This article was first published on the front page of the Washington Times Opinion Section on May 14, 2013. Today is Good Friday so I am re-publishing it as a reminder why those that fight and die for us must be free to practice their religious beliefs.The Maness family wishes all our Christian brothers and sisters a happy Easter.
As a former military commander both at home and deployed in war, I understand firsthand the important role free exercise of religion has in the lives of so many of our service members. For multitudes of our nation’s defenders, the practice of religious faith is foundational to life itself. In a combat setting, I have seen and experienced the hope a military chaplain’s religious message and prayers bring to a unit mourning the loss of a fallen hero and comrade. I know religious community, worship opportunities, prayer and access to pastoral care are key to the resilience of our war fighters and directly affects their capability to carry out the mission bestowed upon them by their country. That is why I am so disturbed and appalled at what appears to be an increasing effort to restrict the free exercise of religion within the military and completely secularize the public square.
The situation has become so serious last week that Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham felt compelled to send a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel imploring him to ensure that our military members’ freedom to express religious beliefs be protected. They did this in response to recent reports that one or more of the armed services may be considering changing regulations to severely restrict that right.