Admiral: I'm not Backing Down
Over the last several days we've watched the Pentagon double timing in their efforts to get ahead of the fallout from the April 23rd meeting between anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein and senior Air Force officials. In the meeting, discussion surrounded a forthcoming Air Force policy on religious expression that Lt. Gen. Richard C. Harding said "will be a panacea to all religious issues." Many in the Christian community have sought to make sense of the Pentagon's confusing statements this past week -- particularly the most troubling line: that "religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense." Coercion has always been prohibited. But another Air Force statement said "members are free to express their personal beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable." Uncomfortable is obviously subjective. The Pentagon later claimed that evangelism is not included in their definition of proselytization.
However, a well-respected Rear Admiral as well as an avalanche of recent attacks on religious liberty in the uniformed services completely contradict the official line put out by the Pentagon. Yesterday, video was released of the speech given by Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee at the National Day of Prayer service on Capitol Hill. The Admiral boldly declared that he had disregarded the rules and gave a Bible to a service member who had attempted suicide. He went further and pledged not to abide by the restrictive regulations. 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."
After listening to his speech and reading the steady stream of reports about suppression of religious expression, I don't see how one can dismiss these concerns as rising from some kind of conspiracy theory being pushed by Christian groups. In reality, the concerns stated by Christians in the military are the result of an environment of increasing religious hostility that has been created by restrictive regulations at the behest of activists like Mikey Weinstein. Several weeks ago, Defense Secretary Hagel was grilled about them in a Congressional hearing -- but said he knew nothing about it. A conspiracy? No. An environment created by Mikey Weinstein's influence over military regulations and compliant leaders? Yes.
The Land of Lincoln Stands for Marriage
Today, Patrick Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party resigned his position. He told CNN, "...obviously I had lost the support of the state Central Committee because of my position on gay marriage." Earlier this year, Brady had endorsed redefining marriage and quickly lost the support of the party. The loss of support isn't surprising considering that the committee's reaction reflects the base of the national GOP -- 68% of which according to the Washington Post -- strongly oppose same-sex marriage. "While we've seen national Republican politicians move to support gay marriage in recent years..." the Washington Post points out, "the party base hasn't really moved with them all that much." After the recent rush of a few national Republicans to embrace same-sex marriage, reality is beginning to sink in for many that abandoning natural marriage is unlikely to bring a ground-swell of social liberals voting Republican, but it may give social conservatives, who vote Republican, motivation to sit out the elections -- or move them to create a third party. Either option puts Republicans on the path to a permanent minority. Marriage is and will continue to be a non-negotiable issue for Evangelicals and social conservatives. Anything less, as Byron York writes, "could come back to haunt the RNC in the not-too-distant future."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.