WASHINGTON, D.C., May 2, 13 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Conservatives and Christians are up in arms after the Pentagon issued a statement this week saying that Christians in the military could be court-martialed for promoting their religions beliefs.
The statement comes after the Washington Post reported last Friday that anti-Christian activists had met with senior Pentagon officials to press for the court martial of Christians in the military who "promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion."
According to the Post, the activists were given assurances that an instruction booklet on proselytizing would be forthcoming within the next few weeks.
The article quoted Larry Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Colin Powell, as placing religious proselytization alongside “sexual assault” as two of the major problems currently facing the military.
Sexual assault and proselytizing “are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together,” said Wilkerson.
On Monday, the Pentagon ignited a firestorm when it responded to the controversy by issuing a statement saying that religious proselytization "is not permitted within the Department of Defense. “
“Court martials and non judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases," added the Pentagon statement.
In the wake of the ensuing uproar, the Pentagon released another statement today claiming to have made "reasonable accommodations" for religious practice, and drawing a distinction between evangelization and proselytization.
"Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen.
However, the back-pedaling hasn’t turned down the heat, with many continuing to express concern about the trajectory the military is taking on religious liberty.
Since the original article in the Washington Post, the Family Research Council says it has collected nearly 110,000 petitions opposing the military’s plans.
General Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council's Executive Vice President, said that his organization is “deeply concerned” about the reports about the meeting between anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and the Pentagon.
In the Post article, Weinstein, who is known for his extreme anti-Christian rhetoric, had described proselytization as “spiritual rape” and a “national security threat.”
“The Pentagon must set the record straight about what Mikey Weinstein was assured in his meeting with Pentagon officials,” said Boykin. He also demanded that the Pentagon “categorically disavow Mikey Weinstein and any assurances made to him regarding court martials of chaplains and service members who share their faith.”
Boykin also pointed to a series of incidents in the military that he said suggest religion has become increasingly marginalized.
In one case, he said, the Air Force General Schwartz issued a stern warning that proselytizing would not be tolerated in the Force, and instead urged 'neutrality.' In another case the Air Force suspended a 20-year-old class on 'Just War Theory' because it included scriptural references.
Boykin also pointed to a recent study released by the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center linking pro-lifers to terrorism. That was only one of several statements and studies issued under the Obama administration linking conservatives and pro-life activists to terrorism.
“If Christian chaplains and other troops are censored from offering the full solace of the Gospel, there is no religious freedom in the military," said Boykin.
Some religious believers in the military say they are feeling increasingly marginalized, particularly since the Obama administration decided to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.
Last year LifeSiteNews.com reported on a speech given by Col. Ron Crews in which he recounted an interchange in 2010 between Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a military chaplain. While Adm. Mullen was briefing the troops on what the repeal of DADT might look like, a chaplain asked if those with “biblical views that homosexuality is a sin [would] still be protected to express those views?”
Adm. Mullen reportedly responded, “Chaplain, if you can’t get in line with this policy, resign your commission.”
Another chaplain’s promotion was unexpectedly rescinded, said the colonel. The reason: forwarding an email sent by a fellow chaplain that was critical of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. Due to this action he was told he would need to be “more closely supervised.”
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