Military Christians as the New DADT

In response to recent attacks on religious freedom, an article by Chuck Holton questions whether Christians in the US military have become the new class of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” worried the chaplains who follow the biblical view of same-sex relationships. Congress then stepped in, passing a bill that guaranteed the rights of all military personnel to exercise their faith.

Ron Crews, head of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said the result of that legislation is that “chaplains can be chaplains.”

Unfortunately, there continue to be attacks on Christians who want to exercise or express their faith as they serve in the US military. (The article cites the story of Chaplain Lawhorn, for example.) While these attacks have generally come from outside the service — from critics like Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, for example, who attacks even Christian church services — the US military has sometimes reacted to these attacks as if the critics were correct from the outset, even if they were ultimately proven wrong.  The perception of this propensity is unprecedented on any other issue over which the military is critiqued.

The result has been the creation of a tension in which it sometimes appears the military’s default position is that issues of religion are, de novo, “wrong,” at least until they are proven otherwise (an analysis that may, or may not, ever occur).  For example, when Weinstein complained about Christian faith being mentioned in an Air Force Reserve Command news article, the Air Force didn’t pull the article down as it has in other cases — but it did perform a command review and add a “disclaimer.”  The controversy and disclaimer made the news. The Air Force deleting the disclaimer, and dismissing Weinstein’s accusations, was barely noticed.

To its credit, the US Air Force recently changed its regulations to explicitly combat that perception, though the fairly new regs are only now coming into play.  It is unclear if the new regs, or perhaps some command guidance on the issue, were what led to the AFRC article staying online rather than being immediately censored as others have in the past.

To date, media reports and commentators say Christians in the military continue to be attacked for both expressing their faith and just having beliefs with which others may disagree. Thanks to religious freedom groups like the Military Religious Freedom Coalition, the impact of those attacks has been stemmed, but they continue to occur.

Despite these attacks, all Americans who value freedom can remain hopeful the tide will turn and the core American virtue — and human liberty — of religious freedom will prevail again.