You know the military operates differently compared to the private sector, right?
Of course you do. It’s the military.
Do you think religious freedom applies to the military?
That might sound like a “duh” question. Of course you have freedom of religion in the military.
Why wouldn’t you?
But that’s where it gets dicey.
Yes, you have freedom of religion in the military, but it looks different. Especially when you compare it to the religious freedom you enjoy today.
Mikey Weinstein made a good case for this altered version of freedom of religion during a recent interview at my college.
Who’s Mikey Weinstein?
For starters, he’s the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He’s also an attorney, author, and former air force officer.
I found out about him thanks to my college’s Newsmaker Interviews Series, hosted by Marvin Olasky.
Every so often, Dr. Olasky interviews important figures in different industries, issues and policies.
Not only is it a great event to hear from figures of authority and experience, but it’s also a great way to hear differing opinions.
And Mikey Weinstein is a differing opinion, especially when it comes to my college.
What’s His View on Military Religious Freedom?
Spoiler: his views aren’t that different from yours.
Yes, he believes in religious freedom.
No, he doesn’t hate religions.
But he does hold a unique view when it comes to the military.
Here’s what his organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation believes:
No religion or religious philosophy may be advanced by the United States Armed Forces over any other religion or religious philosophy.
No member of the United States Armed Forces may be compelled in any way to conform to a particular religion or religious philosophy.
No member of the United States Armed Forces may be compelled in any way to witness or engage in any religious exercise.
No member of the military may be compelled to curtail – except in the most limited of military circumstances and when it directly impacts military discipline, morale and the successful completion of a specific military goal – the free exercise of their religious practices or beliefs.
Students at United States military academies are entitled to the same Constitutional rights pertaining to religious freedoms and the free exercise of those freedoms to which all other members of the United States Armed Forces military are entitled.
No member of the military may be compelled to endure unwanted religious proselytization, evangelization or persuasion of any sort in a military setting and/or by a military superior or civilian employee of the military.
The full exercise of religious freedom includes the right not to subscribe to any particular religion or religious philosophy. The so-called “unchurched” cede no Constitutional rights by want of their separation from organized faith.
It is the responsibility of the military hierarchy to ensure that the free exercise of religious freedoms of all enlisted personnel are respected and served.
All military personnel have the right to employ appropriate judicial means to protect their religious rights.
That’s what he believes. That’s what his organization pushes for.
How do they define when one of these points have been violated?
First, what qualifies it as a problem?
An officer mentioned a religious event to a subordinate. How do we know if the officer was in the wrong or not? What’s the time, place and manner?
Time: did the office do this action during working hours?
Place: was it off base, on base, on the battlefield, etc?
Manner: did he invite the person, did he mention his church to him, did he meet him at a religious event, etc?
Then you have to take into account these points…
- Duty hours
- Duty place
- wearing uniforms
Combine time, place and manner, and those four points and you have a guide for when sharing religious beliefs is a problem.
But, why is it a problem in the first place?
What happens if two soldiers are up for advancement? Both of them are qualified and ready for the job. But, let’s say one of them is a Christian and so is the officer deciding who advances.
Now, let’s say the officer and the subordinate go to the same bible study together.
The other officer is a Jew. And it turns out that the Christian soldier gets picked for the advancement.
How do you think the Jewish soldier is going to feel? Do you think he’s going to feel like he got passed over because he’s not a Christian? Will he file a complaint? Is the Christian officer in the wrong?
Regardless of if the soldier was picked based on his faith, you can see how this can go bad.
It’s an oil keg waiting to explode.
This is the kind of situations the Military Religious Freedom Foundation deals with. They get complaints and analyze them to see if there’s a legitimate complaint.
The reason why the Military Religious Freedom Foundation receives these cases is because going up the chain of command doesn’t help.
When you stand up for your religious rights in the military you out yourself. You don’t last long in that kind of environment.
That’s why organizations like Mikey’s exist. To deal with these issues.
The goal of these policies is to make sure everything runs smoothly in the military.
You’re defending your country. The last thing you need is religious drama.
You can watch the entire newsmaker interview here.
Should You Support it or Not?
I know this sounds picky.
It sounds like a bunch of separation of church and state fan girls making a big deal out of every little matter.
But it’s a good policy, believe it or not.
This is the military we’re talking about.
The military is a tribe. It has traditions, rules, it’s a society of its own creation. Of course, freedom of religion will look different for them.
Also, you’re voluntarily joining the military. That means you’re agreeing to obey the rules and procedures that come with it.
Contracts, people. Contracts.
And frankly, soldiers shouldn’t be dealing with these issues. They’re in the military to protect us, not get into religious debates.
There’s more to this topic for sure. If you want to learn more about how it all works I recommend checking out the website for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Check it out, think over it and then let me know what you think about it. You can leave a comment below, or reply to the email if you’re an Informer.