The U.S. Army has provided an honor guard for an Independence Day celebration at Abilene Baptist Church for nearly two decades, but this year that tradition comes to an end.
Fort Gordon officials have reported that they will not be able to send an honor guard to an Independence Day Sunday service and BBQ, because it would violate a military policy that bans any involvement in a religious service.
Church officials are very confused by this sudden change in policy by Ft. Gordon, saying the honor guard has participated in celebrations at Abilene for years, and it was never a problem before.
“It was an absolute shock,” said Brad Whitt, the current pastor at the historic Church. “What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America – when we cannot even allow the flags to fly if they are in a church building.”
However, officials at Ft Gordon tell Fox News that, “While there are conditions under which the Army can participate in events conducted at a house of worship, we cannot participate in the context of a religious service.”
This year’s July 4th church celebration has a theme of “God and Country.” And while the Army honor guard did go to Abilene’s events in the past, they were at local parks, even inside the church but those events did not have specific religious themes.
Still, church officials feel slighted.
“We’ve had a tremendous working relationship with the fort. We’ve hosted all sorts of events for military families. We really try to show our love and respect and we try to honor our military folks,” said Whitt.
Many conservative groups are upset about this decision by the Pentagon to ban an honor guard from church services, but to allow them to march in a gay pride parade.
Last year, the Department of Defense granted permission for an honor guard to participate in Washington, D.C.’s gay pride parade.