Fortunately, the plan by these Christian crusader Members of the House failed. Please let me briefly explain, my friends.
It turns out that sometimes miracles DO happen, and not just on 34th Street but on Capitol Hill, too.
In what we can only describe as an amazing early holiday present for servicemembers, Constitutional loyalists, and those who value the separation of Church and State, an obscure, but extremely detrimental amendment to the House-passed H.R. 4435 version of the bill “miraculously” disappeared from the final version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (FY2015 NDAA). If the House had its way, next year’s Federal roadmap for America's armed forces would have included the following painfully ugly provision designated as "Section 525” in the Hoped-for House version:
“…if called upon to lead a prayer outside of a religious service, a military chaplain may close the prayer according to the traditions, expressions and religious exercises of the endorsing faith group.”
One needn’t rack one’s brains to read between the lines and see where such a course may lead. For those of you imagining a chaplain shouting “Takbir!” with Quran in hand followed by nervous soldiers chanting “Allah Akbar,” think again. No doubt about it, Section 525 would have amounted to a precious, blank check for every wannabe missionary comprising the sectarian Dominionist/fundamentalist Christian fifth column in the U.S. military. Hordes of these religious predators unfortunately can be found lurking throughout the ranks of the military chaplaincy. In fact, it’s an open secret that the military chaplaincy hardly matches the diverse cross-section of faith (and non-faith) groups represented in our armed forces. Instead the chaplaincy has been transformed largely into a clearing-house for evangelizing zealous zombies. For these chaplains, the military isn’t a place for Constitutionally mandated pluralism, religious respect and mutual tolerance. On the contrary, these missionizing maniacs see their government-paid chaplaincies as an inexhaustibly fruitful proselytizing venue and unlimited, open season “mission field”. Thus, a chaplain would be permitted to end all MANDATORY military gatherings with such standard patriarchal, monotheistic benedictions as “Thank you Father God for your blessings upon us in Jesus’ name, amen.” Or any other seething sectarian permutations of the same such as “I pray that our troops assembled here today come to understand that they must utterly surrender themselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before they die or ELSE.” Cue the “burning in hell for all eternity” music.
As I have said many times in many places for many years, in the U.S. armed forces you may have mandatory formations and you may have religious formations but you CANNOT have mandatory, religious formations.
In the end, it turned out that not only could the Lame Duck Senate fly, but upon taking wing it was able – just barely – to avoid the evangelical, fundamentalist Christian buckshot being fired in its direction.
And for that proud and rare occasion, we should all be truly thankful.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the 7-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra" Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).