Protecting Religious Liberty In The Military Demands Vigilance | American Center for Law and Justice
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Protecting Military Religious Liberty

By Skip Ash1432751335761

We’ve been recently reminded of the fact that Christians need to remain alert to protect against the constant attacks mounted by religiously hostile groups and individuals directed at religious free exercise and the sharing of religious sentiments in the U.S. Armed Forces. We discussed the most recent incident—the attack by Mr. Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) against MajGen Craig Olson, USAF, for making comments of a religious nature at a Congressionally-sponsored National Day of Prayer event—just a week or so ago.

But, Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF are not the only ones hostile to religion in the military. Recently, a United States Marine was court-martialed, convicted, and given a less-than-honorable discharge because she had posted the following on her desk: “No weapon formed against me will prosper.” Her supervisor claimed that the statement was contrary to good order and discipline and ordered her to remove it. She refused to do so, and the rest is history. The crux of her appeal will hinge on whether the order she was given was a lawful order, since no soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine is required to obey an unlawful order. Given what I know of the facts from press reports (the Marine had not sought our assistance), it will be necessary to establish that actual—not potential or hypothetical—indiscipline occurred in her unit as a result of what she had posted.

The ACLJ is regularly contacted by chaplains, officers, and soldiers with discrimination and threats made against them and their carriers because of their Christian faith. These types of attacks are becoming more common every day.

Another example: I spoke about a year ago with a senior general officer who informed me that his predecessor in office had recommended that the incoming General avoid attending chapel services, because his attending chapel could be viewed by an impressionable subordinate as implicitly conveying to him the message that he, too, should attend chapel and, hence, could be considered “coercive.” What utter nonsense! The outgoing officer apparently didn’t consider that that argument cuts both ways—that it was equally as likely that an impressionable subordinate could view the general’s avoidance of chapel as something he was being expected to do and, therefore, “coercive.” This growing timidity about exercising one’s Constitutional rights is an outgrowth of the increasing militancy of anti-religious groups in this country which couch their fundamental hostility and opposition to religious expression by those in uniform in lofty phrases like “separation of church and state” and “the need to maintain good order and discipline.” What they are really seeking to do is to chip away relentlessly at the hard-won free exercise and free speech rights all Americans enjoy, including those in uniform. In truth, they really stand for freedom FROM religion.

The ACLJ recognizes that men and women in uniform, due to the unique nature of military society and its requirements, do live with significant limitations on the rights enjoyed by the rest of us. As such, we at the ACLJ believe that we must stand up for the members of the Armed Forces so that they can enjoy to the greatest extent possible every right guaranteed to them under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Those who oppose us on this issue are relentless and single-minded, so we must remain ever vigilant and equally determined in our responses. Whenever we engage them, we prevail. The MRFF, for example, has yet to prevail in court. That’s because its complaints misstate and misconstrue the Constitution and laws of the United States. That doesn’t mean, though, that such groups don’t wreak havoc in individual lives when they file (or threaten to file) lawsuit after lawsuit. Even bad lawsuits have to be defended, and the emotional burdens on Service Members (and their families) are significant in such circumstances.

We ask that you join us in praying for the safety of our men and women in uniform and that God will continue to grant us His favor as we fight on their behalf and for their rights!  

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