AU Issues Special Report On Religious Freedom In The Military
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Groundbreaking AU report debunks claims of widespread religious liberty abuses in military


Today we're releasing an in-depth report that debunks claims by Religious Right groups that fundamentalist Christians' religious liberty in the military is under siege.
 
Our report, Clear and Present Falsehoods: The Real State of Religious Freedom in the Military, responds to a publication by the Family Research Council (FRC) that purports to chronicle widespread instances of “hostility towards religious belief and its expression in the military.”
 
In fact, the FRC report (titled “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military”) is merely a list of overblown and inaccurate claims, built on a tissue of distortions, half-truths and hearsay. Numerous examples of religious liberty “violations” listed in the FRC report were actually efforts by military officials to enforce the separation of church and state or were ambiguous policies that were quickly clarified.
 
Unfortunately, the FRC report has been cited as evidence of bias against fundamentalist Christians in the military. Last month, it was cited by Republicans during a House subcommittee hearing on religious liberty issues in the armed forces.
 
As Mark Stern wrote yesterday in Slate, Americans United's report “deflates or disproves each claim in ‘Clear and Present Danger.’ The result gives us a glimpse into the mindset of far-right religious extremists today and a deeper understanding of how the rallying cry of “religious liberty” can be used to quash free speech, equal protection, and actual free exercise of religion.”
 

Here are a few claims we’ve debunked:

FRC Claim: Franklin Graham was disinvited from speaking at the Pentagon.


What really happened: The FRC report fails to tell the whole story. Graham had been invited by a private group to address a prayer breakfast at the Pentagon. Military officials got wind of Graham’s long track record of making intolerant statements about Muslims and gay people. They decided his presence would be counter to the military’s goal of inclusion and support for soldiers of all faiths and philosophies. He was disinvited. 
 

FRC Claim: Officials at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC, barred visitors from giving wounded soldiers religious literature.


What really happened: The FRC report fails to put this incident in its proper context. Walter Reed officials took steps to curb aggressive proselytizing by groups that were visiting soldiers after some soldiers and their families complained that the visitors were criticizing soldiers and disparaging their service. Walter Reed officials quickly realized that the policy as applied to the distribution of religious literature was too broad and scrapped it; it was never enforced.
 

FRC Claim: Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas were told not to support or contribute to evangelical Christian or Tea Party groups.


What really happened: The FRC report fails to note that officials at Foot Hood investigated these allegations and determined that they were false.
 

Our report was drafted by Legislative Director Maggie Garrett, Federal Legislative Counsel Elise Helgesen Aguilar and Peter Zupan, AU intern.
 
 

 

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