Recently the Army published a human interest story (see Soldier fights for her life to serve in US Army | Article | The United States Army) about a young woman from Iraq who had escaped an abusive family situation and, with the help of American soldiers, had been able to travel to the United States, where she was given asylum. She had ultimately enlisted in the U.S. Army in large part because of the kindness she had been shown by the American soldiers she had encountered in Iraq. She felt that she owed a debt to the country that had taken her in and to the U.S. Army whose soldiers had given her help when she was most vulnerable.
It is quite an inspiring story of overcoming obstacle after obstacle to achieve personal success as an American soldier and become an example for future young women in the U.S. Army.
Despite overcoming significant obstacles and achieving goals that serve as examples to other women in similar circumstances, a particularly militant anti-Christian group – that vehemently targets Christian soldiers (even calling Christians in the military “monsters who terrorize”) under the guise of protecting religious freedom in the military – took issue with this female soldier’s personal story of hope. It penned a scathing letter to the Acting Secretary of the Army, characterizing the article as “hideously and blatantly Islamophobic,” “a wretched yet clear example of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, domination, and exclusivism,” “a particularly horrid example of anti-Muslim bigotry and prejudice,” and “racist, bigoted filth” and demanding that the article be removed immediately from the Army’s website.
So, why all the fuss? Because as part of her personal story she related how God had intervened in her life at some of her lowest moments, how Jesus had appeared to her in her time of need, how a Christian chaplain using a parable had opened her eyes, leading her to embrace the Christian faith. Each of these instances was shared as part of her personal life’s story, but that was simply too much for this extreme anti-Christian group.
Rather than recognize that in our society people are free to convert from one religion to another and that they may also share their life’s experiences freely, this group would rather silence her and cancel a Christian soldier. It would be fine to praise American soldiers for how they aided the young woman in getting to America; but to this group, all language about religion is simply out of bounds.
In fact, according to this group, putting the religious portion of her story on an Army website violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That is, of course, utter nonsense for a number of reasons. First, the religious statements in the article were private sentiments, made by an individual, not the government. Second, as the Supreme Court aptly noted in Capitol Square Rev. & Advisory Bd. v. Pinette, religious speech is not simply “as protected by the Constitution as other forms of private speech,” but rather “private religious expression receives preferential treatment . . . .”
So, in response to this anti-Christian group’s demand letter, we sent the Acting Army Secretary a letter defending the right of soldiers to share facts from their lives that include religion.
This particular anti-Christian group, despite the terms “Religious Freedom” in its name, actually aims to excise religious expression from the military. It does not pursue freedom of religion; it pursues freedom from religion. Its goal is strict (meaning virtually total) removal of religious expression from the Armed Services of the United States. Accordingly, we at the ACLJ must take a stand to defend the religious rights of Service Members, the very people who daily put their lives on the line to protect those same constitutional freedoms for us.
The ACLJ stands for the rights of free exercise of religion and free expression of religious sentiments for the men and women who serve our nation in uniform, and we will continue to respond to unwarranted attacks by anti-Christian groups such as this one that seek to extinguish such rights for those in uniform.
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