Concern Grows Over Group’s Move to Silence Religious Freedom in the Military

Thursday, 02 May 2013 03:21 PM

By Lisa Barron and John Bachman

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The whole nation should be concerned over moves to prevent military personnel from talking openly about their religion, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the Family Research Council tells Newsmax.

A group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has launched a new effort to curb the rights of servicemen and women — including chaplains —to more strongly enforce a rule that makes it illegal to evangelize and proselytize in the armed forces.

The group’s founder, Mikey Weinstein, has met with Pentagon officials, Boykin says.

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"Mikey Weinstein . . . has a track record of being very anti-Christian," Boykin said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV. He said the "whole objective of this foundation is to remove Christianity from our military services."

Boykin explained that Weinstein began his campaign to eliminate Christianity from military services at the Air Force Academy in 2003 "and he has since done a "great deal to hurt the spiritual climate" there.

"Americans need to understand that the very people, our young men and women in military uniforms, that are protecting the Constitution . . . including the Bill of Rights, their rights would be suppressed, would be taken away from them" if Weinstein and his foundation succeed, said Boykin.

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He claimed that the group has substantial influence over the Pentagon and that Weinstein has threatened a number of lawsuits. "The mere fact that they were willing to meet with him and allow him to be an adviser or to discuss with him religious freedom," is a strong indicator of that influence, according to Boykin. "It's like asking China to give recommendations on human rights," he said.

Boykin agrees that commanders should not be allowed to coerce members of the military to embrace their faith but distinguishes between coercion and the freedom to express one’s faith.

"Start with chaplains. Chaplains are ordained by denominations" and should be "able to freely express their faith based on the doctrine or theology of their denomination," he said.

Boykin continued, "Secondly, every individual soldier, sailor, airman, Marine should be able to express their faith, again, according to their own beliefs.

"In the Christian faith part of our belief is that we should share the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that’s fundamental to our faith."

Weinstein — who served in the Reagan White House as a legal counsel and then as chief general counsel to presidential candidate Ross Perot — believes Christian fundamentalism poses a danger to serving members of the military.

Asked if Weinstein and his group pose a danger to the role of chaplains in the military, Boykin said many evangelical denominations are having doubts about providing chaplains because of restrictions put on them.

"They will not ordain chaplains to come into the military from the evangelical denominations if in fact these chaplains are told to check their faith at the door and they’re only going to be family counselors or something like that."

As for what he would like to have happen now, Boykin said, "We want to see the Pentagon openly distance itself from Mikey Weinstein and then make a very positive statement that they will not accept coercion but they will allow evangelical Christians and Catholics to express their faith . . . to do what we believe is fundamental to the Christian faith, and that is sharing our faith with others."

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