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Rear Admiral Lee on Attacks on Religious Liberty in the Military
Over the last several weeks we’ve watched the Pentagon double timing in their efforts to get ahead of the fallout from the April 23rd meeting between anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein and senior Air Force officials. In the meeting, discussion surrounded a forthcoming Air Force policy on religious expression that Lt. Gen. Richard C. Harding said “will be a panacea to all religious issues.” Many in the Christian community have sought to make sense of the Pentagon’s confusing statements this past week — particularly the most troubling line: that “religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense.” Coercion has always been prohibited. But another Air Force statement said “members are free to express their personal beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable.” Uncomfortable is obviously subjective. The Pentagon later claimed that evangelism is not included in their definition of proselytization.
However, a well-respected Rear Admiral as well as an avalanche of recent attacks on religious liberty in the uniformed services completely contradict the official line put out by the Pentagon. Yesterday, video was released of the speech given by Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee at the National Day of Prayer service on Capitol Hill. The Admiral boldly declared that he had disregarded the rules and gave a Bible to a service member who had attempted suicide. He went further and pledged not to abide by the restrictive regulations. To a standing ovation, Admiral Lee promised not to back down from “my right under the Constitution to tell a young man that there is hope.”
After listening to his speech and reading the steady stream of reports about suppression of religious expression, I don’t see how one can dismiss these concerns as rising from some kind of conspiracy theory being pushed by Christian groups. In reality, the concerns stated by Christians in the military are the result of an environment of increasing religious hostility that has been created by restrictive regulations at the behest of activists like Mikey Weinstein. Several weeks ago, Defense Secretary Hagel was grilled about them in a Congressional hearing — but said he knew nothing about it. A conspiracy? No. An environment created by Mikey Weinstein’s influence over military regulations and compliant leaders? Yes.
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