U.S. Navy Keeps the First Amendment Afloat

Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Villegas/Released

The U.S. Navy is sinking the hopes of secularists seeking to rid the military of religious freedom. Under the Obama administration, you may recall that attacks on religious freedom became so frequent that we began chronicling the incidents in a publication entitled, “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.”Hostility toward the Bible manifested in numerous ways such as the Navy Lodge program tossing nightstand Bibles, an officer being told to remove a Bible from his desk, to even a brief ban on Bibles for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. President Obama had created an environment of religious hostility that allowed far Left extremists at the Pentagon to engage in a search and destroy mission of religious freedom.

One of the most egregious incidents involved censors removing Bibles from “Missing Man” tables — which are commonly displayed at military functions and installations across the country with the express purposes of honoring those who never returned from war. Only after a massive campaign and more than 64,000 petitions signed by you and our friends within the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition did the Pentagon back down. As our own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said at the time, U.S. servicemen and women know the enemy — and the Bible isn’t it! And yet it required tens of thousands of petitions to pressure the government to come down on the side of the very freedoms our service members are fighting to defend.

Thankfully, we now have a commander-in-chief in President Trump who respects religious freedom and nearly one year ago signed an executive order defending religious freedom. So when militant secularists earlier this month demanded that the Navy remove a Bible from a “Missing Man” table inside the U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Rear Adm. Paul Pearigen refused. In a letter to the complaining secularists, the rear admiral wrote, “neither further review nor an investigation of this matter is necessary.” How refreshing to see the Navy keep the First Amendment afloat! Robbing those families of this display to make a political point would not only have been disturbing but unconstitutional.

While this news is encouraging, vigilance is required because a vestige of Obama-era religious hostility is embedded in the Pentagon bureaucracy. For example, an Army chaplain is facing punishment for declining to oversee a marriage retreat that included same-sex couple — even though his endorsing denomination and Army regulations require that he adhere to his denomination’s religious tenets. The Army only needs to reread the president’s executive order on religious liberty and then quickly issue an apology for threatening to punish a chaplain simply for doing his job.

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Even though the Left may have lost the White House, it continues to use government bureaucracy wherever it can to quarantine Christian faith within the walls of our churches. This is why we must use this opportunity under the Trump administration to fortify our freedoms so that our service members — and all Americans — will be free to live out their faith without the threat of government censorship or punishment.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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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