The Armed Forces of the United States have defended this nation for well over two and a quarter centuries. The soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen who have been injured, wounded, and killed in defense of our country often have been very committed to their faith in God. Should it be surprising that those who face serious injury and death so regularly might focus more consciously on matters of eternity? It seems only natural that the gravity of military life should lead to serious consideration of spiritual matters.
Military life is hard and dangerous. It requires a level of focus and endurance – physical, mental, and spiritual – that simply is not required of many other occupations. Consequently, one would expect that those who pursue a military life must attain to a higher level of self-discipline than their civilian counterparts.
In this, as in many areas of life, George Washington is a towering example of what it means to be a great soldier in a republic. Washington was extremely disciplined and deeply religious. These traits were not merely coincidental. Rather, they were self-reinforcing. So it is with members of the modern Armed Forces. Religious conviction is not merely an add-on belief; it is like a strand in a rope that complements the others while greatly increasing strength.
Military life in the United States has always had a strong religious component for the reasons given above but also, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted, because Americans have been and continue to be a genuinely religious people. Rather than being divisive, the strong religious presence in the United States military has had a unifying effect. In the times of greatest peril to life and limb, it is a great comfort to know that many of those with whom your life is entrusted share a commitment to each other, to the United States, and to God. Simply put, devotion to moral principles derived from a Higher Power allows for a greater level of trust to exist among members of the military.
Therefore, it is with great unease that we at the Family Research Council (FRC) have noted a growing hostility to religion within the armed services in the last decade. Unfortunately, pressures to impose a secular, anti-religious culture on our nation’s military services have intensified tremendously during the Obama Administration. This pressure exists across the armed services, but it has become extremely acute in the United States Air Force (USAF). The Air Force has had the great misfortune to be targeted by anti-Christian activists. Regrettably, some of the highest-level officers within the Air Force appear to be cooperating with this effort, and those in the other military branches are feeling its effects as well.
What follows is a list of discrete events presenting a larger picture of the threat to religious liberty that now exists in America’s armed forces. The examples provided represent only a portion of the concerted efforts to scrub the military of religious expression, through which the chilling effect of punishment and potential career destruction lie at the back of everyone’s mind.