Monday, April 27, 2015

Coerced Oaths vs. Coerced Silence, by Whitney Galbraith

In his essay on House Bill 1425, which would compel all military oaths of allegiance to include "... So help me God," Barry Fagin laments (Gazette, April 23) that it would force military personnel "who cannot say those words in good conscience must either disobey, lie, or be drummed out of the armed forces as unfit for military service."

"Imaginary threat to religious freedom?" "Higher standards within the professional of arms?" "Freedom of conscience" for military members? The "horror of suffering, carnage and death " of co-mingling religious ends such as the "Crusades....and to ISIS?" I like to think, Barry, that you and I have read many of the same "history books that should not be ignored." But just what are those lessons?

You are no doubt correct that such legislation will not pass constitutional muster and that many of your fellow Americans will share your vision that the American military should not become an "Army of God."

But, is it fair for us to ask what motivates such a legislative initiative, even if "misbegotten." Could it be that HR 1425's sponsors share your vision of freedom of conscience and religious expression and fear for our liberties precisely as you do? Are they reacting just as you are reacting to perceived injustices?

Take, for instance, Navy Chaplain Lt. Commander Wes Modder, who was arbitrarily "fired" and physically removed from U.S. Naval Weapons Station, South Carolina, for daring to uphold his Christian beliefs regarding marriage and human sexuality.

Or, the campaign by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, whose mission is to give a “world-class human relations education” to convince military personnel that "The Bible, the Constitution and the Declaration Of Independence, All Perpetuate Sexism" and should not be referred to within the ranks.

Or, the Houston National Cemetery preventing Christian prayers from being said at military funerals and where the honor guard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars was prohibited from referring to "God."
Or, the Chief of Staff of the U. S. Air Force issuing a service-wide memorandum "Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion" forbidding commanders to "openly support" chaplain-run events which might lead to a "unit's morale, good order and discipline."

Or, when Walter Reed Medical Center attempted to physically ban the presence of Bibles as part of its official patient and visitor policy.

Or, when deployed soldiers in Afghanistan were ordered to remove crosses and cross-shaped windows on chapels while being ordered to keep chapel "religiously neutral (!)"

Or, when Army Master Sergeant Nathan Sommers, a U. S. Army Band member at Fort Myer, FL, was ordered to stop reading books by Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and David Limbaugh "while in uniform" and to refrain from serving Chick-Fil-A at his home promotion party.

Or, when an Army Chaplain's assistant in Colorado Springs was forced to remove from her personal Facebook account her "hostile and antagonistic" opinions regarding homosexual behavior and "holding to orthodox Biblical instruction."

Or, when Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was relieved of his duties at Lackland AFB and denied further access to base facilities, and subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for refusing to endorse same-sex marriage when ordered to by his commander, a self-proclaimed "lesbian."

Or, when a Catholic chaplain at the U. S. Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia, was threatened by the Department of Defense with arrest for celebrating Holy Mass on the base.

Or, when soldiers attending a counter-intelligence pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood were told by the command that soldiers who contributed to Christian or Tea Party organizations were "tearing the country apart" and that the soldiers would be subjected to disciplinary procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Or, when two chaplains were subjected to "months of abuse and ridicule" by the director of the San Diego VA-DOD Clinical Pastoral Education Center for their Biblical beliefs, forcing the two to withdraw from the facility.
Or, the DEOMI forcing the 158th Infantry Brigade at Camp Shelby, MS, to stop using the word "Christmas" to promote a Christmas football tournament.

Or, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, GA, refusing a student choral group permission to sing Christmas carols to veterans.

Or, the VA Medical Center in Dallas rejecting Christmas cards for veterans because of "unacceptable" language of "Merry Christmas" and God Bless you."

Or, a cadet at USAFA forced to remove a quote from Galateans 2:20 from his personal white board because it violated the Academy's "leadership" standards.

All of which, Barry, is but a sampling of the episodes that for many Americans represents a strategic frontal assault by the Department of Defense and unhappily the Services themselves, a campaign orchestrated by the Barack Obama administration whose command five years ago to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell is reaping its bitter fruit. You refer to ISIS metaphorically to describe what excessive religion can lead to. Allow me to walk that line with you for a moment. Do we dare to imagine a shortening of the gap between what is happening to Christians in the Muslim world and what we are seeing happening to Christians in our own country, in an attempt to redesign society itself by placing people of faith defined by their time-honored convictions in a ghetto from which they can never return - at least alive?

Tell us, Barry, as a seasoned political scientist with your understandable reaction to coerced oaths, where, in as pure a cause-and-effect paradigm as either of us can imagine, we should place your vocabulary of "threats," "good conscience," "higher standards," "horror of suffering," and "drumming out of the service." Should all the above service members enjoy the same "optional" speech, as is "....So help me God?"
Let's talk!

Whitney Galbraith
Colorado Springs