GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The commander of this remote outpost said late Wednesday he would move two Nativity scenes from U.S. troops’ cafeterias to the base chapel, ending a daylong controversy triggered by some troops who protested to the Pentagon in secret.
“No one’s ever complained to me about it. We’ve been doing it for 10 years,” said Capt. J.R. Nettleton, commander of the Navy base, which has a school, a golf course and about 6,000 residents, one-third of them civilian contract workers from Jamaica and the Philippines.
He said he took a look at the two crèches in the dining rooms and concluded the more suitable place was, as recommended, in the base chapel on a hilltop above the McDonald’s. “The spirit of the Navy’s policy on this is, if it’s religious, it goes to the chapel,” Nettleton said.
A total of 18 U.S. service members stationed here, five of them officers, appealed to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation after a secret meeting this week about what to do with the crèches and other Christmas decorations that festoon the main prison and dining rooms, the rights group’s president, Mikey Weinstein, said Wednesday.
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He said eight of the protesting U.S. troops work inside the detention-center zone that this week held more than 150 Muslim prisoners. Weinstein said the protesters included 11 Christians, and said the other seven included Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists from a variety of services, including the Army and Navy.
Nettleton said he wished they had come to him directly, noting that base residents have a way to register complaints anonymously too.