Military Paper: Religious Coercion vs Religious Expression
On the continuing theme of military papers discussing religion in the military comes Lt Col Jimmy M. Browning’s “Religious Expression or Religious Coercion: Commanders Caught in the Crossfire.” LtCol Browning, a Colonel-select, was an Air War College student when he published the paper in February of this year. He is also a USAF Chaplain.
The paper brings an interesting perspective to the “conflict” between those who believe in a right to religious expression and those who believe religious expression is de facto coercion in a military environment:
[The] Military Religion [sic] Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is one group that describes itself as a watchdog against religious coercion…These groups are especially leery of evangelical Christians. In contrast, evangelical Chrisitians feel equally strong they are within their guaranteed First Amendment rights when they exercise their faith tenets of following Christ’s commandment of making disciples. The result is a collision between religious coercion and religious expression.
He also noted the result of accusations — even unfounded ones — on the military culture:
The National Association of Evangelicals believes MRFF’s efforts are having a chilling effect on free exercise of religion and constitutionally-protected religious speech…Following a [commanders’ briefing] all questions from commanders related to their concerns about expressing anything spiritual as a military leader. Additionally…many commanders [have a] growing hesitancy to express their faith or anything spiritual within a military setting.
Finally, Chaplain Browning makes an astute observation: To many critics, offense is coercion:
After careful analysis, the issue is not coercion but offense. For many, including MRFF, being offended becomes the standard to determine coercion. With individual expression, the problem is someone will always be offended. Religion creates passion for those who adhere to it as well as those who want nothing of it. (emphasis added)
At 17 pages the paper is a brief and interesting read.