Religious Freedom Watch: Chilling Protected Religious Speech In The Military

Todd Starnes reports

The Obama Administration “strongly objects” to a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have protected the religious rights of soldiers – including evangelical Christian service members who are facing growing hostility towards their religion.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) cites the following as examples of such chilling of protected speech.

  • The Air Force censored a video created by a chaplain because it includes the word “God.” The Air Force feared the word might offend Muslims and atheists.
  • A service member received a “severe and possibly career-ending reprimand” for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
  • An enlisted service member received a career-ending punishment for sending personal invitations to his promotion party that mentioned that he would be providing Chick-fil-A sandwiches due to his respect for the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • A senior military official at Fort Campbell sent out a lengthy email officially instructing officers to recognize “the religious right in America” as a “domestic hate group” akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis because of its opposition to homosexual behavior.
  • A chaplain was relieved of his command over a military chapel because, consistent with DOMA’s definition of marriage, he could not allow same-sex weddings to take place in the chapel.
  • An enlisted service member was threatened and denied promotion by a senior NCO for expressing – during a personal conversation – his religious belief in support of traditional marriage.

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Here’s a related post on the HB.

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    • It is, but to be fair, it’s a lot more difficult to be an evangelical pastor in a mainline denomination than to be an evangelical chaplain in the military.

      An evangelical chaplain in the Army or the Air Force is likely to find his services filled since our military is largely recruited from conservative Southern communities and smaller rural towns in the north. Urban recruits to the military are more likely to be black or Hispanic, and they’re also more likely than the average urban northerner to be churchgoers. Even if the evangelical chaplain’s supervisors don’t share his faith, numbers count, and a successful chaplain with many people attending his services probably will have fewer problems than he would face in the RCA or the CRC.

      The Navy, unfortunately, has a whole host of additional problems that affect their chaplaincy.

  1. Ah, I’m not really concerned about divine services per se. More about services rendered in general. Ain’t no freedom to introduce theological truth in counseling or other mundane activities, nor is prayer very workable, as I see it. Not being a minister, I only speak of what I see on the receiving end, of course.

  2. I was on the receiving end, too, Rob, attended military chapel services for a number of years. The Protestant chaplains I ran into, with a few exceptions) had an allergy to Reformed doctrine–most considered it “divisive” to the general Anabaptist theology which evangelical chaplains are steeped in.

  3. The government is telling Christians it doesn’t need our help. It’s high time we listened. Next time they want to invade a foreign country for dubious reasons, our betters in the Greater DC area can do it with their own sons (and daughters).

  4. These days there’s absolutely no way I would encourage anyone to join the military for any reason. The people of God have no business serving as hired guns for the imperial Congress and its wars of world domination. Here’s a great recent article on that subject:

    Having said that, there was a time years ago when I was very militaristic and actually considering becoming a military chaplain. Someone much more informed on the subject than I, who I don’t even believe was a Christian, mentioned in passing that military chaplains have to be ecumenical. In other words, a Protestant chaplain might be forced to provide religious services to a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness or a practicing Jew. That’s completely contrary to the Word of God (see 2 John 1:10), so thankfully I never enlisted.

    • There’s a difference between providing and performing.

      A Protestant chaplain obviously cannot “perform” religious worship for Roman Catholics because no Protestant can celebrate the Mass. It’s not a matter of whether the Protestant chaplain wants to or not; it is not possible because under a Roman Catholic understanding of ordination, the Protestant is not validly ordained by a bishop with apostolic succession and cannot celebrate the Mass even if he wants to do so.

      To “provide” religious worship involves such things as a Protestant chaplain telling a Catholic (or Jew, or Eastern Orthodox, or whatever else) where the appropriate chapel service is being held, or conversely, a Roman Catholic chaplain assisting with logistics in helping a group of evangelicals get a location for a Bible study and announce their activities. Since much of the ministry of a chaplain involves counseling and mentoring and other sorts of work in which faith is essential to what the chaplain does, it also means referring a servicemember to an appropriate chaplain if the original chaplain cannot in good conscience provide what the servicemember needs or wants.

      I don’t see a problem with that given our current ecclesiastical and political situation in the United States.

      I’m well aware the devil is in the details and there have been real problems, especially in some Navy chapel contexts. However, I see no realistic alternative to a military chaplaincy system in a deployed situation, or in garrison environments in non-English speaking countries.

  5. Well, Nick, there are some Christians, (such as me) in the military who disagree with you on the issue whether Christians can serve in the military. And we would point you to the works of Luther, among others, on whether the military is a lawful vocation.

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