“Separating” Church and State

Corner of Church and State in Marion, OHNPR’s All Things Considered reported today that a watchdog group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is angling for the courts-martial of several officers who appeared in a promotional video for the late Bill Bright’s Christian Embassy. Mikey Weinstein, a lawyer for the MRFF, says their appearing in the video violates Air Force regulations.

According to its Web site, Christian Embassy “exists to provide safe places and practical resources to help national and international leaders working in D.C., their spouses and staffs integrate their faith and their work.” Of course, as one would expect from the Christian Embassy, the faith it’s integrating is the Christian faith. The officers’ appearances in the video constitute a significant “radicalized” element of the Pentagon, says Weinstein. At any rate, the complaint is apparently enough to warrant an investigation by the Inspector General.

The Pentagon won’t really comment on the issue, not while the investigation’s underway. Major Stewart Upton, FOXNews reports, “emphasized several points about Defense Department policy, including that it does not endorse any one religion or religious organization; it provides free access of religion for all members of the military services; it does not judge the validity of any one religious expression over the validity of any other and it supports free access for service personnel to the religious expression of their choosing.”

So what’s at stake here? The integration of faith and work? It’s an interesting story about which I don’t have a firm opinion yet. I will say though that the generals’ appearance in a video seems to have very little to do with Pentagon or military regulations. The fact that generals and colonels are Christians, even devout Christians, shouldn’t give anyone cause for fear. And yet here comes the MRFF. Why?

As with other Establishment Clause delusionaries, the MRFF imagines that the prohibition against establishing a religion means you can’t take your faith into the public square. They promise to ensure “that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” Yet in undermining one religion, they infringe upon the constitutional rights of these officers.

Public Christianity seems to be less and less acceptable, unless the Christianity in question is eviscerated of any truth claims. Thus the barely recognizable “Christianity” of Dan Brown and his Da Vinci Code followers is not only acceptable, it’s desirable. But “radicalized evangelical” officers prayerfully doing their military duty are a threat not only to the military but to the American way.

I’m no antidisestablishmentarian, but neither would I counsel taking this blind interpretation of the Establishment Clause to its logical conclusion. It does, however, fit with the recent love affair between big media and atheism. I’ve talked about this before, here and here.

Watch the Christian Embassy video, and read more about the campaign, on the MRFF site.

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