US Military Declines to Support Radio Christmas Show

sixstringsoldiersTodd Starnes made news last week when he announced he’d invited the US Army’s Six-String Soldiers to perform at his annual Fox Radio Christmas Show — and the Army denied his request because it determined the event was “religious.”

Starnes didn’t dispute the characterization:

I’ve been busted, folks. What the Army alleged is the gospel truth.

My Fox Christmas show unashamedly proclaims that Jesus is the reason for the season. We are loud and proud.

In my defense, though, the reason my Christmas show is religious is because Christmas is in fact a religious holiday.

Former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, though, rejected the idea the Army was actually forbidden from playing the event:

“There is nothing in the law that prohibits the military from taking part in the celebration of an international holiday that has been observed from the beginnings of this nation,” the governor told me.

Hiram Sasser of the First Liberty Institute went a step further, saying that after the inauguration in January

I have a feeling that the United States Army will soon no longer be intimidated by Christmas carols and candy canes.

To be fair, the text in Army Regulation 360-1 (AR 360-1) upon which the Army based its decision has been around for longer than Obama has been President. But it is accurate to note it has been interpreted differently in very recent years, with the military denying or pulling support from events it had supported for years or even decades because of a previously unknown concern about religion.

It’s also fair to say a leadership change at the top of government won’t immediately change the US military’s interpretation of every regulation. With the exception of major policy issues, the US military tends to keep doing what it’s doing even as the government changes over.

It’s also true that this oversensitivity toward religion and government extends to the culture outside the military.

As has been noted here before in other cases, the US military is free to interpret its own regulations. In this case, Mike Huckabee is correct and no regulation, law or policy requires the Army to deny the request. However, the Army can and did choose to interpret the regulations to prevent participation with a “religious” Christmas event.

It is likely a great many people agree with the response of Huckabee and Sasser — or even with the general idea that it’s a little overboard to deny the band’s particiption for such a pedantic reason.

After all, if the US Army can allow its troops to participate on Conan‘s commercial TV show, or open John Fogerty/Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s Las Vegas show, or participate in homosexual advocacy events and other commercial ventures, just to name a few, surely there’s little reason to deny their ability to sing Christmas carols.  The Public Affairs regulation says the primary issue is the benefit to the public and to the Army.  Which benefits the American public and the Army more: six Soldiers ringing the opening bell at the NYSE, or appearing on a national radio show helping Americans celebrate a national holiday?

The tragedy, of course, is America’s founders set religion apart for protection within the US Constitution, and yet in this modern era it seems religion is being set apart for discrimination.