Column Defends Religious Freedom in the US Military

Writing in the Stars and Stripes, First Liberty attorney Mike Berry rebutted recent calls to restrict religious freedom in the US military.

Referring to last month’s appeal by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists for Secretary of Defense James Mattis to end military prayers, Berry pointed out the errors of the groups’ demands and then said [emphasis added]

Were the DOD to give in to the groups’ demands, the harm our military would suffer would be catastrophic. Religious freedom in the military is not a luxury; it is every bit a necessity as bullets, beans and bandages. Religious freedom is a force multiplier that enables all troops — regardless of their faith, or no faith — to prepare themselves for what may be required of them in military service.

The taking of a life — or indeed, the ultimate sacrifice of one’s own life — while in service to this nation requires physical, mental and spiritual fitness. Or, as a post-World War II report to President Harry S. Truman on the importance of religion in the military stated, “[If] we expect our Armed Forces to be physically prepared, we must also expect them to be ideologically prepared.” Military chaplains are essential to that preparation.

That is one of the most astute and articulate defenses of religious freedom to date. Military religious freedom is not just a nice-to-have liberty of neutral worth. It is a necessity because of the virtue it brings to military members and military service. The value of religious faith and religious freedom is not often defended in today’s society.

The FRFF and AA don’t have to participate in prayers or any other religious observance. It is disturbing, however, to see their desire to restrict the ability of others to participate in the exercise of their faith.  Not only do they not want to, they don’t want to let anyone else do so either, even if they want to.

Berry is right:

Our servicemembers make many sacrifices in defense of our nation. Religious liberty should never be one of them.