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Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel 2

The Gazette’s Ambiguous Position on Religious Liberty

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Tom Roeder recently published an article titled, “Iconic Air Force Academy cadet chapel to close for four years to fix leaking spires.” In this article, Roeder cogently discussed the problematic events that caused Air Force officials to make the decision to close Colorado’s most iconic building in late 2018.

Roeder is the Gazette’s senior military editor, and is responsible for covering seven military installations. Notwithstanding Roeder’s appellation, and responsibilities, it would be incumbent upon him to carefully elucidate the difference between fact and fallacy the next time he mentions religious freedom. In the article, Roeder asserts [emphasis added]:

Religion is a big deal at the academy and other military bases but not for the reasons one might suspect. The services are barred from evangelism, and promotion of faith is restricted, but the academy like the rest of the military must care for the religious needs of troops under federal law.

Roeder did not explicitly articulate what he meant by “services.” If Roeder was referring to each branch of the Armed Services, then he would be correct, since each branch of the Armed Services cannot establish one religion over another. Since Roeder neglected to articulate what he meant by “services,” this article will address the implications of asserting that evangelism and promoting faith are restricted without clarification.

Roeder is correct when he asserts that religion is a big deal at the academy and other military bases. Religion is a sincerely held belief that is characterized by ardor and faith. There are many Airmen that find solace in religion. However, Roeder is patently false if he intended to assert that religious services, or service members are restricted from evangelizing and promoting their faith. If Roeder is going to cover a story, it would have been advantageous for him to quote one of the chaplains, cite a specific policy, or clarify his argument that would substantiate his assertion.

There is nothing in the United States Constitution, rules, laws, or military regulations that prohibit service members or religious services from evangelizing or promoting their faith. If Roeder’s intent was to imply that service members or religious services are prohibited from evangelizing and promoting their faith—then Christians in the military would have their constitutional liberties abridged, since evangelism and promoting faith is an indispensable command (Matt. 28:18-20).

There are anti-Christian advocacy groups like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation that would concur with Roeder’s ambiguous assertion. Despite the injudicious and ill-founded attacks on religious liberty, evangelize and propagating faith are permitted. This is why Roeder needs to clarify his assertion.

Military service members and chaplains are permitted to evangelize, and promote their faith while serving in uniform. In fact, service members should be encouraged to do so, especially if their sincerely held theological convictions mandate them to do so. As a military chaplain, I evangelize, and promote my faith about Jesus Christ every time I put on a uniform, and I encourage other Airmen who share my faith convictions to do the same.

Nathan Newman, who serves as an officer in the Air Force Reserve Chaplain Corps, responded to Roeder’s article with a guest column at the Gazette which concurs my argument:

The column makes a common, albeit subtle, mistake when it comes to understanding religious freedom. The religious services at the academy and the chaplains who serve those religious rites are not barred from evangelism. Chaplains serving cadets in this capacity are not restricted from promoting their faith.

In fact, they would be erring in their duty if they were not acting in accordance with their religious endorsers. Air Force Instruction 52-101 4.2.2.1. says, “Leading Worship. Chaplains conduct worship services consistent with the tenets of their respective endorsing religious organization.”

Roeder and the leadership team of the Gazette must be adjured to either clarify, or redact their article without equivocation because of the following implications.

First, Roeder has not clarified his ambiguous assertion regarding his alleged evangelism and propagating faith prohibition.

Second, religious liberty is pertinent to many service members since it is an inviolable liberty that is protected by the First Amendment. There are voluminous Christians that are serving at military installations across the US, and abroad. Do their constitutional liberties matter? Absolutely! When the Gazette publishes an indistinct article that could be misconstrued to mean that service members or religious services cannot espouse their sincerely held beliefs, they must consider the implications their article may have on Airmen who exercise their faith. Religious liberty could be suppressed!

Lastly, the leadership team at the Gazette must be reminded that they pride themselves on being: “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism, EST. 1872.” If the Gazette fails to respond to this article by failing to clarify or redact Roeder’s ambiguous and broached assertion regarding his alleged evangelism and faith propagating prohibition—they could be sending a message to all of their readers and service members that religious liberty for Christians in the Armed Forces really does not matter.



 

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