Letter: Religious freedom threatened in military

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This letter to the editor appeared in The Baton Rouge Advocate on July 22, 2013.

In his article, "Fleming and Perkins claim religious threats in military," (July 10) Jordan Blum allowed the Tampa Bay Times' PolitiFact to do his research for him. Unfortunately, PolitiFact and Blum got it wrong. PolitiFact had deemed "mostly false" the concern that "the federal government has taken the separation of church and state too far and is now keeping military members from promoting their Christian beliefs."

PolitiFact makes the mistake of concluding that there is nothing problematic with the Pentagon's recent confusing statements that service members are permitted to "evangelize" but not "proselytize." On May 2, the Air Force added to the confusion when it stated that, "Air Force members are free to express their personal religious beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable."

PolitiFact may not be concerned with these statements, but those directly impacted by these policies have a different view. And they are the nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

Last Tuesday, I joined my friend and Navy veteran Rep. John Fleming, R-La., and a number of other veterans, as well as active reservists, at a Capitol Hill news conference to release a report (which can be found at www.militaryfreedom.org) detailing the growing number of incidents of hostility toward the free exercise of religion in the U.S. military.

On the heels of PolitiFact's declaration, Rear Admiral William Lee confirmed the concerns that had been raised about religious freedom in the military when he spoke on Capitol Hill during this year's National Day of Prayer. The admiral told of a young Coast Guardsman who had lost all hope and attempted to take his own life. Having survived but having no hope Adm. Lee simply gave him a Bible. The admiral said, "The lawyers tell me that if I do that, I'm crossing the line," Lee concluded by saying "I am so glad I crossed that line."

Just a few weeks after Adm. Lee told of the restrictions and threats military members face if they simply share the hope they have found in following Jesus Christ, I met the young man who survived the self-inflicted gunshot to the head. His outlook on life has totally changed. He has hope, he has purpose and he has a future because someone crossed a line that should never have been drawn.

I stand with Rear Admiral Lee, Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers, TSgt. Layne Wilson and the many other service members who have been threatened or punished simply for sharing their religious beliefs.