Culture challenge of the week: Religious freedom in the military
America's military is the most trusted institution in our country. According to a Gallup poll, Americans rank the military at the top of our societal institutions, with 76 percent placing "a great deal" or "a lot" of confidence in it. We trust our service members. We know they not only protect us physically but also represent our collective commitment to freedom — including religious freedom.
But our military men and women are in President Obama's cross hairs. He's taking aim at their religious freedom, unapologetically so. Is it any wonder that less than half of our citizenry places its trust in our presidency?
Religious freedom has been a generally escalating issue under the Obama regime. The squeeze of "Obamacare" on the conscience rights of religious employers, hospitals and nonprofits, for example, shows no signs of abating. And as the gay lobby wields increasing influence within the administration — shaping Pentagon policies on open homosexuality in the military and pushing for same-sex weddings in military facilities — the progressives' hostility toward religious believers grows ever more bold.
The current target? Conscience rights of military chaplains and believers.
The left has long aimed to "sanitize" the military academies from even the scent of religiosity. The latest controversy reaches beyond the academies. It has erupted over the National Defense Authorization Act — a piece of vital legislation that included provisions designed to placate gay-rights activists who sought to limit the ability of religious believers to speak or act in accord with their beliefs.
The House recently passed an amendment to the act, which strengthens conscience protections for religious believers. While the earlier version of the bill protected only "belief," the new version protects religious beliefs, speech and actions.
Sen. Mike Lee, the Utah Republican who sponsored a similar amendment in the Senate, explains why it's so important to protect the religious freedoms of our military personnel. "Our servicemen and women put their lives on the line every day in order to protect our constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the expression of our beliefs. Congress must ensure that we are protecting them as well."
Who could object to that?
The White House, apparently. The administration "strongly objects" to the religious freedom amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, arguing that allowing military personnel to be open about their religious belief would have a "significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment." Gay-rights activists claim that conscience provisions "would allow service members to promote anti-gay beliefs without fear of discipline."
The presidential protests are no surprise, really, given the oppressive actions of the Obama-controlled Pentagon to root out religious expression in the military, or at least send it underground. The administration's efforts are not only contrary to rights guaranteed by our First Amendment, but also portray an administration hellbent on muzzling religious expression (especially by Christians).
All this is from a president who campaigned on "hope." Where, exactly, does he think hope comes from? We place our trust in whom? Oh, right. Not God, but Obama.
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We can't forget the truth: Hope comes from God. And hope that will not be disappointed is rooted in deep faith in our creator, not the platitudes of an ordinary man — not even the president.
It's ironic that the left's hostility to religion is ingrained so deeply that it fails to see the significance of religious belief in the lives of our brave soldiers. It is precisely their faith that soldiers turn to in their most desperate moments — and they often find miracles when hope is difficult to summon.
What kind of leadership puts people on a mission in which they face death, and then tells them to hide the source of their strength? It is a sobering question that reveals how prevalent evil is in the policies of the current administration.
As believers, we have every reason to hope. We know the welfare of this country does not rely solely on our own efforts, but ultimately on a God who cares deeply about each one of us. May God keep us determined, strong and faithful in protecting the religious freedom of our service members. To do less makes us unworthy of their service and sacrifices.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.