Christian Air Force Chaplain Under Fire for Reference to Atheists

bible-american-flagWorthy News:

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.


14 thoughts on “Christian Air Force Chaplain Under Fire for Reference to Atheists

  1. In nearly every instance of “an attack on religious freedom” it is conservative Christians crying out they are persecuted when there is no evidence of this. Those who want Christians to continue to dominate chaplaincy seem to have no memory of “do unto others,” which remains the most difficult teaching for Christians to actually follow. If the military of our secular nation has to have Chaplains (and I’m not convinced we need them) there has to be accommodation to all faith and ethical traditions.
    This post is yet another alarm bell for special privileges. It sounds rather tinny.

    1. The very first sentence betrays your own presupposition mate! And note, I am not an American, but a Brit, and also a retired RMC, Recon and Intell officer. But, I would most certainly agree, that generally the British culture is postmodern, and this includes the military, and that conservative and evangelical Christianity, especially the Reformed are the objects of scorn and sometimes judgment! Nothing “tinny” here, but the secular culture of both modernity & postmodernity. And Christianity is NOT foremost today’s version of the so-called moral idea, but always the ethic and doctrine of God, which has surely been lost with the loss of the Judeo-Christian doctrine and ethic itself!

      1. Ok, sir, yet the article is on the American military and, in my opinion, the violation of the establishment of religion clause in our constitution. Hard to see your point regarding the “loss” of any Christian influence (dominance) in our cultures, though the point could be made that there is a decline in some ethics when any religion takes power and arrogantly dominates. Why wouldn’t Christians support chaplains of all ethical groups if they really care about all personnel?

      2. First, I am now living in the USA (over 5 years now), semi-retired with my wife who has health issues, one of the major reasons we came here (the So Cal for the general weather, and medical). I still do daily hospital chaplain work, and some guest preaching, in some historical and Bible Churches. Also, my Irish little brother, 53, is now an American citizen, and former US Marine, (served in the 80’s, Beirut, Lebanon).( And I was myself attached several times, with the US Marine Recon, in two wars, Nam and Gulf War 1). So I am not just a Brit on some visit to the US. I also lived and taught theology in Israel in the latter 90’s, and I am very pro-Israel, and a British conservative, both biblically & theologically.

        I love history and something of the historical method… history does often repeat itself! As we remember WW 1, 100 years ago now! (And both my grandfathers fought here, Brits) The so-called ‘War to End All Wars’, appears to be the first, but not the last war, certainly. And I have read and somewhat studied the American Constitution, itself, certainly affected by some British minds. And of course the American and somewhat the British aspect to Deism is seen there, aka, Freemasonry! But look what happened to the later French Revolution, and very negative!

        Speaking for myself, a “secular” chaplain is a most oxymoron, a real opposite! But in this time of both modernity & postmodernity, I am certainly not surprised! Isaiah 5: 19-20, etc. (really to the end of the chapter) comes to mind: “Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes… “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, etc.” Surely the essence of the Judeo-Christian doctrine and ethic is under seizure today!

  2. Well, sir, I’m not sure much discussion can come from our perspectives here, but you may be correct in suggesting I’m both an oxy and a moron (smiling here). Welcome to the U.S. I apologize for our godless constitution and secular nation built on freedom of religion (free to choose a religion, or not). Sorry we were never or will never be a Christian country. I often wonder, what is the goal of those who preach for a “return to Judeo-Christian” things? “Jesusland” USA only exists in some peoples’ fantasy world.
    By the way, my almost 30 years as a Chaplain in one form or another, faith and no faith, taught me one main thing: no one owns or controls the truth, and, truth is, people are in need of much more than preaching (and quoting holy books simply doesn’t help).
    I wish you well.

    1. Funny Chris, and I never said the American Constitution was “godless” and “secular”, your words and conclusion, not mine. My one grandfather who fought in WW 1, after he came back from the war, simply left the Roman Catholic Church! (He did not like the French after the WW1 that’s for sure!) He said he quite believed in God, and became a Freemason. So being a Freemason and something of a Christian deist, does not in and of itself negate being a Christian! But I would admit that the Christian faith of some of the American constitutional fathers, was no doubt not very orthodox! Good men, moral to degree, but biblical and creedal orthodox Christians? Certainly not Jefferson!

      Note, I am myself one of those old “theolog’s that quite believes in God’s absolute sovereignty! Aye, I am a “Biblicist” and neo-Calvinist, so with me the Judeo-Christian Text really does matter! The true doctrine of God is surely not a “secular” thing, in the world certainly, but not of the world! And as Jesus Himself said: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (Born by God, from above) And of course biblically and theologically this comes by the Word of God itself: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1: 23)… noting too verses 24-25.

      Yes, I am an old classic Anglican Evangelical Christian (Unashamed!), with the Book of Common Prayer, i.e. Thomas Cranmer, and the Thirty Nine Articles! And I love the old so-called Protestant Reformers, Dr. Luther, and John Calvin, etc. There really are still some of us around! 🙂 John Wesley himself also said that “Divinity” must be personal and interior. But modern humanity has quite lost the knowledge and experience of the “Divinity” of God!

      And I too, wish you well, and also your soul, but that can only come ‘In Christ’, with GOD’s “faith, hope and love”!


  3. I guess I asked for the preaching, by commenting here. As a former seminary-trained minister and a student of the bible for many years, I have to say it sounds quite hollow to have it pushed back in my face. But, it’s your blog, so expected.
    Beyond that, one final comment: in your passion to convert the world to your opinion you might keep in mind that it is often secular people like me (and like Jefferson, Franklin, Paine and other freethinkers) who most protect your right to believe as you wish and speak freely. This is the strength of a secular state where religious freedom is vigorously supported by a Constitution and Bill of Rights based on reason and diversity rather than on one dominant theological opinion. Yes, a clergyman signed the declaration, alongside Deists and Freethinkers. Independent minds working together. Quite impressive. I wish you well.

    1. Yes, this is a blog, and a religious blog mate, and not really a secular place, i.e. modernity and postmodernity! Btw, just for the record, I have two earned doctorates, (D.Phil. & Th.D.) And taught theology (Judeo and Christian) in Israel in the latter 90s. But more important, I myself as a Christian Anglican priest/presbyter, really do believe the Bible and Holy Scripture is the Word of God! It quite obviously appears you do not! And I have fought and served in at least two wars, Vietnam, and Gulf War 1, plus other type Spl.Op engagements, for God, country and freedom! So you can stow the secular press! The aspect of conscience is God-given, but man and humanity truly live under the Adamic curse, and we only find our true and full freedom ‘In Christ’, the Last Adam, as St. Paul speaks by divine revelation! And btw too, this is NOT MY blog, but Fr. Smuts, he is also an Anglican priest, and English South African. And himself, too a military and civilian aspect Anglican chaplain.

      And btw, John Witherspoon was not just a good man and mind, but a Calvinist Christian, as were many in that day, in the so-called Great Awakening! I would challenge you to read some of the great American Calvinist, Jonathan Edwards! Without doubt one of the greatest theological and Christian minds in his day. HE was quite impressive in his own right!

      Semper Fi!

      1. “Scripture itself contains the knowledge of God from nature and explains it at length. Accordingly, the Christian follows an entirely wrong method if, whenever he treats natural theology, he severs himself, as it were, from special revelation in Scripture and from the illumination of the Holy Spirit. He commits an error whenever he attempts to discuss natural theology “without any presuppositions,” and then proceeds to the discussion of revealed theology. Also as domatician the Christian from start to finish stands foursquare on the foundation of special revelation.” (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, page 62, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951).

      2. This is a most important subject in Judeo and Christian theology! Perhaps from Christianity, the debate between Karl Barth and Emil Brunner in Natural Theology, was one of the greatest in the 20th century! They were actually in some ways very close on the subject in aspects, but even Dr. Brunner did not hold to a mere subjective sense and place for man before the revelation of God! As, “the Christian doctrine of general revelation or of revelation in nature.” And of course Barth said, “Nein”! For those that care, WIPF and Stock Publishers, still reprint the book under the title: Natural Theology (first published in 1946), and only a 128 pages. (See btw, my favorite chapter # IV, Brunner And Calvin). And also for serious students, the book by Stephen Grabill: Rediscovering The Natural Law In Reformed Theological Ethics, (2006, 310 pages, Wm B Eerdmans), is very good also! This book covers some of the early classic and historical writers, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Johannes Althusius, and Francis Turretin. A must read for the student!

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