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.
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.”
“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.