Editor’s note: Chuck Norris’ weekly political column debuts each Monday in WND and is then syndicated by Creators News Service for publication elsewhere. His column in WND often runs hundreds of words longer than the subsequent release to other media.
Fox News reported a few weeks ago how the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., removed a Bible verse from a cadet’s personal whiteboard. I am personally so disappointed that the branch of service that I served in to protect our freedoms is now trying to suppress them.
When one walks the dorm halls of the Air Force Academy, one immediately notices the hundreds of whiteboards hanging on students’ doors. This past week, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., cited Air Force officials who explained that cadets “often use these boards to display items, quotes or other things that reflect their personality or from which they draw inspiration.” I guess the Bible is the wrong type of inspiration, at least according to some Air Force leaders.
Host of “Fox News & Commentary” Todd Starnes reported that Mikey Weinstein, director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said “29 cadets and four faculty and staff members contacted his organization to complain about the Christian passage.” Within two hours of Weinstein calling the academy and filing a complaint, the cadet’s whiteboard had been whitewashed.
Why is it that 29 cadets and four faculty members can exercise their anti-religious sentiment by communicating their grievances against the display of a Bible passage but a single cadet cannot exercise his own pro-religious sentiment by communicating his faith on his own personal whiteboard?
According to the Blaze, as a result, many cadets revolted in protest and solidarity by posting their own scriptures from the Bible and the Quran on their whiteboards.
Outside the Academy, a new billboard has recently been posted near the entrance to the Air Force training school by the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, according to WND. The billboard contains a picture of the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – with the question and statement on it addressing “Air Force Cadets”: “Are you free to say so help me God? They did.” The bottom then contains the coalition’s website URL: “MilitaryFreedom.org”
I agree with retired Gen. Jerry Boykin, now executive vice president of the Family Research Council, who explained to Fox News: “Once the academy allowed cadets to use these whiteboards for their personal use, censorship of religious commentary is unacceptable. Either the Air Force Academy is very confused about the Constitution of the United States or they don’t really believe in the liberties that are provided by that document. … In essence, what they are doing is preparing young men and women to defend the Constitution while at the same time depriving these cadets of their own constitutional liberties.”
Even according to the Air Force’s own culture standards document, religious freedom and expression should be protected by U.S. Air Force leadership among subordinates:
2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air Force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.
Despite everyone’s efforts to encourage religious freedom among Air Force Academy cadets, Chaplain Gordon J. Chaplain Klingenschmitt recently and sadly reported that: “Air Force Academy government lawyers continue to threaten cadets with punishment for posting Bible verses on their personal white-boards, according to a Christian attorney who spoke to the lawyers and several cadets.”
Unfortunately, the Air Force’s whiteboard whitewashing isn’t the first prohibition of religious expression in U.S. military circles. There have been many others since our current president took office. Here’s a small sample:
- The Air Force Academy apologized for merely announcing Operation Christmas Child – a Christian-based charity and relief program designed to send Christmas gifts to impoverished children around the world.
- Air Force officials stripped religious curriculum from a 20-year-old course on “just war theory.”
- Yet, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, as of November 2011, the Air Force is building an $80,000 Stonehenge-like worship site for “earth-based” religions, including “pagans, Wiccans, druids, witches, and followers of Native American faiths.”‘
- Walter Reed National Military Medical Center drafted a policy that prohibited individuals from using or distributing religious items during visits to the hospital.
- Three-star Army general and Delta Force war hero Lt. Gen. William G. (“Jerry”) Boykin couldn’t speak at West Point because of his Christian faith.
- The Marine Corps considered tearing down a Camp Pendleton cross meant to honor fallen heroes.
- The Navy relocated a live nativity at a base in Bahrain to the chapel area.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs censored references to God and Jesus during prayers at Houston National Cemetery.
- The Pentagon released new regulations forcing chaplains to perform same-sex weddings despite their religious objections, and members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus worked tirelessly to ensure that the final version of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law in January (2013) and included key religious freedom protections for service members generally and chaplains specifically (Section 533).
- The Pentagon revoked approval to use the logo of each service branch on the covers of Bibles sold in military exchange stores.
What is going on in the U.S. military? Apparently the military’s urge for neutrality is officially and fundamentally transforming into hostility against faith and religious expression.
What is so difficult about the military’s or feds’ understanding of the Free Exercise clause in the First Amendment, which states they “shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”?
And what is the White House’s response to all the above military omissions and prohibitions of religious freedom and expression? Answer: absolute silence. Apparently the Oval Office never received Edmund Burke’s message: “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
Long gone are the days when, before the start of World War II, the commander in chief, President Franklin Roosevelt, actually wrote the prologue to the Gideon Bibles given to the Armed Forces, encouraging them to find strength and courage from its contents. Roosevelt penned the words: “As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries, men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel, and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength, and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”
The only fight left is for we the people to defend our First Amendment’s right for freedom of religion, not espouse or enable the freedom from it. Start in your own town or city, and take the battle all the way to Washington.
Write or call your representatives, then the White House to voice your opinion about the assault on religious liberty occurring among our military and across our land, and share what you think should be done about it. You can reach the White House at 202-456-1111 or email the president.