The Obama administration “strongly objects” to a proposed House amendment to the defense authorization bill which would require, in the words of its sponsor, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., “the Armed Forces to accommodate ‘actions and speech’ reflecting the conscience, moral, principles or religious beliefs of the member.” Fox News has the story. Fleming points to evidence that Christian service members and chaplains are being penalized for expressing their faith. Examples:
- The Air Force censored a video created by a chaplain because it include the word “God.” The Air Force feared the word might offend Muslims and atheists.
- A service member received a “severe and possibly career-ending reprimand” for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
- A senior military official at Fort Campbell sent out a lengthy email officially instructing officers to recognize “the religious right in America” as a “domestic hate group” akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis because of its opposition to homosexual behavior.
- A chaplain was relieved of his command over a military chapel because, consistent with DOMA’s definition of marriage, he could not allow same-sex weddings to take place in the chapel.
The Obama administration evidently thinks it important that such actions continue to be taken.
There’s a tension between this policy–arguably suppressing expressions of Christian faith–with the White House’s assurance, according to Investor’s Business Daily, that FBI surveillance not including any investigation of mosques.
So, it appears, Christian religious expression must be suppressed, while Muslim religious expression cannot even be monitored. Yes, government can appropriately limit the conduct of members of the military in ways that would be inappropriate in the case of civilians. So there’s not necessarily a contradiction between these policies. And perhaps there’s a need to restrict servicemembers from offending colleagues in a way that would not be appropriate outside the military (and is not on college campuses, where it often occurs). But it sure looks like a double standard to me: Christianity, bad; Islam, good. I seem to remember, from some ancient reading, the phrase, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”