Keeping God Out of Foxholes

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: May 01, 2013 7:58 PM

An old saying goes that there are no atheists in foxholes.  Judging from what's going on at the Pentagon, however, that may not be true anymore. 

Obama administration appointees at the Pentagon hired a virulently anti-evangelical Christian consultant, Mikey Weinstein, to help formulate a policy on permitted religious expression.  Now, the Pentagon has explicitly left open the possibility that Christians in the military could be court-martialed for talking about their faith.   Writing about the issue, Sally Quinn seems to conflate invocations of faith with sexual assault (as Weinstein does explicitly). 

Obviously, no one should be subjected to unwelcome proselytizing, and religious discrimination is unconstitutional (and wrong).  Btut sweeping efforts like this strike me as an organized effort to chill all religious speech; just as we've seen in the American civic square, the fear of litigation (or here, punishment) for violating vague and often shifting guidelines is enough to deter all but the boldest from public expressions of religious faith.

Here is the text of the First Amendment:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It prohibits a government-established religion -- but it likewise forbids punishing anyone from the free exercise of his or her religious rights.