A group of Christian activists are campaigning to protect what they see as an infringement of their religious rights within the military. This group states that recent events, furthered by the repeal of DOMA, has impeded on “living your faith in the military.” Numerous anonymous complaints discuss events that require service members to hide items related to faith, grant a more universal approach to prayer by eliminating Jesus’s name, and refusing to comply with military doctrine regarding tolerance of same-sex marriage and benefits. Republicans have been unable to gain enough support to move forward with a bill that would guarantee the right to “speak openly” about a person’s religious beliefs.
It may be important to clarify at this point that the right to practice individual faith is protected, and that many of the attempts seem to try to create a more equal footing for those of alternative faith, or no faith, within the military. Treating all religions as equal to other religions is not religious persecution. Allowing gay marriage benefits is not infringing on a right to practice a religion, it is infringing on a right to have that religion decide on another’s life. The right to share and practice their religion extends only until it is considered to be an instance of forcing ideology or conversion and is not permitted. There is also no attempt to make religious proselytizing into a crime.
Individuals have the right to free speech and to be free from religious persecution. What they do not have the right to do is infringe upon another individual’s rights based on their beliefs or views. The military has a long history and proud tradition tied to religion, but that does not mean those of different faiths, or non-religious individuals, cannot be a part of the military and find a safe and open environment for them as well. Co-existence and tolerance must extend across the board. No group should feel that they cannot practice their beliefs in a respectful and tolerant manner of others. As the Army says, “This we’ll defend.”
By: Courtney Kidd, LMSW
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