Army Ditches Church’s Independence Day Event
A Georgia Army Honor Guard finds it dishonorable to appear at church, bowing to the new definition of “politically correct”
For the first time in nearly two decades, the U.S. Army will not provide an honor guard for a July 5 service at Abilene Baptist Church, a Georgia house of worship founded in 1774.
Officials at Fort Gordon, as well as the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, have determined the belated celebration of Independence Day constitutes a religious service, violating a military policy banning any participation in one. “While there are conditions under which the Army can participate in events conducted at a house of worship, we cannot participate in the context of a religious service,” Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews told Fox News’ Todd Starnes.
Army officials cited 2011 Army Regulation 360-1, a long-winded compendium of dos and don'ts that ostensibly prevents the Army from participating in any event that benefits religious groups, or supporting an event that promotes, endorses or sponsors any religious movement. The “God and Country” celebration does have a worship service component, but there is also a picnic with lots of red, white and blue decorations and patriotic music.
Moreover, the fort had provided an honor guard for the affair for nearly twenty years, and was comfortable charactering the Independence Day celebration as a patriotic event as recently as 2007, when the military designated the services as a “non-sectarian musical and patriotic program.” The military further characterized the program as 80% musical and 20% narration and additional patriotic elements. “Because this was not a religious service, our participation was permitted,” Matthews said.
Now the Army has changed its mind.
Brad Whitt, Abilene Baptist Church’s current pastor, was taken aback by the change. “It was an absolute shock,” he said. “What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America — when we cannot even allow the flags to fly if they are in a church building. We’ve had a tremendous working relationship with the fort. We’ve hosted all sorts of events for military families. We really try to show our love and respect and we try to honor our military folks.”
Whitt also believes there are greater forces at work here. “They have participated for the past two decades and now they are saying no,” he lamented. “This is just another example of the secularization of America.”
The pastor is on solid ground, and nothing buttresses that assertion better than a 2014 Washington Post article about who does get an honor guard. “Shortly after Dykes on Bikes rumble across the starting line of the Capital Pride parade in Dupont Circle on Saturday, an expected 150,000 spectators should witness something never before seen on an American city street — a U.S. Armed Forces color guard marching alongside rainbow flags in a gay pride parade,” the paper reported. This year an honor guard is slated to march in the 2015 Capital Pride parade as well.
Thus gays are in, and institutions exercising the freedom of religion — the idea that brought people to the New World in the first place — are out.
Adding insult to injury, Abilene Baptist Church is not just any Baptist church. The second oldest church in the entire state has ties to the Revolutionary War. Its founding pastor, Rev. Loveless Savage, who served the church from its inception in 1774 until 1791, was also a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army. Ironically, Savage was arrested by a colonial magistrate for “preaching in Georgia.”
Georgian native and retired Army Colonel Allen West is furious with the decision. “What could be more American, and could there be a better place for a U.S. Army Honor Guard to be present?” he writes. “After all, the U.S. Army birthday is on Flag Day and the motto of the Army is ‘This We’ll Defend’ — I cannot think of a more appropriate place for the Army to deploy an Honor Guard than to Abilene Baptist Church. Funny, the tradition comes to an end on the watch of the Obama administration — yet another example of the fundamental transformation of America?”
West cites the same seeming double-standard with regard to the Army’s participation in gay pride events, but he zeros in on the far more hypocritical stance of the Obama administration’s U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, which celebrated Independence Day on the Fourth of June to avoid a conflict with Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. “I want to know who made the decision to tell the U.S. embassy in Jakarta to move the 4th of July to the 4th of June?” West writes. “I want to know who gave the order that the celebration of American Independence on American sovereign territory had to be made subservient to Ramadan?”
Most Americans could make a pretty educated guess. Rev. Whitt bemoans his own politically engendered morass. “This is what we’ve come to in our nation — where even just representing the colors is some sort of political thing,” he states.
Maybe it’s time for Georgians and other Americans to exert a little political pressure of their own. Maybe it’s time they reminded Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Army Secretary John McHugh that thousands of soldiers have fought and died to protect this nation and its Constitution, a Constitution that doesn’t have a single word in it about separation of church and state, but does grant Americans freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
Maybe it’s time to remind them that an honor guard at an Independence Day celebration doesn’t even remotely resemble a “law respecting the establishment of a religion,” or anything else that could be construed as favoring one faith over another. It’s not too late to get the honor guard reinstated. If the Obama administration can accommodate Islam, it can certainly accommodate Christianity.
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