Congress Lauds Air Force over Military Religious Freedom
Many have grown accustomed to Congress taking the military to task for what it considers breaches of the religious freedom of US troops. Sometimes those congressional reprimands seem to have “fixed” issues. Other times they haven’t — and Congress has decided to pass a law to fix it instead.
It was an interesting turn, then, to see Congress go out of its way not to chide once more, but to laud the Air Force for defending religious liberty:
Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) led a bicameral letter of support to Pease Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in response to a complaint that the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) lodged against the base…
Congressman Collins, who is also an Air Force Reserve Chaplain, led the congressional response, saying
The Air Force has again acted with courage and wisdom in affirming that our service men and women have the right to observe their respective religions or no religion at all. Chaplains contribute to the holistic well-being of American troops, and to attack their role is to undermine the free exercise rights of all service members.
In this modern era of divisive society, it’s easy to attack a person or group for doing something that offends. It takes much more effort — and potentially means that much more — to praise something done right.
Thus, the letter from these congressmen (and two Senators) is most notable for being affirmative — and it similarly praised the Air Force for its affirmative stance [emphasis added]:
The strong statement from the Air Force reinforces the policies and protections in place for service members and chaplains to freely exercise their religiously-informed beliefs, including the freedom of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their faith as they perform and serve in all aspects of their ministry.
In today’s culture in which religious freedom is under attack, we want you to know that your positive decision has not gone unnoticed. We look forward to working with you to protect the right to religious freedom for our service members and chaplains.
That’s an admirable and encouraging response that not only shines the light on these congressmen, but also highlights the Air Force in a positive way. The US military makes claims that it values diversity and religious freedom, but perceptions often conflict with those statements when, for example, the military bows to a discriminatory demand by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein or, in this case, the FFRF. Having the public face of the Air Force be one of standing up for the virtue of religious liberty — rather than kowtowing to the heckler’s veto — is a positive thing for all concerned.
The full letter can be read here.