Chaplains: Serving in a US Military “Hostile to Christianity”
“You know the old saying that there’s no atheists in the foxhole? Well God help us if all we have in foxholes are atheists.”
The July 13 edition of World Magazine asks if the US military is a “no pray zone?”, with the magazine cover saying “How the US military is fighting religious liberty.” Contributor Edward Lee Pitts pens the cover story “Holding the Line,” with the tag line
Chaplains are pursuing their mission in a military suddenly hostile to Christianity and ready to suppress religious freedom
In an era in which the military is being repeatedly called “hostile” to religious freedom — including by members of Congress — this characterization may not be as over the top as it seems. After listing just a portion of the recent “incidents” of “hostility” toward Christians in the US military, Pitts asks the simple question:
Coincidence that all these incidents occurred recently?
Interestingly, the article is dismissive of religious freedom critic Michael Weinstein:
Reports of the influence of Mikey Weinstein, who met with officials at the Pentagon and has called religious proselytizing “a national security threat … sedition and treason … spiritual rape,” are probably exaggerated.
But Pitts notes that chaplains are concerned, because while the rules may technically permit religious freedom, military commanders may be restricting religious freedom not because they have to, but out of excessive caution and a zealous fear of publicity:
[Chaplain (Maj) John] Sackett, the Air Force chaplain, traces this climate of intimidation to confusion about the law: “You are free to pray however your conscience dictates in any situation because that’s the law. … Commanders don’t know that anymore. So many of them actually think it is illegal to talk about Jesus. The commanders are well-intentioned, but they are also not interested in any lawsuits.”
Of course, hypersensitivity to religion — and attaching a stigma to Christians in particular — appears to have been Michael Weinstein’s objective all along.
The article notes the military contributed to this policy “confusion” when it published a “dizzying array” of statements on permissible religious exercise (statements that came after the Weinstein Incident, notably).
One chaplain expressed concern that chaplains like them might not be welcome soon:
“I think a time is shortly coming when chaplains who speak out on moral issues and on issues of community standards are going to be told go find a new job,” said Chuck Williams, an Army chaplain based in Hawaii.
The full article is worth the read.