JFW: The Religious Rights of Those in Uniform
The Journal of Faith and War has published a lengthy set of articles on “The Religious Rights of those in Uniform.” The series was written by Jay Sekulow and Robert Ash. Dr. Sekulow is chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (and debated Michael Weinstein at the US Air Force Academy in 2007). Robert Ash (USA, Retired) is a West Point graduate, served 22 years in the Army, and teaches law at Regent University.
The articles originally appeared as “Religious Rights and Military Service” in Attitudes Aren’t Free: Thinking Deeply about Attitudes in the US Armed Forces, which contained the infamous article by Chris Rodda denigrating the celebration of Easter by Christians in the military.
The publication is a refreshingly positive perspective on what men and women of faith can do while serving in the US military. So often critics have emphasized (or created an environment focused on) impermissible conduct; as a result, some military members (or religious persons considering military service) may assume their religious exercise is restricted.
That is not the case, as the JFW articles show.
The first article covers the “General Legal Principles” forming the foundation of future discussions. It has a fascinating take on the oft-heated debate over “separation of church and state” — which starts with an astute observation:
Rather than wasting time trying to determine the meaning of a phrase that does not exist in the Constitution, time would be better spent determining what the drafters of the First Amendment meant by “establishment of religion,” a phrase that does exist in the Constitution.
The article then uses US Supreme Court cases to help communicate what the First Amendment was intended to mean by those who created it and lived under it in the late 18th century.
(1) the importance of the free exercise of religion to developing and strengthening the warrior ethos;
(2) the role and responsibility of military commanders and other leaders in maintaining and protecting the moral and spiritual health of their units, including protecting the free exercise rights of the men and women they lead;
(3) the general role of chaplains in assisting commanders in executing the commanders’ programs to protect and assist free exercise of religion and the role of the individual chaplain in meeting the unique needs of service members from the individual chaplain’s own faith group while assisting adherents of other faith groups, and of no faith, to obtain the specific help they may be seeking;
(4) the rights enjoyed by all members of the armed forces to exercise their faith;
(5) specific examples of permissible religious exercise in the military;
(6) specific examples of impermissible religious conduct in uniform; and
(7) recommendations to policy makers on how to protect the religious rights of men and women in uniform while maintaining good order and discipline.