthy of juridical and sociopolitical citizenship and associated rights and privileges. Individuals who receive community encouragement and successfully pursue military service experience a measure of upward social mobility and inclusion, and in turn their service benefits the religious community – as well as the U.S. population at large – by casting the individual’s community of identity in good light, as a source of those who provide honorable service. This paper explores issues surrounding attainment of juridical and sociopolitical citizenship through military service, with a focus on members of minority religious communities, recognizing that just as globalization has altered marginalized/minority community dynamics and the advent of the All Volunteer Force has altered perspectives of military service, so too have the expectations of individuals, who belong to such communities changed with regard to military service. The challenge of retaining distinctive identity markers that set an individual at odds with the strict standards of uniformity demanded by the military system may dissuade communities of religious identity from supporting members who wish to serve, even to the point of creating disincentives to serve. In exploring a model of citizenship that may work best within a religiously and culturally diverse society – as opposed to the assimilationist model of citizenship currently espoused by the armed forces – the military may discover means of increasing representation in its ranks.