EDITORIAL: Pentagon prejudice

The military declares war on Christians

The administration continues to tie itself in knots to avoid offending Muslims, but offers no such courtesy to Christians. The latest example of official intolerance is the blocking of access on military bases to the Southern Baptists’ website because it contains “hostile content.”

The Department of Defense says this was a mistake and that overzealous Web filtering software was to blame, not the relatively conservative Baptist views on abortion and homosexual marriage. The department’s pattern of abuse over the past few years suggests otherwise. The poor computer gets blamed for everything.

The Pentagon recruited Michael L. Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to shape the military’s policies on religious tolerance. Mr. Weinstein gives extremism a bad name, demonstrating what he means by tolerance by persuading the military to disinvite distinguished Christian clergymen such as Franklin Graham, the son of the famous evangelist, from participating in a national day of prayer for the troops. “Franklin Graham is an Islamophobe,” writes Mr. Weinstein, “an anti-Muslim bigot and an international representative of the scourge of fundamentalist Christian supremacy and exceptionalism.” Mr. Weinstein sued to cancel the day of prayer in 2010.

Christian prayer is bad; Muslim events are OK. Last July, Leon E. Panetta, then the secretary of defense, was the featured guest at the Pentagon’s annual iftar dinner during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But the Roman Catholics are insulted like the Baptists. An Army Reserve training brief listed “Catholicism” and “Evangelical Christianity” with the Ku Klux Klan and al Qaeda as examples of “religious extremism.” The Pentagon, dogged by mistakes, brushed this off as an “isolated occurrence,” but the Archdiocese for Military Services asked the Department of Defense “to review these materials and to ensure that taxpayer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform.”

There are other examples of Pentagon intolerance of Christianity: crosses taken from a chapel in Afghanistan and a Pentagon war game that identified Christian groups as an enemy. Two years ago, Col. C.W. Callahan, the chief of staff of Walter Reed Hospital, set guidelines for visits to patients that prohibited the distribution of Bibles to the wounded. After protests the Bible ban was lifted. The Army even ordered soldiers to use a steel-wire brush to erase tiny Bible verses encoded into the serial numbers of Trijicon rifle scopes issued to troops. One says “2COR4:6” — referring to a biblical passage that says “Let light shine out of darkness” — in letters so tiny it would offend only a soldier who packs a magnifying glass in his rucksack.

We’ve come a long way from the more tolerant days of World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill once joined sailors on the deck of the USS Augusta to lustily sing all the verses of “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent his troops to the Normandy beaches with the message, “Let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

Congress should open an inquiry into these “isolated” incidents that have become a habit under President Obama. The administration must understand that religious freedom doesn’t require the elimination of the faith of our fathers — and the faith of the men and women who defend America.

The Washington Times

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