Written by Don Byrd
Ever since the Air Force clarified rules barring officers from using their positions to proselytize subordinates, many evangelical Christian groups have charged the policy violates the religious freedom rights of Christians in the U.S. military. The ban, they say, amounts to persecuting Christian commanders.
Not so, says Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh:
“The single biggest frustration I’ve had in this job is the perception that somehow there is religious persecution inside the United States Air Force,” Gen. Mark Welsh III told a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this spring. “It’s not true.”
Welsh’s irritation underscored the pressure the Air Force is under from Republicans in Congress, evangelical Christians and conservative advocacy groups to end what they allege is the service’s suppression of religious freedom.
To address this frustration, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James brought together chaplains and other leaders to discuss the religious freedom policy last month.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a Christian conservative policy institute that leads a coalition of organizations that are fighting the regulation, said that based on what he’d heard from people at the meeting he expected the Air Force to “make a policy change shortly.”
The prospect alarms supporters of the policy, who say a pro-Christian bias in the Air Force remains overwhelming and that the regulation provides an avenue of relief to service members…
If the claims of persecution are “not true,” why change the policy? Americans who want to serve their country without receiving unwanted religious pressure should have some protection. Stay tuned.