Right Opinion

Congress Pulls Rank in Military Debate

Tony Perkins · Nov. 20, 2014

There may not be atheists in foxholes, but there sure are a lot of quiet Christians. With religious freedom under attack in America’s military, most troops are scared to even talk about their beliefs. And who can blame them? Under President Obama, the military censors chaplains’ sermons, but builds Wiccan fire pits for cadets. It tells commanders to strip God out of an online article, while its missile defense staff spends hours surfing pornography at work. It tears down POW displays for its Bibles, but lets soldiers march in uniform in gay pride parades.

Slowly but surely, our brave servicemen and women are losing the very rights they’re fighting to protect. FRC is determined to change that. Over the past few years, we’ve been on the front lines of the military religious freedom debate – trying to restore the constitutional ground lost under this administration. Today, the House Armed Services Committee took a positive step toward resolving the crisis by hosting a special “Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services” hearing.

Hosted by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Congress took a deeper look at the climate of hostility toward faith and the need for clearer policy guidance on the subject. “Historically,” Rep. Wilson explained, “the Armed Forces have supported religiousfreedom and accommodated service member’s religious beliefsand practice when possible. I believe we can maintain a properbalance between religious accommodations and militaryreadiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.”

FRC attorney Travis Weber, Director of our Center for Religious Liberty, had the opportunity to testify, along with our friends from Liberty Institute and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former Navy pilot, Travis has a unique perspective on the sea change taking place in our nation’s fighting force. “Religion,” Travis told members of the Committee, “simply cannot be sectioned off into neat little compartments in our lives; it is integral to addressing all aspects of the human experience – including how we approach the issues of death and danger central to military service… How can we ask servicemen and women to do a job which is so incredibly difficult, while at the same time divorcing them from the very spiritual resources they need to accomplish this job?”

While congressional conservatives have been zeroing in on the abuses, the Defense Department insists that the problems aren’t nearly as widespread as service members suggest. FRC begged to disagree with hundreds of real-life examples, which we documented in “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.” Although the 113th Congress is coming to a close, this afternoon’s hearing put down an important marker for a conversation we hope to continue next year.

With knee-jerk censorship affecting everything from Navy Lodge Bibles to Air Force Cadet white-boards, the time to protect our military’s First Amendment rights is now. It’s time for the Defense Department to bring their policies in line with the religious protections Congress passed. If they won’t, maybe the new conservative leadership in the House and Senate will persuade them. To watch Travis’s testimony, click here.

The Altar Not Ours to Alter

“This Marriage is not ours to alter. It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate…this we affirm.” These were the final words recited from a new affirmation on marriage at the conclusion of the three-day conference of international religious leaders at the Vatican on the complementarity of man and woman.The atmosphere was almost euphoric as the attendees from six of the world’s seven continents broke from the historic gathering to return to their respective nations renewed in their stand for marriage.

As I shared with reporters earlier in the day, anyone who cares about the well-being of children, the well-being of men and women, and the well-being of society as a whole cannot help but be encouraged by what happened in Rome this week. Stepping away from the U.S. media’s incessant spin that the redefinition of marriage is inevitable and corporate America’s capitulation to cultural extortionists was refreshing.

While there is no question the institution is in trouble, the roots of marriage go deeper than the moral drought that our nation is experiencing. Man did not create marriage; God, the evidence of which is seen in every country and every culture, created marriage. The courts may declare otherwise, and Hollywood may depict its demise, but the union of a man and a woman as the natural and enduring definition of marriage will endure until the end.

“Marriage,” the gathering resolved, “is no mere symbol of achievement, but the very foundation – a base from which to build a family and from there a community. For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh.”

Those who didn’t attend this week’s Colloquium in person can get a sense of it from a beautiful six-part film series on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage, now available online. For more on the week’s events, don’t miss CNS News’s coverage, including an interview I had with Penny Starr this morning, here.

The Mourning After

As frustrating as the government’s crackdown on faith is here at home, it’s nothing compared to the horror taking place overseas. In countries like Israel, religious intolerance is – and has been – a life and death issue for millions of innocent people. Yesterday, five of those innocents – including three Americans – lost their lives in a bloody and senseless attack of a local Jerusalem synagogue. Men wielding axes, knives, and guns stormed the house of worship, which ended in the deadliest rampage seen in the city since 2008.

Pope Francis, who was with us at the marriage conference in Rome, took time out of the Colloquium to call for peace. “To build peace is difficult, but to live without it is torment.” Our hearts and prayers go out to the Israeli people, who continue to suffer at the hands of an intolerant and indifferent world. Last night, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer joined us on “Washington Watch” to talk about the religious struggle that continues to destroy lives – and a nation’s hope. This is once again a reminder that we must both pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem. To hear what Ambassador Dermer had to say, listen here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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