Congress Pulls Rank in Military Debate

By Tony Perkins

There may not be atheists in foxholes, but there sure are a lot of quiet Christians. With religious freedom under attack in America’s military, most troops are scared to even talk about their beliefs. And who can blame them? Under President Obama, the military censors chaplains’ sermons, but builds Wiccan fire pits for cadets. It tells commanders to strip God out of an online article, while its missile defense staff spends hours surfing pornography at work. It tears down POW displays for its Bibles, but lets soldiers march in uniform in gay pride parades.

Slowly but surely, our brave servicemen and women are losing the very rights they’re fighting to protect. FRC is determined to change that. Over the past few years, we’ve been on the front lines of the military religious freedom debate — trying to restore the constitutional ground lost under this administration. Today, the House Armed Services Committee took a positive step toward resolving the crisis by hosting a special “Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services” hearing.

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Hosted by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Congress took a deeper look at the climate of hostility toward faith and the need for clearer policy guidance on the subject. “Historically,” Rep. Wilson explained, “the Armed Forces have supported religiousfreedom and accommodated service member’s religious beliefsand practice when possible. I believe we can maintain a properbalance between religious accommodations and militaryreadiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.”

FRC attorney Travis Weber, Director of our Center for Religious Liberty, had the opportunity to testify, along with our friends from Liberty Institute and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former Navy pilot, Travis has a unique perspective on the sea change taking place in our nation’s fighting force. “Religion,” Travis told members of the Committee, “simply cannot be sectioned off into neat little compartments in our lives; it is integral to addressing all aspects of the human experience — including how we approach the issues of death and danger central to military service… How can we ask servicemen and women to do a job which is so incredibly difficult, while at the same time divorcing them from the very spiritual resources they need to accomplish this job?”

While congressional conservatives have been zeroing in on the abuses, the Defense Department insists that the problems aren’t nearly as widespread as service members suggest. FRC begged to disagree with hundreds of real-life examples, which we documented in “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.” Although the 113th Congress is coming to a close, this afternoon’s hearing put down an important marker for a conversation we hope to continue next year.

With knee-jerk censorship affecting everything from Navy Lodge Bibles to Air Force Cadet white-boards, the time to protect our military’s First Amendment rights is now. It’s time for the Defense Department to bring their policies in line with the religious protections Congress passed. If they won’t, maybe the new conservative leadership in the House and Senate will persuade them. To watch Travis’s testimony, click here.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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