Is the Pentagon discriminating against Christians?
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) said he’s been monitoring a steady stream of religious discrimination complaints over the past four years from Christian soldiers.
“It’s been a steady attack on faith and religious freedom that we’ve seen in our military like we’ve never seen before,” Forbes told Fox News. “We are getting a lot of calls from soldiers 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.’”
Forbes grilled Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about religious liberty issues during a House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Forbes asked questions about instances of the Christian faith coming under attack in the military including:
- Commanders barred from disclosing any programs that are tied to the Chaplaincy or any programs involving religion;
- The Air Force banning the word ‘God’ from an Air force patch logo – even though the reference had no religious connotation;
- A Navy directive that banned Bibles at Walter Reed Hospital;
- An Army Reserve training program that listed Evangelical Christians and Catholics as examples of religious extremism;
- An Army email that listed prominent Christian ministries like the Family Research Council and American Family Association as “domestic hate groups.”
At least 40 lawmakers have signed a letter penned by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) demanding the Secretary of Army apologize and investigate the “domestic hate group” email that was sent by a lieutenant colonel at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
“When you get the U.S. military starting to paint in the minds of soldiers that Catholics and Evangelical Christians are the equivalent of Al Qaeda or Hamas – that’s a big problem,” Forbes said. “That’s not a little problem.”
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.”
Forbes also asked whether the military is enforcing section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Act, signed into law last year, includes a conscience provision clause protecting the religious rights of troops.
The section reads, “No member of the Armed Forces may — require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.
President Obama objected to the clause calling it “ill-advised” and “unnecessary.”
Forbes believes the president’s objections could be why the clause has not been enforced.
“Whether you think it’s right or not, you signed it into law,” Forbes said. “Now we want to see the regulations and make sure you are enforcing it.”
Hagel said he had not seen section 533.
“Protection of religious rights is pretty fundamental to this country,” he said.
“So far the Department of Defense has been silent and done nothing to protect those conscience issues,” Forbes told Fox News. “Soldiers should have the same First Amendment rights to their freedom of religion that they are fighting to give all of us.”
But so far –the congressman said “We’ve seen it go in the opposite direction.”
“I just can’t understand why the department is issuing orders prohibiting people in the chain of command from talking about chaplain’s programs, supporting faith, but they’re not prohibiting people in the chain of command from making anti-faith statements and doing anti-faith training.”
So why is there a concerted attack on Christians within the military?
“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.”
- Also read:
- Army: Keep an Eye on Anti-Gay, Anti-Muslim Soldiers
- Army Email Labels Christian Ministries as Domestic Hate Groups