In Storm, Admiral’s Faith Firmly Anchored
Most military strategies have exit strategies–but that seems to be sorely lacking in the Pentagon’s latest fight over faith. For five days, the media has tried to untangle the Pentagon’s statements over the new policy to court-martial troops for sharing the Gospel. On the one hand, the Defense Department says it will handle religious “proselytizing” on a “case by case” basis, and on the other, it seemed to retreat, suggesting that service members can share their faith–as long as it’s not “unwanted” or “intrusive.”
Neither side of the debate seems to know how to interpret this latest “clarification”–the fourth in four days. To many, yesterday’s statement only confuses the real issue: which is how the military will distinguish between evangelizing and proselytizing (which have the same definition). Right now, the Pentagon is advocating a position of total ambiguity–with loopholes big enough to drive a tank through. By Mikey Weinstein’s definition, even the act of talking about faith is “treason,” whereas other servicemen might have a much higher tolerance for evangelism.
As our own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin told WORLD magazine yesterday, “Coercing people to believe what we believe is not part of the Christian faith.” Either way, the policy is incoherent, and the DOD’s attempt to clarify it only muddled matters more. One thing we do know for certain: the Pentagon is flustered that it got caught. Some of the military’s most senior officials were “contemplating policies that violate the rights of American service members,” FRC’s Ken Klukowski writes, “and they are literally attempting to rewrite the dictionary through a press release to offer a disingenuous explanation of why things are not as disturbing as they appear.”
While the rest of the country tries to parse the Pentagon’s words, one admiral is willing to put his career on the line to fight for the right of military members to share their faith. In an emotional moment at yesterday’s National Day of Prayer service, Coast Guard Rear Adm. William D. Lee stood at the microphone and said that he had 10 minutes of carefully prepared remarks ready but decided to “speak from the heart” instead. He told the story of so many servicemen searching for reasons to live, and talked about one 24-year-old who had tried to commit suicide and failed. Despite the protocol, Lee said he felt strongly that he should give the soldier a Bible. “The lawyers tell me that if I do that, I’m crossing the line,” he told the crowd. “I’m so glad I’ve crossed that line so many times.” To a standing ovation, Admiral Lee promised not to back down from “my right under the Constitution to tell a young man that there is hope.”Continue reading at www.frc.org