There is an exodus of Christians from the military because of a "hostile work environment" that does not allow them to express their beliefs openly while others are discouraged from joining in the first place, say religious freedom advocates.
They point to a number of recent high-profile cases of military chaplains facing punishment for private religious counseling sessions, and say such cases could cause some with strong faith to reconsider joining the military.
"People of faith are going to stay away from the military," Michael Berry, senior counsel at the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty in America, told The Washington Times
In December, a chaplain for a Ranger training battalion was sent an administrative letter of concern after a soldier complained that he had promoted Christianity and used a Bible during a mandatory suicide-prevention training session.
Last month, a Navy chaplain was removed from his job and may lose his career after complaints about his private counseling during which he discouraged homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.
"I can't tell you how many moms and dads I've spoken to who say, 'my son or daughter wants to join the military, [but] in light of what you've described, I'm not sure I want to let them join the military anymore,' and I don't blame them. I would have serious reservations about my own kids joining," Berry said.
A group representing chaplains says that it is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain members of the cloth to serve in the military due to growing hostility to those of faith.
"I know people who get out, officers and chaplains, who've said, 'I can't serve the way I want to in this environment,' " Douglas Lee, president of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told the Times. "People who've said, 'because of the religious liberty challenges I see, I think I'll serve somewhere else.' "
Berry said that the "hostile work environment" that is forcing most religious people out of the military is getting worse.
"The problem is getting worse, not better, despite our efforts," he said, according to the Times. "There is a culture [of] hostility [toward] religion in the military right now."
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