An Air Force chaplain in Alaska who was censored in his weekly column may now face additional consequences, according to The Washington Times.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Reyes had posted a sermon on the base’s online site titled: “No Atheists in Foxholes”. Although the saying comes from a speech made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation claimed that Reyes’ reference to atheists somehow violated military policy. But even after his sermon was removed from the site, MRFF demanded that Reyes also be disciplined.
In reply, the Family Research Council asked why we even have chaplains if they aren’t allowed to express theirs beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of their fellow service members?
Military chaplains are the exception to the First Amendment’s establishment clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Under the principle of religious accommodation, the government may support religious activity if it addresses the religious needs of Department of Defense personnel who, because of government action, no longer have access to religious resources. When the military separates service members from their worship, the government may provide the required religious resources, i.e., chaplains. In this situation, the government is simply responding to a religious need and not promoting religion.
U.S. Army Regulation 165-1 states: “In striking a balance between the ‘establishment’ and ‘free exercise’ clauses, the Army chaplaincy, in providing religious services and ministries to the command, is an instrument of the U.S. government to ensure that soldiers’ ‘free exercise’ rights are protected. At the same time, chaplains are trained to avoid even the appearance of any establishment of religion.”
Military chaplains predate the Constitution; in September 1775, George Washington wrote Benedict Arnold to ensure religious freedom within the ranks of his command.