Despite the fact that military service members have recently been permitted to march in gay pride parades, the Department of Defense prohibited members of the Missouri National Guard from attending a one-hour meet-and-greet with children at a vacation Bible camp held a small Baptist church in the rural southwest corner of the state in late July.
According to a military bylaw, personnel are not allowed to participate in an official capacity in religious or ideological events. That regulation, however, appears to have been selectively applied.
Guardsmen were prevented from appearing at the Bible Baptist Church in Carthage to be honored and thanked by kids and their pastor. But the D.C. military color guard should was allowed to march in Washington D.C.'s gay pride parade in early June. There was also one military service member who marched in a gay pride parade in mid-July while holding the hand of his husband.
The regulation states: "Army participation must not selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any person, group, or corporation (whether profit or non-profit); religion, sect, religious or sectarian group, or quasi-religious or ideological movement."
"I will never understand why it's OK for the military to march in a gay-pride parade but not be allowed to spend an hour talking to children who look up to them," one Missouri guardsmen told Todd Starnes of Fox News.
In 2012, The Defense Department allowed service members to march in San Diego's gay pride parade while in uniform.
"If the Navy can punish a chaplain for participating in a pro-life event or a Marine participating in a political rally, it stands to reason that DOD should maintain the same standard and preclude service members in uniform from marching in a gay-pride parade," Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe told The Hill in 2012. "I respectfully request a detailed explanation of the rationale you used to grant this 'one-time waiver' of DOD policy, who requested the waiver, why this waiver was considered justified over other requests, and whether you are considering other exceptions to current policy."
The Bible Baptist Church Bible camp hosted a week-long function called "God's Rescue Squad" where they honored various local rescue units. After honoring members of the nearby fire department, paramedic squad and sheriff's department along with their K-9 unit, the camp was to honor the members of the state's National Guard from the local armory on the fourth day of the event.
But to the children's dismay, the guardsmen never showed up in their Humvee like they said they would, citing the federal regulations that prohibits any military activity that appears to endorse a religious group.
"We had a lot of disappointed kiddos because of the National Guard being unwilling to allow a Humvee and a few soldiers to spend an hour at a Baptist Church," another guardsman told Starnes. "It makes me wonder what I'm actually fighting for… I honestly never thought I'd see the day when this would happen in my hometown."
Another guardsmen agreed with his comrade: "I can tell you I'm ashamed and embarrassed right now. This isn't the military I signed up for."
The church's pastor Kent Hogan said that the event was intended to simply thank the National Guard members for their service and dedication toward protecting the country and their religious freedom.
"We are a very patriotic church," Hogan said. "We love America. We love this country."
Most Americans, especially those in rural towns, do not realize how much their religious freedom is in jeopardy, he added.
"If they did this to us — how bad is it somewhere else? This is not just a big city issue. This is a small town America issue. Americans need to wake up," Hogan said.