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Freedom From Religion

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

WASHINGTON -- "We don't need you, so shut up!" That's the message the Obama administration has sent loud and clear to America's Roman Catholics. And it's a message now being sent to U.S. military chaplains -- to the detriment of our armed forces.

During World War II, the War Department and the Department of the Navy urged -- the operative word is "urged," not "ordered," mind you -- U.S. military chaplains to encourage soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines that God was on our side in the global battle against fascists, Nazis and the godless heathens running rampant across Asia and the Pacific. The hymns "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" were sung with fervor at chapel services regardless of denomination.

The U.S. military I entered in 1961 still had tens of thousands of men and women familiar with such experience. My regimental chaplain in Vietnam, Cmdr. Jake Laboon, a Jesuit priest, was a decorated U.S. Navy combat veteran of World War II. He routinely administered last rites to grievously wounded -- and often dying -- Marines and sailors without regard to a denominational preference on their dog tags. It's a good thing he was there when I was wounded, because, as others related to me later, he was the one who told the surgeons to "take this one next" while I was unconscious on a triage litter at a field hospital. If he hadn't been there, I might not be here.

All this helps to explain my bias. As a general matter, I like chaplains who do their duty to God and man. I especially admire men like Jake Laboon. And I don't like the way the Obama administration is treating them. This week's order to muzzle what chaplains can say is yet another O-Team salvo aimed at "de-Christianizing" -- and ultimately destroying -- the U.S. military.

The opening shot was fired when President Barack Obama declared in his January 2010 State of the Union address that he would "repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are." (Emphasis added.) The "law" to which the president referred was "don't ask, don't tell," which wasn't a law at all; it was an administrative policy implemented by the Clinton administration. The actual governing law -- Section 654 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code -- states, "There is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces." The president ran roughshod over the law of the land in a political payoff to a preferred constituency.

The Defense of Marriage Act was next. Though the bill was argued, debated, passed by both houses of Congress, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder unilaterally declared the law unconstitutional in February 2011.

Holder was courteous enough to send Congress a letter explaining our legislature's irrelevance in the matter. He stated, "The President and I have concluded that ... Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional." Since then, Obama has said, "Where Congress is not willing to act, we're going to go ahead and do it ourselves." Efficiency is one of the great advantages of dictatorships.

Dispensing with DOMA paved the way for the Pentagon to greenlight same-sex "marriages" presided over by military chaplains -- on or off base -- in states that recognize such "unions." Now the O-Team has mandated that the Roman Catholic Church violate its own teachings on birth control and abortion.

The Obama administration's edict requiring employers -- including the Catholic Church -- to offer "health" coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception ignited a firestorm. Roman Catholic bishops protested loudly and in unison that the action was a violation of the First Amendment. In churches across the country, letters from the bishops were read to congregations, explaining the directive as unjust and unconstitutional because it forces Catholic institutions to violate their faith or pay staggering fines.

The O-Team shrugged off the dissent until Archbishop Timothy Broglio -- who leads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA -- issued a pastoral letter denouncing the Obamacare directive because "the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty." The letter, sent to Catholic military chaplains, instructed them to read it to their congregations on the weekend of Jan. 28-29. In his missive, Broglio declared that the new rule "is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle."

Apparently, the archbishop's assertion that "we cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law" was too much for the Army chief of chaplains. He ordered that the letter not be read in military chapels or field services because Broglio had not "coordinated" with his office. Army Secretary John McHugh subsequently admitted that such censorship was "a mistake."

"Mistake"? It wasn't a mistake if McHugh and the rest of the administration's objective is eliminating Christianity from the United States armed forces and wrecking the finest military the world ever has seen. We'll know for sure what the goal really is when the commander in chief orders chaplains to violate their religious beliefs and perform same-sex "marriages" or just get out. And then our men and women serving in uniform will finally have freedom from religion.

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