Hat's off to Rep. Randy Forbes and 65 other members of Congress for standing up for the religious liberties of airmen serving in the United States Air Force. The letter, delivered mid June, targeted what has to be one of the most eyebrow raising tactics used to attack religious liberty yet devised:
In recent months, the USAF has made various changes regarding the religious freedom of individuals bravely serving in the military. Most of these changes occurred following a September 1, 2011 memorandum issued by General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the USAF, imposing a stringent policy with regards to religion. The memo stated that Gen. Schwartz expected "chaplains, not commanders, to notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs," suggesting that the mere mention of these programs in impermissible. We believe this statement exemplifies the troubling "complete separation" approach that is creating a chilling effect down the chain of command as airmen attempt to comply.
For comparision purposes, imagine if the media was instructed that they couldn't announce religious events on air, because that would be using government transmission lines -- owned by the FCC -- for the dissemenation of religious information.
In short, the Air Force has decided not to share religious-themed events with airmen. Just what General George Washington intended when he formed the Army Chaplaincy, right?
Or course, common sense might suggest that Forbes has the right idea, and that Secretary Panetta might want to reconsider his options.
So is it any surprise that the same predictable few come out to bash religious freedom? Check this out:
Mere days later, 66 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with the spurious allegation that U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz was guilty of “imposing a stringent policy with regards to religion,” and that the USAF in general is guilty of creating “a culture that is hostile toward religion.” This was a reaction to the watershed memo Schwartz released last September underscoring the long-existing yet oft-ignored expectation that “chaplains, not commanders… notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs.” According to these woefully misinformed and Constitutionally derelict lawmakers, Schwartz’s simple recapitulation of long-standing rules governing the division of labor in the armed forces vis-à-vis religious programs constituted a full-frontal attack on all religious practices throughout the Air Force. Euphemistically, lawmakers accused the USAF of bowing to the pressure of “secular groups” like MRFF. Not so. The Schwartz memo was a wet-noodle, meek attempt at damage control issued amidst an especially frenetic period when the Air Force was, yet again, fully embroiled in severe controversy due to a string of breathtakingly embarrassing incidents. MRFF was even forced to erect a public billboard of the Schwartz memo in Colorado Springs in direct reaction to U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. General Michael Gould’s abject refusal to disseminate it to cadets on campus.
...just in case you ever wanted to see what false martyrdom looks like.
Of course, the so-called Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is a case study in correlation not implying causality... or perhaps, with regards to MRFF's definition of "freedom" vs. the religious pluralism that Americans have known for over 236 years, this is merely a variant of Tacitus' observation "and they call it a desert and call it peace," such is MRFF's understanding of religious freedom.
At the end of the day, renegade groups like MRFF seek one thing only -- religious freedom for themselves, a pure desert where all expression is forbidden.
Does that sound like your America?
The whole episode does go to show that organizations such as MRFF that love to compare chaplains to "terroristic threats" don't survive long in the public square. Kudos to Forbes and others for standing tall against the goons who would threaten our military chaplains and the warfighters they serve.