Michael Berry, senior counsel at the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty in America, said recent high-profile cases of military chaplains facing punishment for private counseling sessions that reflected the teachings of their religion could cause devout Americans who are qualified for military service to think twice about joining the military.
In December, a chaplain for a Ranger training battalion received an administrative letter of concern after a soldier complained that he advocated Christianity and used the Bible during a mandatory unit suicide-prevention training session. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers said the chaplain “used his official position to force his personal religious beliefs on a captive military audience” in an article the group posted on its website.
And, last month, a Navy chaplain was removed from his post and may lose his career after some sailors complained about his private counseling, in which he reportedly advocated against homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.
“People of faith are going to stay away from the military,” said Mr. Berry in an interview with The Washington Times.
“I can’t tell you how many moms and dads I’ve spoken to who say, ‘My son or daughter wants to join the military, [but] in light of what you’ve described, I’m not sure I want to let them join the military anymore,’ and I don’t blame them. I would have serious reservations about my own kids joining,” Mr. Berry said.
Douglas Lee, president of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, whose job it is to find people who want to be chaplains and make sure they’re also qualified to serve in the military, said growing religious hostility within the military is making it harder for him to find potential recruits and for the armed forces to maintain the chaplains it does have.
“I know people who get out, officers and chaplains, who’ve said, ‘I can’t serve the way I want to in this environment,’” said Mr. Lee, who also served as an Army chaplain. “People who’ve said, ‘Because of the religious liberty challenges I see, I think I’ll serve somewhere else.’”
Mr. Berry said he thinks the “hostile work environment” that is forcing the most religious persons out of the military is only getting worse, and that while in the past problems were mainly in the Air Force, religious liberty issues have spread throughout all the services.
“The problem is getting worse, not better, despite our efforts,” he said. “There is a culture [of] hostility [toward] religion in the military right now.”
While problems in the past have touched all religious groups, Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said he’s seen a recent uptick and pattern of Christians facing persecution for religious expression.
Mr. Lee blamed a lack of education among commanders about where the line is to express religion in the workplace that causes a knee-jerk reaction to any show of religion.
A commander recently told a gate guard on a base in Georgia that he could no longer tell someone to have a “blessed day,” for example, though further review found that wasn’t a religious imposition, he said.
Full article: U.S. military ‘hostile’ to Christians under Obama; morale, retention devastated (Washington Times)