WASHINGTON — A coalition of Congressmen and several Christian organizations joined together for a press conference this week to outline their concerns over what they perceive is growing hostility toward religion in government, and to express support for a proposed military Religious Freedom Amendment.
As previously reported, Congressman John Fleming (R.-LA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, had introduced the amendment last month as an attachment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. It required that “[e]xcept in cases of military necessity, the Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions and speech” of religious soldiers and chaplains.
However, a week later, the Obama administration released a statement outlining the sections of the Act that it opposes, including Fleming’s amendment.
“By limiting the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units, this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale and mission accomplishment,” the document explained.
While the amendment ultimately passed the House of Representatives, a similar piece of legislation introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has yet to be cleared in the Senate. Therefore, Fleming and other members of Congress, along with groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC), the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, the Center for Military Readiness and others, held a conference on Tuesday as a joint coalition to express support and to increase awareness about the issue across the nation.
“You’ve heard about this whole idea of separation of Church and state. That does not appear in the Declaration of Independence; it does not appear in the Constitution,” Fleming declared. “It came from a letter by Thomas Jefferson in response to complaints by the Danbury Baptist Church.”
“[T]hey were saying, ‘We’re tired of the government impinging upon our rights.’ He responded by saying that we should build a wall keeping the state out of the Church,” he continued. “He said nothing about keeping religion, religious beliefs, Christianity–or any other religious beliefs for that matter–out of the public square.”
“This is not about religious tolerance,” added Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX). “It’s about a very small group having religious intolerance — the type of intolerance that forced the pilgrims to come here. Pilgrims came here to have religious freedom and we’ve turned 180 degrees and it seems the only group it’s politically correct to be intolerant of is Christians.”
“George Washington issued an order that the men were not to take God’s name in vain,” he continued. “The reason being, how can we ask the same God who is blessing us to bless the same mouths of those who are taking the Lord’s name in vain? How do you think the father of our country would feel if someone came in and said you can even refer to God?”
During the event, FRC President Tony Perkins also released a report entitled “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.” The report outlined numerous recent instances where religious freedom has been under fire in the military, such as the removal of an Air Force video created by a chaplain, and the mandate that an Air Force officer remove a Bible from his desk.
The coalition also announced a new website designed as a means for those in the military to report infringement upon their right to free exercise of religion.
“We will stand with service members who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights of religious liberty,” declared Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, the Executive Vice President of FRC. “We will encourage legislation to protect the religious liberty of military members, and we will do all we can to inform the American public about the attacks on religious liberty in the military. We must do all we can to ensure that our service members have the right to practice the very freedoms that they risk their lives to defend.”