Franklin Graham and Military Religious Freedom

A FoxNews article highlights the criticism of the US military for an invitation to Franklin Graham for a May 6 day of prayer.

A military spokesman had an interesting statement:

“We are an all-inclusive military. We hold observances throughout the year. This one happens to be a Christian-themed event,” [Army Col. Tom] Collins said.

This is a somewhat unique statement, because many people seem to be assuming a military chapel event has to be “inclusive.”  However, the Colonel accurately states the military is not obligated to de-Christianize a Christian event.  Likewise, it does not have to de-Islamize an Islamic prayer meeting or de-Judaize a Seder.  That said, as noted in the controversy of Tony Perkins, the military Chaplaincy is free to invite, or disinvite, whomever it chooses.

As already discussed, Michael Weinstein’s suggestion the military should screen the religious views of its invitees for potential offense of other religions would have a chilling effect on religious freedom in the military, particularly among religions with exclusive truth claims.  (If you think its inconsistent for a self-described “religious freedom” supporter to advocate chilling religious freedom, you’d be right.)  For example, this would restrict not only the obvious Abrahamic religions, but also atheists — particularly given the recent rise in popularity of vocal critics of religion.

More than a suggestion, however, Weinstein has threatened to sue to force the military to cancel the event.  Weinstein has routinely used the threat of a lawsuit to intimidate, though he has rarely followed through (and he has lost every time he has).  Ironically, his threat over an invitee’s prior offensive speech is inconsistent with his own prior conduct.

Some people seem to forget religious freedom gives one the liberty to hold, and express, beliefs potentially offensive to others.  The military generally supports the free exercise of those beliefs, except when mission requirements dictate otherwise.

In an interesting twist on the controversy, former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who is taking part in a 1 May prayer rally at the Lincoln Memorial, had this response:

“…I personally invite the anti-Christian Mikey Weinstein to come pray with us, and give his life to Jesus Christ,” said Chaplain Klingenschmitt.

Given that Weinstein is currently suing Klingenschmitt, it would seem unlikely he would accept the invitation.  But you never know.