soldiers, pray

Why are members of Congress proposing laws prohibiting the Obama Administration from denying America’s military the freedom of religion that they fight to defend? For example, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) would forbid the federal government from withholding funds from military groups that engage in voluntary religious activity. Her measure is called the Freedom to Pray Act.

Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) condemns the Administration for threatening to veto legislation that would guarantee members of the military the right to freely express their religious beliefs, Politico magazine reports. “We have reports of servicemen and women being told that, ‘If you share your faith with others, you will face disciplinary action and perhaps court martial,’” said Cruz. “The idea that we would say to men and women who are risking their lives that they have to check their First Amendment rights at the door and give up the right to speak the truth and to speak and defend their faith -- it’s wrong and it’s unconstitutional.”

Congressman John Fleming (R-Louisiana) would require the Pentagon to recognize “conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs of” America’s military." The White House Office of Management and Budget says such legislation would limit the “discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units.”

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) calls for “protection of rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces and chaplains.” His legislation "clarifies that expressions of belief that do not have an adverse impact on military readiness, good order, and discipline are to be accommodated." The Pentagon responds that no religious group has been singled out for persecution and that “service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).”

That does not settle the issue, says Mollie Hemingway in the Wall Street Journal. "For one thing, the Pentagon statement clarifying that military personnel would not be court-martialed if they 'evangelize' also said that 'proselytization' is considered a Uniform Code of Military Justice offense. Yet the definitions of those two words are almost identical: Merriam-Webster defines proselytization as 'to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause' and evangelize as 'to preach the gospel to or to convert to Christianity.' "

“Our servicemen and women put their lives on the line every day in order to protect our constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the expression of our beliefs. Congress must ensure that we are protecting them as well," says Lee. Landrieu became alarmed after she heard the Young Marines program in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, could lose its federal money because there was voluntary prayer and the mention of God. According to the Young Marines of the Marine Corps League website, members must agree to "keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith" and to pledge that "I shall never do anything that would bring disgrace or dishonor upon my God, my Country and its flag, my parents, myself or the Young Marines.” Opponents of such legislation pooh-poohed any need for special protection. "I think that Landrieu's Freedom to Pray bill is unnecessary, in that voluntary prayer is always allowed," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Louisiana office. Meanwhile, a Pentagon faith policy adviser says the problem is that sharing the Gospel is an act of treason. Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the anti-Christian Military Religious Freedom Foundation, calls evangelicals "fundamentalist Christian monsters."

One of Weinstein’s board members, Larry Wilkerson, compares sharing the Gospel to an act of rape. "Sexual assault and proselytizing are absolutely destructive ... This is a national security threat," Wilkerson says. "What is happening is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.”

The Obama Administration called in their group to help the Pentagon produce a document that instructs military leaders “at all levels" that 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." Noncompliance, even by chaplains, could result in a court-martial.

“If the rights of our military heroes are stripped away, how long will it be until all of us will be forced to keep silent about our faith in the public square?” asks Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “The aggressive anti-Christian actions of the Obama administration are real, documented and escalating.”