- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

America's military is under religious attack, and it’s rapidly reaching the stage where troop readiness is being compromised, said the executive vice president of the nonprofit Family Research Council.

The root of the attacks? Political correctness and post-September 11 tip-toeing around Muslims to avert accusations of a Christian crusade, said Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who served 36 years in the Army and who now holds a leadership position at the Christian-based, pro-family FRC.

He says America needs to be aware: The attacks on faith are indirectly putting the nation’s security at risk.

“[The attacks] will force religion to go underground and that will lead to retention problems,” he said. “People of faith will not stay in the military and people of faith will not join the military. … [What’s happening] is not about declining faith. It’s about the suppression of faith and the restrictions on faith. And that impacts the military’s readiness.”

FRC just published a 12-page report, “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military,” showcasing some of the most egregious cases of recent years in which service members were denied what FRC characterized as First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. Of note: The U.S. Air Force seems ground zero for the fight on faith.

“I think the Air Force is more problematic now, at least in terms of reported incidents,” Mr. Boykin said. That’s due in large part to the aggressiveness of 1977 U.S. Air Force Academy honor graduate, Mikey Weinstein, and the group he founded, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to fight back at certain shows of faith in the services, he said.


SEE ALSO: Defense Department classifies Catholics, evangelicals as extremists


Mikey’s group in 2005 began filing a series of lawsuits against the Air Force,” Mr. Boykin said.

The FRC details some of these suits in its report. But Mr. Weinstein said he’s only trying to uphold the ability of all service members to exercise their First Amendment rights – including the right to abstain from religion. And he said that the tens of thousands of military members who belong to his group appreciate his efforts, and thank him for saving them from religious coercion coming from the hands of higher ranks.

“We want everyone in the military to celebrate their faith,” Mr. Weinstein said. We just want those of faith to “follow [Department of Defense] regulations and directives … and our biggest concern is if you’re being even gently evangelized by your commander.”

Mr. Weinstein also holds a dim view of FRC, as well as other like-minded organizations that he says promote fundamentalist beliefs at the expense of secular law.

FRC, Focus on the Family, American Family Association … pretty much anything with the word ‘family’ in it … they live in a different space,” he said. “Their view is there is no time or place they can be restricted from [evangelizing]. We view them as outlaws. They’re no better than the Taliban.”

FRC, meanwhile, says the evidence speaks for itself.

Cases in its “Threat to Religious Liberty” study: In July 2011, Texas Rep. John Culberson went undercover and found that the Houston National Cemetery was prohibiting Christians from praying at military funerals, or making any reference to God. In a separate case just a couple weeks later, Air Force officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California pulled an ethics course for nuclear missile officers that had been conducted for 20 years, because it referenced biblical texts and Saint Augustine theories of just war.

In September 2011, FRC found, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center issued a policy banning Bibles. Outrage ensued, and the ban was later revoked. And then in November, the Air Force Academy Commandant of Cadets issued an apology – to Mr. Weinstein, the report says – for promoting a charity that gives toys to needy children at Christmas, called Operation Christmas Child. The group is affiliated with Rev. Franklin Graham’s charity, Samaritan Purse.

In February 2012, FRC said, the Air Force changed its Rapid Capabilities Office logo from “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money” to “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money,” in response to pressure from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. Interestingly, the logos were written in Latin, not English.

In March 2012, officials heading up a Pennsylvania Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training course on extremism listed “Evangelical Christianity” and “Catholicism” as examples of religious extremism. Also on the list: Al Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan, FRC found.

In January 2013, media reported that military officials ordered soldiers to remove a steeple and cover up cross-shaped windows at a make-shift chapel at the Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in Afghanistan, in order the keep the facility neutral and open to all religions.

In May 2013, an Air Force officer was ordered to take a Bible off his office desk in order to avoid appearances of “condoning a particular religion,” FRC reported. Also in May 2013, Air Force officials at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho took down an inspirational painting that was hanging in the cafeteria after complaints about the picture’s Christian cross and biblical quote. The FRC said Mr. Weinstein was the source of the complaint, made to a Pentagon official.

And in June 2013, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst officials in Trenton, N.J., were ordered to stop using a video that mentions “God,” because it might offend some. The deemed offensive quote: “On the eighth day, God looked down on His creation and said, ‘I need someone who will take care of the Airmen.’ So God created a First Sergeant.” One Air Force official quoted in the FRC report worried about how “an agnostic, atheist or Muslim serving in the military” would regard the video.

Mr. Boykin said such incidents are only growing more common.

“Thirty-six years in the military, and I never saw anything like this,” Mr. Boykin said. “Political correctness has really reached an all-time high. The big change is we have a lot of atheist groups now that are bent on destroying all religion in the military.”

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