Thursday, August 09, 2007

God and the Military

The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In the military, there are chaplains of different faiths that provide services for the military members. This is viewed as necessary to avoid the unjust denial of religion to active duty members, while avoiding the compelled attendance issue that could be seen as coercion to a particular religious tenet (that, and the military offers chaplains of any number of faiths; I've seen Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and even Muslim services).

The military also has a policy of not allowing its active duty members to appear in uniform at rallies, speeches, or anything else that could give the impression of military/government endorsement of said issue. One of the most recent examples of this occurred earlier this year, when the Marines threatened to downgrade a Marine on the IRR's honorable discharge for appearing at an anti-war rally in a stripped down uniform.

Imagine, then, what the military would do when faced with the issue of seven military members appearing in uniform in a Christian fundraising video. Faced with the very clear aspect of seven military officers, including four generals, in uniform, in video, to raise funds for the Christian Embassy, clearly endorsing one form of religion over all others, apparently oblivious to the First Amendment and the Military's restrictions, the military opted to, and I quote, "consider appropriate administrative action." Amazing. Scapegoating a Private, swift justice. Cover up a potential fragging, rush to the scene. Violate the First Amendment and Epperson's "Wall of separation," then we'll "consider appropriate administrative action."

Laughable. Perhaps most damning is the statement of one of the officers, who felt he had done nothing wrong. Apparently, he figured since the Christian Embassy has worked with the Pentagon before, working with them was "a sanctioned or endorsed activity." Apparently, he is unaware that as a government agent, he is not supposed to endorse one religion to the detriment of others. But what does he know? He's just an officer in the military. They aren't expected to think, or anything.

Let's be clear about something. There is nothing wrong with these people being Christians. There's nothing wrong with them supporting their religion. I have no issue with them helping this organization. The issue occurred because they appeared in uniform, and the lack of action to correct this endorsement/First Amendment violation is what is wrong.

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