On July 19, Fox News' Todd Starnes reported that the Utah Air National Guard is refusing to remove a reprimand against TSgt. Layne Wilson, a 27-year veteran who complained about a gay wedding ceremony at West Point last year. Worse, the military reduced his six-year reenlistment contract to a one-year extension, allegedly coercing him to do so by canceling medical benefits for his wife, who suffers from stage four breast cancer.
The incident is just one of the latest in a long string of reports that seem to indicate the military is targeting conservative Christians serving in uniform over issues surrounding gay rights and gay marriage.
In June, news broke of a Christian soldier with 25 years of service who said he was ordered not to read books by conservative authors.
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers also told Fox News he is reportedly facing retribution for having anti-Obama stickers on his car and serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party. Chick-fil-A is the fast food chain under fire over positions held by members of its senior management, who openly oppose gay marriage and espouse conservative Christianity.
MSgt. Sommers has a sterling record with the Army band, has received the Army Commendation Medal and was a soloist at the funeral of former First Lady Betty Ford.
But his conservative Christian views are causing military officials to scrutinize his beliefs.
These are not isolated incidents, by any stretch of the imagination.
In May 2012, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., told Fox News that Christians in uniform — including chaplains — are coming under fire for their beliefs.
“There is a war on religious belief in the military,” he said.
According to Chaplain Alliance For Religious Liberty, an advocacy group for military chaplains, an effort is under way “to silence, and in some cases punish, those opposed to gay marriage.”
Those who approve of gay marriage “can speak boldly,” said Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance. “But if you are opposed, you are silenced.”
In April 2013, reports surfaced of an Army training session in which evangelical Christians, Catholics, some Jews and Mormons were labeled extremists along with the KKK, al Qaeda and Hamas.
The slide that sparked controversy also called “Islamophobia” a form of religious extremism.
The information was reportedly gleaned from, among other sources, the Southern Poverty Law Center, but the SPLC denied being a source for the material and spokesman Mark Potok said the SPLC has never placed evangelical Christianity or Catholicism on its list of hate groups.
The organization has, however, labeled a number of conservative Christian organizations “hate groups” over their opposition to homosexuality.
Using the SPLC “hate map,” Floyd Lee Corkins II, a volunteer at a Washington, D.C. LGBT center, entered the offices of the Family Research Center and opened fire last August, wounding a guard before being taken into custody.
The Army presenter apologized for the training material and reportedly deleted the slide.
The same month, an Army officer at Fort Campbell, Ken., reportedly sent an email to subordinates labeling the American Family Association and Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups” because of its opposition to homosexuality.
The 14-page email reportedly accused the “religious right” of “defamation” in its effort to “beat back the increasingly confident gay rights movement,” and said Christians are “engaging in the crudest type of name-calling, describing LGBT people as ‘perverts' with ‘filthy habits’ who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and ‘convert’ them to gay sex.”
Again, the SPLC was cited as the source for the information, but the organization denied it.
Spokesman George Wright denied the Army is targeting Christians and said the Pentagon is investigating the source of the email. Starnes said it is “unclear” who ordered the email or why.
“The notion that the Army is taking an anti-religion or anti-Christian stance is contrary to any of our policies, doctrines and regulations,” he said. “Any belief that the Army is out to label religious groups in a negative manner is without warrant.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, had a different take.
“It’s very disturbing to see where the Obama administration is taking the military and using it as a laboratory for social experimentation — and also as an instrument to fundamentally change the culture,” he told Starnes. “The message is very clear – if you are a Christian who believes in the Bible, who believes in transcendent truth, there is no place for you in the military.”
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin now serves as an executive vice president of the FRC after more than 36 years in the military. Since 2008 he said he’s seen a number of attacks on religious liberty.
Starnes listed eight of those incidents:
- A War Games scenario at Fort Leavenworth that identified Christian groups and Evangelical groups as being potential threats;
- A 2009 Dept. of Homeland Security memorandum that identified future threats to national security coming from Evangelicals and pro-life groups;
- A West Point study released by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center that linked pro-lifers to terrorism;
- Evangelical leader Franklin Graham was uninvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service because of his comments about Islam;
- Christian prayers were banned at the funeral services for veterans at Houston’s National Cemetery;
- Bibles were banned at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – a decision that was later rescinded;
- Christian crosses and a steeple were removed from a chapel in Afghanistan because the military said the icons disrespected other religions;
- Catholic chaplains were told not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop related to Obamacare mandates. The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.
Is the military engaging in a war on Christianity? The Defense Department says no, but the ongoing reports seem to suggest otherwise.
Those who serve in our nation's armed forces take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
That Constitution includes the right to free speech and freedom of religion. Contrary to what some may think, conservatives — in uniform or not — are still afforded the right to their religious views no matter how politically incorrect they are to some.
But it seems that in today's political environment, some are freer than others.
It's shameful to think that those who put their lives on the line to protect this country are not afforded freedoms specifically enumerated in the document they are sworn to protect.
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- The roots of Christophobia - June 5, 2015
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