US Rep Randy Forbes (R-Va) reportedly “grilled” relatively new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel over
a steady stream of religious discrimination complaints over the past four years from Christian soldiers.
For his part, Secretary Hagel said he’d have to get back to the Congressman:
Hagel said he had no idea what the congressman was talking about.
“I don’t know about all the specifics of the information you presented,” he told the lawmaker. “I will get it. And I will find out about it.”
When asked if the DoD was enforcing section 533 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, Secretary Hagel again pled ignorance but said religious liberty is “fundamental:”
Hagel said he had not seen section 533.
“Protection of religious rights is pretty fundamental to this country,” he said.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty has said some troops have already faced administrative action for their views on homosexuality. Forbes said he’d been contacted by troops who are
saying ‘we’re afraid of going to church, we’re afraid to be seen praying, we’re afraid that would hurt our careers, our promotions.’
Those concerns were supposed to be addressed, somewhat, by the language of Sec 533.
The number of Congressmen who have signed on to the letter calling on the Army to “apologize and investigate” the briefing that called Christians “extremists” is reportedly at 40.
Congressman Forbes seems to think the ultimate cause behind the long string of incidents attributing to a perception of “hostility” toward religion is the DoD granting a “heckler’s veto:”
“I think there has been a huge move on the Department of Defense to respond to a very small but very vocal group of people who hate God and religion,” Forbes said. “They have been very successful of getting the ear of the people at the Pentagon. They have done everything they have asked them to do.”
Critics of military religious freedom have, indeed, claimed the “ear” of high ranking personnel in the Defense Department, though that ear appears to have turned slightly away for the time being, if only temporarily.