Article: DoD Not Doing Enough for Religious Liberty

First Liberty’s Mike Berry wrote at the Washington Examiner calling on the Pentagon to be “more vigilant in protecting the religious liberty of men and women in uniform.” It’s an appropriate admonition based on two significant recent events.

In the first, Col Leland Bohannon was fired and removed from a promotion list after a retiring homosexual subordinate complained. As Berry notes:

A formal complaint was filed and the Air Force Inspector General ruled that Bohannon had violated Air Force policy. It took none other than the secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, to overrule the inspector general and to state that Bohannon’s First Amendment rights could not be eviscerated by Air Force policy.

In other words, not a single official in the chain of command was able to recognize the constitutional train wreck at hand. Or if they did, they had no guidance or directive to rely upon in order to vindicate Bohannon’s rights.

Arguably, the chain of command was relatively short, as it was the IG of the entire Air Force that made the initial decision — making it a SECAF level decision to overrule. Then again, if the Air Force’s top leadership can’t get it right, how can the Service expect average Airmen to do so?

In the second, US Army Chaplain (Maj) Scott Squires was investigated and recommended for charges after he worked the logistics to not lead a marriage retreat with homosexual Soldiers.

Military chaplains are required by military regulations to adhere to their denomination’s doctrinal tenets. In Squires’ case, his denomination forbids its chaplains from any conduct that would endorse a same-sex marriage. Like Bohannon, Squires nonetheless accomplished the mission by finding a different chaplain who was able to perform the marriage enrichment event. But that didn’t stop the couple from filing a formal complaint.

The Army investigated Squires, and in a bizarre turn of events, the Army investigator recommended that Squires be charged with the military crime of dereliction of duty…

Both Bohannon and Squires were eventually exonerated, though the processes were long and arduous — and appear to have required the intervention of religious liberty advocates to ensure these troops’ rights were protected. It seems that, not unlike the case of Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, the DoD has frequently erred or initiated against religious liberty instead of presuming it.

Perhaps if members of the DoD — with executive guidance, as recommended by Berry — focused on supporting the virtue of religious liberty and proactively defended it — instead of validating the heckler’s veto — the military might establish itself as an organization focused on defending the rights of its troops to exercise their liberties, to the maximum extent permitted by the mission.


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