Religious Freedom in the Military Under Increased Assault, Advocates Say

Ron Crews (L) of the Chaplain's Alliance for Religious Liberty presents Congressman Randy Forbes (center) the Torchbearer Award on July 12, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Ron Crews (L) of the Chaplain's Alliance for Religious Liberty presents Congressman Randy Forbes (center) the Torchbearer Award on July 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. | Brandon Showalter

WASHINGTON – Christians must remain vigilant in light of increased assaults on religious liberty in the military, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty Director Ron Crews argued Tuesday.

"We have had a chaplain court-marshaled because of counsel he gave concerning what the Bible says about homosexuality. Through the help of several members of Congress and attorneys those charges were eventually dropped," Crews told The Christian Post.

Another chaplain "was reprimanded by his commander because he used the Psalms as a resource to fight depression," he continued, adding that the reprimand was ultimately removed from his record, thanks again to those congressmen.

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Crews was at a reception held at the Reserve Officers Association of the United States in Washington, D.C, where Representative Randy Forbes of Virginia, who lost his primary in June, was awarded the Torchbearer Award, an award given to those who have fervently advocated for the religious freedoms of soldiers and the military chaplains who serve them.

In his acceptance speech, Forbes urged everyone in attendance to heed the counsel in the book of Jude, his favorite book of the Bible, to fight the good fight of faith particularly as opposition to faith is rising in America.

The most ugly example of this emerged in 2013 when a U.S. Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief designated "Evangelical Christianity" and "Roman Catholicism" as extremism alongside groups like al-Qaeda and Hamas.

As CP reported at the time, the official training documents read, "'Extremism is a complex phenomenon' that is present in every religion due to 'some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only 'right way' and that all others are practicing their faith the 'wrong way,' seeing and believing that their faith/religion superior to all others." Evangelical Christianity was placed at the top of a bullet-point list of extremist groups in a government training slide-show.

Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, a previous Torchbearer Award recipient, spoke briefly Tuesday about his amendment to the the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act and the "Right of Conscience clause" that has proven helpful in defending chaplains and their ministries to soldiers.

Crews told CP that language has been used in several cases to guide commanders to ensure that no one is punished for living out their faith.

Also in attendance who took to the podium were stalwart advocates Lt. General Jerry Boykin, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, who is the only military chaplain currently serving in Congress.

In remarks in a recorded video during the reception, Crews further noted that many forget that the military played a vital role in forming America's policies of religious tolerance. General George Washington appointed chaplains from a variety of religions and faith traditions to serve soldiers in the Continental army, not just Anglican ones.

"Our chaplaincy as it were, sowed the seed of religious liberty in our nation to protect the rights of people to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience," Crews said.

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