US Military Religious References Inspire Critics

While it may not always seem so, attacks on religious freedom in the military are phased and timed. Critics likely know that if they pick and lose the wrong battle, or too many battles, they will lose their access to the press and even some of their own supporters.  Some critics also know how to work the press, holding onto stories while there are major world events ongoing, and waiting for a lull (and a Tuesday).

That’s why Michael “Mikey” Weinstein recently went after the “so help me God” in the cadet honor oath: it was an easy target, about which few outside of USAFA even cared. It was enough to get him back in the media without over-selling his point.

That’s also likely one reason the US military’s Code of Conduct hasn’t been a target for critics like Weinstein. Weinstein was up in arms over the optional phrase in the honor oath — he said it needed to be banned altogether — despite the fact it is repeated only once a year and in a no-accountability mass formation of the entire cadet wing. Yet he’s said nothing about Article VI of the Code of Conduct, which USAFA Fourth Class cadets (among others) are required to memorize and repeat on command throughout their freshman year [emphasis added]:

Article VI: I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Similarly, the US Coast Guard creed, written before World War II by then-Commandant Vice Admiral Harry Hamlet, ends with [bold added]:

With God’s help, I shall endeavor to be one of His noblest Works…A UNITED STATES COAST GUARDSMAN.

The US military has not, of its own initiative, tried to scrub these policies and traditions because they call on or express a belief in God. So why have the loud critics avoided these “obvious” examples and instead targeted the lower hanging fruit?

There are several possibilities. As before, it is likely critics like Mikey Weinstein and Jason Torpy believe these are battles they cannot win, so they would lose more by standing on principle than attacking the word “God.” In a manner of speaking, they’re either cowards or wise strategists.

It is also likely these, among other examples, are on the “to do” list of those who have made a living off attacking religion and its association with the US military. They may even have an argument made up already, but are waiting for the right moment — as determined by world events and the press — to launch their volley. Media timing is a particular penchant of Weinstein.

It is also true that such groups are likely re-evaluating their strategy, after the debacle in which Mikey Weinstein “won” the battle over a Bible verse in a USAFA hallway — but may have lost the war, as his attack backfired and caused a review of the very policies used to justify the action.

There are other targets for critics of religion in the military to attack. Hopefully, lessons have been learned, and the future attacks by Weinstein and his comrades will merit no more favorable reaction than any other extremist group who doesn’t like the way the US military conducts its affairs.

The Army has provided a good example more than once, when, in the face of Weinstein’s legal threats, it told him to pound sand.

And he did.