The Truce Shall Set You Free
It's been a long two weeks for the Pentagon's PR department. As if the Benghazi fiasco weren't enough, Defense officials have been trying to suppress the outrage over a Washington Post piece that put a spotlight on the military's policy on faith. After a private meeting with Defense Department brass, Mikey Weinstein bragged about the conversation to the Post's Sally Quinn, who reported that the Pentagon had agreed to start cracking down on religious expression in the ranks.
On April 30, the DOD confirmed as much in a public statement that said, "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense. Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis." The country's shock was soon replaced by anger, as Americans started flooding the agency with calls and emails demanding answers. The Pentagon tried to put out the fire - unsuccessfully -- with a vague nod toward faith on May 2. "The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions," Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said.
When that did nothing to satisfy the basic question -- would the Pentagon punish people for sharing the Gospel? -- Christensen released a third statement that same day. "Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)." Neither side knew how to interpret the DOD's "clarification," since the two words are virtually interchangeable. The American people, 160,000 of whom had signed our petition calling on Secretary Chuck Hagel to intervene, weren't satisfied--and neither were we.
Finally, on Wednesday of this week, the DOD issued its fourth statement -- one that shows some significant progress. "There is no effort within the Department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the [Uniform Code of Military Justice]," Christensen told The Hill newspaper. "Service members may exercise their rights under the First Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission. Even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member."
After weeks of contradictory press releases, the military is rejecting the position of anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein and embracing the rights that every service member is fighting for. And while the Pentagon's evolution is a welcome one, we recognize that the military isn't governed by press releases, but policies. It will be up to Congress to lock the DOD into this position with regulations affirming the religious liberty of every man and woman in uniform.
Of course, there are still those who insist that this entire controversy was nothing but a conspiracy theory from overly sensitive Christians. But if this was such an exaggeration, why was the Pentagon working so hard to contain the story? Why issue four conflicting statements? And why would a Rear Admiral put his career on the line to address it? Anyone who sees the progression of DOD's press releases knows that conservatives weren't swatting at flies. This was a coordinated threat to America's First Freedom -- which, thanks to tens of thousands of you, we exposed and defeated! The final victory for service members will come when Congress enacts a more permanent solution to the growing problem of religious hostility in the military.
Until then, FRC will continue to pursue a meeting with Defense officials. Just last week, FRC's Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin sent a letter to Secretary Hagel requesting a time to discuss these concerns and hopefully pave the way for a DOD-wide policy that fully protects religious expression for our troops.
Minn at Work
Lately, it seems you can't open the newspaper without reading about another state legislature getting closer to legalizing same-sex "marriage." Yesterday, the Minnesota House cleared the biggest hurdle in redefining marriage in the North Star state, voting 75-59 to send the bill onto the Senate. Delaware and Rhode Island had already jumped on the same-sex bandwagon earlier this spring, bringing the total number of gay marriage states into the double digits (12). As conservatives, it's easy to despair. With liberal states falling like dominos, Americans must be wondering if this is the end of the road for marriage.
Well, it's not--and here's why. If you look at the dozen states with same-sex "marriage," homosexual activists are picking off the easiest targets: progressive pockets of the country that have rejected traditional morality. Pretty soon, the Left's momentum is going to peak, and all of the low-hanging fruit that it's enjoyed over the last two years will run out. Why are homosexual activists trying to get the Supreme Court to impose a nationwide view of same-sex "marriage" on the country? Because they understand that wherever same-sex "marriage" is in place, people are going to witness first-hand the hidden consequences of redefining marriage. Once parents start losing their rights to instill values in their kids, employers are sued by the state for not violating their religious beliefs, or the government takes away churches' tax-exempt status, more Americans will wake up to the threats of redefining marriage.
Our short-term strategy should be containment. If conservatives can confine same-sex "marriage" to these liberal jurisdictions, the evidence of why this policy won't work will begin to show. More people will realize that this isn't about the marriage altar -- it's about fundamentally altering society. It's time to look at the marriage scoreboard -- 30 states to 12 -- and recognize that same-sex "marriage" isn't a wave that's sweeping the nation. If anything, it's a call to stand for natural marriage -- and keep standing.
FRC Says Goodbye to One of Its Finest...
It takes a lot of dedicated people, working behind the scenes, to maintain FRC's reputation as an organization of excellence. Most people know my face, General Boykin's, and a number of our other policy experts, but what they don't see are the dozens of individuals supporting our mission outside the public eye. The FRC team isn't motivated by a paycheck, but by serving others and our shared calling. FRC said goodbye to one of those outstanding leaders this week, Scott Potter.
After starting out in the distribution center, the senior staff quickly recognized Scott's talents and energy. Over the span of two decades, he was rewarded for his hard work until he eventually took the helm of our Holland, Michigan office. Not a single event, website, publication, or project here at FRC has been produced over the last 20 years without Scott's fingerprints on it -- and for his efforts we are eternally grateful. As he follows the Lord's calling to a leadership position in his home church, we wish him nothing but the best as he labors alongside us for God's kingdom. He will be sorely missed!
** What compromise? That's what FRC's Cathy Ruse wants to know about the Boy Scouts' membership proposal. She explains what's behind the BSA's agenda in her new column, "Deceit in the Boy Scouts" for Townhall.com.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.