Fine for military members to march in gay pride parades. But serve Chik-fil-a? No way!
June 7, 2013 (FRC.org) - Chicken may not be bad for your health, but it's certainly hazardous to your military career. An Army Master Sergeant found that out the hard way when he tried to celebrate his August promotion by serving Chick-fil-A. The party, which happened to coincide with last summer's Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, was a private event -- paid for out of the soldier's own pocket. Still, his commanding officers seemed to take issue with the invitations, which read, "In honor of my promotion and in honor of the Defense of Marriage Act, I'm serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at my promotion party." Of course, the DOMA reference was a hat tip to Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy, who became the center of a national firestorm when he refused to back down from the biblical definition of marriage.
Shortly after the Master Sergeant's party, Fox News's Todd Starnes reports, he was shocked to receive a letter of reprimand, followed by a negative efficiency report. As anyone in the military knows, a letter like that can effectively end a soldier's career -- regardless of the number of years he's served. Stunned, the soldier contacted the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty for help. Ron Crews, who heads up the organization, explained that the Army initially talked about bringing "judicial punishment" against the man but decided to investigate first to see if he had "violated any other policy."
Today, we're learning even more about the controversy, including the fact that his superiors warned him to stop reading conservative books, which is the very definition of viewpoint discrimination. According to Starnes, there is some evidence that suggests the soldier was tweeting anti-Obama messages -- which, if true, would certainly cross the line of what is acceptable speech for a member of the military.
Still, the irony of the Chick-fil-a incident is that this Sergeant wasn't advocating for a controversial policy proposal; he was celebrating the law. And here's the rub: this soldier showed more respect for it than his own commander-in-chief, who refused to uphold DOMA even though the Constitution demands it. Imagine being a service member in today's military, trying to navigate the double standards. On one hand, it's appropriate to march in gay pride parades -- in uniform -- but on the other, it's unacceptable to voice support for federal law.
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Fortunately, Congress is as frustrated with the hypocrisy as the rest of us. Yesterday, thanks to a marathon mark-up on the Defense Authorization bill, sleepy members didn't make it home until 2 a.m.-- in part because they were so intent on passing a series of religious protections. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), the author of one such amendment, urged his colleagues to help end the wave of anti-Christian attacks.
"The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms should not have their own religious freedom jeopardized during their military service," he said. "[T]roubling reports indicate that the military may be focused only on protecting beliefs of service members and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs. My amendment is necessary to ensure that men and women of faith will not be discriminated against in the Armed Forces, and will be free to exercise their religious beliefs." By a 33-26 vote, the Committee gave the green light to Fleming's measure, which stops the Pentagon from restricting religious speech -- except in cases of "military necessity."
Congressman Walter Jones (R-N.C.) added another layer of protection by introducing (and later passing) language that allows chaplains to pray "in Jesus's name." The only faith-related amendment that failed was Rep. Robert Andrews's (D-N.J.), which would have created a special chapter of "atheist chaplains." Apparently, members thought the idea was as inane as the rest of us and killed it by a 43-18 vote.