“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
“So help me God” has been the phrase uttered by virtually every service member upon entering the military. Now there are indications that Christianity is being forced out of the Armed Forces.
According to WMAZ, Robins Air Force Base gate guards used to be allowed to use the phrase “have a blessed day” when greeting visitors and personnel as they drove into the base. However, after a complaint by an unidentified military member, the practice has been put to a halt.
The complainant, who posted his concern on the Military Religious Freedom Foundation website, said he had been greeted with the phrase at least 15 times over the last couple of weeks. He felt it was inappropriate given his non-religious nature.
Roland Leach, a Robins Base spokesperson, confirmed that personnel have been advised not to use the greeting. He declined further comment, saying that base authorities would issue a formal statement.
In another situation, FOX News reported that more than 40,000 Americans rallied for Navy Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. West Modder after he was accused of being anti-gay by his assistant. Modder could be thrown out of the Navy because of his Christian faith.
Only a few months previously, Modder’s commander had called him a “consummate professional leader worthy of any early promotion.” He referred to him as one of “the best of the best.”
Modder has received several acclamations throughout his 19-year military career. He had served in the Marine Corps and was at one time the force chaplain for the Navy SEALS.
Michael Berry, Modder’s attorney, said the chaplain is the victim of a setup. Modder has adamantly denied ever making any statements that show lack of tolerance or respect in private counseling sessions in issues pertaining to faith, marriage and sexuality.
A young married gay officer, who had only been working with the chaplain for a month, became upset about Modder’s alleged views on same-sex relationships and homosexuality. He accused the minister of telling a woman that she was “shaming herself in the eyes of God” for having premarital sex. The assistant also complained that Modder had told a student that homosexuality was wrong and that “the penis was meant for a vagina, not an anus.”
Pending an investigation, Modder has been temporarily reassigned. Christianne Witten, a spokeswoman for the Navy Chaplain Corps said, “The Navy values, and protects in policy, the rights of its service members, including chaplains, to practice according to the tenets of their faith and respects the rights of each individual to determine their own religious convictions.”
Rep. Doug Collins, a Southern Baptist Air Force Reserve chaplain, plans on raising the issue of Modder with the Pentagon. “The religious liberty issue in the military needs to stop,” he said. “The rulings are clear. As a chaplain we are provided to stay within the tenets of our faith. You cannot force me to counsel or to provide service outside the tenets of my faith.”
Meanwhile, over 40,000 people have signed a Family Research Council petition urging the Pentagon to reinstate Modder to his position.
The Daily Caller reported that another Army chaplain was hit with complaints when he refused to censor himself and used the Bible to provide examples on how to deal with suicide and prevention.
Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was at a mandatory suicide prevention session at the University of North Georgia when he was distributing a course handout. On one side of the sheet was the Biblical approaches to depression. On the other side was non-religious sources for dealing with depression.
A soldier in the 5th Ranger Training Battalion filed a complaint against Lawhorn’s action even though the chaplain told the participants that he was not advocating for the Bible but offering different sources on how to deal with the issue.
The solider complained directly to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers who released a statement in which they declared that evangelical Christians were fabricating persecution to gain sympathy, all while forcing their religious views on others.
According to The Daily Caller, Col. David Fivecoat sent Lawhorn a “letter of concern,” advising him to cease his actions. The letter will be listed in the chaplain’s file for three years and if there are any further infractions, he could face disciplinary actions.
Several soldiers have written letters in support of Lawhorn. Liberty Institute Lawyer Mike Berry said Lawhorn was just doing his job to the best of his ability. They want the letter withdrawn, citing that the chaplain’s activities are covered by section 533 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which lists a “right of conscience clause.”
Berry said that Lawhorn would have been happy to discuss the issue with the complaining soldier to answer any questions the individual had. “Unfortunately, Chaplain Lawhorn was not given this opportunity,” he said. “He was blindside by this.”
Not only are greetings and counseling being affected by the changing tides of the military in regards to religion’s place in the Armed Forces. Not so long ago, the Navy wrestled with the idea of removing all of the donated Gideon Bibles from the Navy Lodge rooms.
The Washington Post reported that Bibles were ordered to be taken from lodge rooms and transferred to local religious commands. However, the Navy decided to put them back while leaders take the time to review the policy.
The decision was met with widespread backlash from religious, conservative and veteran organizations after officials had ordered the Bibles removal. These groups, as well as individual active-duty, reserve and retired soldiers, threatened to take their business elsewhere if the Bibles were not put back.
Naval authorities explained that historically Gideon International had been allowed to place the free Bible in guest rooms. However, now all requests to distribute religious materials would have to be cleared by the chaplain’s office at each installation.
According to the Military Times, John B. Wells, executive director of Louisiana-based Military-Veterans Advocacy Inc., sent a letter to authorities, arguing that the removal of the Bibles violated his right and the right of his fellow members to read the Bible at a Navy Lodge.
“Depriving us of access to religious solace via the Scriptures would appear to be discriminatory and anti-Christian,” he wrote.
So what are all these recent incidents telling us? Is Christianity being forced out of the military? Christianity is the most prevalent religion in the United States, with more than 75% of the population identifying itself with a Christian affiliation. With these kind of facts supporting the religion, how can the belief in Christianity be forced out of the Armed Forces? Will “So help me God” prevail? Only time will tell.