A coalition of a who’s who of civil rights and religious freedom organizations is posing a question to cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to expose the institution’s violation of religious rights.
The new billboard by the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition simply asks: “Are you free to say so help me God? They did.”
The message on the billboard, which has been posted near the entrance to the academy, is emblazoned on an image of the faces of Mount Rushmore.
The coalition includes the American Family Association, American Values, Alliance Defending Freedom, Center for Military Readiness, Center for Security Policy, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Concerned women for America, Family Research Council, Family PAC Federal, Freedom Alliance, Freedom X, Heritage Foundation, International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, Judicial Watch, Liberty Center for Law and Policy, Liberty Counsel, Liberty Institute, Media Research Center, Military-Veterans Advocacy, Ohio Faith and Freedom Coalition, Patriotic Veterans, Stand Up America, Thomas More Law Center, The Oak Initiative and Traditional Values Coalition, which collectively represent tens of millions of Americans.
The billboard comes in response to a recent attack on the freedoms of religion and speech at the academy.
The message references the removal of “so help me God” from the official cadet handbook and the recent censorship of a Bible verse from a cadet’s personal whiteboard.
Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said cultivating religious faith crucial to the success of the military.
“We’ve all heard the adage, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’ That’s because the history of our nation evidences the fact that in the end victory depends on the spirit of our soldiers, not the sophistication of our war machines,” he said. “As Gen. George S. Patton, one of America’s greatest battlefield generals, once declared, ‘Wars might be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who lead that gains the victory.’”
Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, asserted Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy “have the constitutional right to express their individual faith.”
“If such faith scares faculty at the academy, then it is unlikely they will be very effective when confronted by a committed enemy who is willing to die for his or her beliefs,” he said.
The billboard follows a controversy that developed when a cadet wrote, on his personal whiteboard, the words of Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
A leader of a move to banish religious statements by anyone in the military said the words offended other cadets, so academy officials erased them.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, worried that there soon would be punishment in the military simply for being Christian.
“If the military is caving to someone who calls Christians ‘monsters who terrorize,’ religious liberty in the armed forces is in serious jeopardy,” he said.
He cited the work of activist Mikey Weinstein, who has accused members of the faith of being “incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.”
The military’s move prompted Todd Starnes to comment at FoxNews.com that the academy looks like it has a double standard – for those who are Christian and those who are not.
He pointed out that within a week of censoring the Bible verse, the academy officially was promoting an atheist event on campus.
“The Air Force Academy bends over backwards to promote an atheist event, but they drop the hammer on Christian-themed activities,” he wrote.
And Nate Kellum at the Christian Post commented that the academy’s censorship “is not only unthinking, it’s unconstitutional.”
“Unfortunately, the anti-Christian hostilities at the Air Force Academy,” noted the Thomas More Law Center, “are part of what Rev. Franklin Graham called a move ‘to completely secularize our military.’”