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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council’s Executive Vice President and former Delta Force commander, and Travis Weber, Esq., Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, a former naval aviator and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, will attend oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in the case of United States v. Sterling.
In this case, the court will decide whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects a Marine lance corporal’s decision to post scripture verses at her workstation. The lance corporal desired to post the verses to give her inspiration and strength, but military superiors ordered her to remove the verses she posted. A lower court refused to protect her religious expression, interpreting RFRA in a constrained manner to protect only certain types of religious exercise. FRC and numerous other religious freedom advocates are urging the court to overturn this harmful decision.
Lt. General Boykin commented on the case:
“If one thing is clear from my 36 years in the military, it is that religious faith is indispensable for the soldier facing danger and the possibility of death in battle. Throughout the history of our magnificent military, faith has played a role not just in strengthening weak knees and frail hearts, but has actually made a difference in the actions of service members who act on this faith to accomplish deeds of valor. To rob the service member of the right to express this faith will do incalculable damage to the armed forces,” concluded Boykin.
Weber, who has testified before Congress about the need for increased religious freedom protections in the military, commented on the case:
“While the military is certainly different from civilian society in many ways, the suppression of constitutional rights is not one of them. Service members retain their freedom of religion in the military, and indeed, are often strengthened by its exercise. Whether we all individually agree with the religious exercise at issue is not the point; what matters is the principle that all Americans have the freedom to believe and live out those beliefs.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that RFRA broadly protects religious exercise from unnecessary and burdensome government action. The court should reverse this overly narrow ruling and recognize the broad understanding of RFRA clearly affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Weber concluded.
This case has broader implications for the military. As Lt. General Boykin and other retired general officers noted in an amicus brief they filed in the case, “the [lower court] decision undermines one of the greatest strengths of America’s military: the religiosity of its members. It effectively tells service members to keep their religious beliefs hidden or face discipline.” It is difficult to argue with their observation that “[m]ilitary men and women who swear to uphold the Constitution should also be afforded its protections.”
To review the amicus brief filed by General Boykin and other retired general officers, please see: http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF16D53.pdf
To review Travis Weber’s testimony before the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Services Committee, please see: http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF14K61.pdf