Over the past year, I have written several articles on these pages about how unwelcome Christians and conservatives are in the new Obama military. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the open military service of homosexuals in the military, and former Defense Secretary Panetta’s lifting of the ban on women in combat beginning in 2016, makes the United States military an increasingly unwelcome (and hazardous) environment for more conservative and/or Christian believers. Moreover, the increasing high number of sexual assaults on both male and female military personnel makes the military a dangerous place, and not merely from enemy soldiers and combatants. Accordingly, after decades of encouraging young people to consider the military, several years ago, I came to the sad conclusion that the military should not longer be an option for Christian and more conservative young people.
In light of the manufactured pain of President Obama’s “Sequester,” military leaders complain that those budget cuts will hurt the morale of troops, military readiness, and damage the Pentagon’s ability to recruit an all-volunteer force, even though they continue to purchase “green” jet fuel that is almost sixteen times the price of conventional jet fuel. So, while the Sequester may be blamed by the generals and Obama political appointees at the Pentagon for what I suspect will prove to be an increasing inability to recruit an all-volunteer military force, there may be a lesser known Pentagon measure that can make recruiting far worse.
According to numerous press reports, President Obama Pentagon appointees met privately on April 23, 2013, with Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”) officials, a decidedly anti-Christian group, to develop court-martial procedures to punish Christians in the military (including chaplains) who express or share their faith with others. (Yes, to let the full gravity of that sentence sink in, please re-read that last sentence.) This arises from a military policy called “Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards,” published on Aug. 7, 2012.
Section 2.11 of that Air Force regulation states:
Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.
MRFF president, Michael L. (Mikey) Weinstein, Esq., in an interview with Fox News, stated that U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished – by the hundreds if necessary – to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.” Mr. Weinstein observed, “Someone needs to be punished for this. Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.” Mr. Weinstein further wrote in the Huffington Post, “Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.” (Read Mr. Weinstein’s full article here.) He further compared the act of Christian proselytization to rape. Mr. Weinstein told Fox News, “It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators. When those people [isn’t that dehumanizing term itself, Mr. Weinstein?] are in uniform and they believe there is no time, place or manner in which they can be restricted from proselytizing, they are creating tyranny, oppression, degradation, humiliation and horrible, horrible pain upon members of the military.” So, there you have it!
Now in more normal times, that would be just one man’s ignorant and bigoted opinion, but it does seem to resonate with Obama political appointees and sycophantic generals at the Pentagon. And we will see whether the military will actually enforce its own guidelines (I suspect that they will try), or whether any federal judge will affirm such a court-martial on First Amendment free speech grounds. However, the Pentagon did confirm to Fox News that Christian evangelism is now against regulations. “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense,” Commander Nate Christensen said in a written statement. He did decline to say if any chaplains or service members had been prosecuted for such an offense. “Court Martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases.” Several days later, realizing that the military had opened a proverbial hornet’s nest, the Pentagon indicated on May 2nd that, of course, evangelization is still permitted, but the rights of all believers and non-believers will be protected from aggressive proselytizing. Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley clarified the Air Force position: “When on duty or in an official capacity, Air Force members are free to express their personal religious beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable.” (Emphasis added.) Could the mere presence of a Bible passively on a sergeant’s desk, or a “I LOVE JESUS” bumper sticker to a lieutenant’s car make someone “feel uncomfortable?”
Ron Crews, the executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, warned that the Air Force policy would “significantly impact the religious liberties of Air Force personnel. Saying that a service member cannot speak of his faith is like telling a service member he cannot talk about his spouse or children. I do not think the Air Force wants to ban personnel from protected religious speech, and I certainly hope that it is willing to listen to the numerous individuals and groups who protect military religious liberty without demonizing service members.” Perhaps that is what the American people voted for last November. But for Obama Pentagon officials and some of their high-ranking officer minions, the problems facing our military seem less likely to be Islamic terrorists in our midst and abroad, but those really pesky evangelistic Christian believers. Of course, they are only sharing with others about the most important decision and relationship of their lives. But again, I warn: Christian and/or conservative young people, you would be prudent to find something better to do than to join our military! For those of us who are signers of the Manhattan Declaration, it also seems to me that we are growing closer to the day when civil disobedience will be necessary.