Our Constitution, Any Religion & The Military

Received from MRFF Advisory Board Member John M. Compere (Judge and Brigadier General, US Army, Retired)

OUR CONSTITUTION, ANY RELIGION & THE MILITARY

The military mission is to defend our diverse nation against its enemies – not promote a religion. The sworn military service oath is to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States…and bear true faith and allegiance to the same” – not to a religion or its writings. The Constitution 1st Amendment prohibits our government or its representatives (which includes the military) from publicly “respecting” a religion. Religion is private, military service and pay are public. Military personnel may privately practice a religion or no religion of their choice, but they may not lawfully use their public service, office or position to promote private religious beliefs or impose them on fellow Americans.

Those who disrespect, disregard or deny our Constitution and their sworn service oath subject themselves to disciplinary action. It needs to also include a USA Constitution 101 class and briefing on the legal significance of their sworn oath. Those who choose not to support and defend our Constitution or honor their sworn oath have the right to seek a career in the civilian sector for private pay. When military leadership demonstrates intelligence, integrity and loyalty to the mission as well as their oath, this problem does not arise.

The United States Constitution 1st Amendment provides 3 basic religious liberties for all Americans:

Freedom from religion – our government is prevented from “respecting ” an establishment of religion (supporting, favoring, endorsing or promoting a religion). It is the right of all Americans to be free from religion imposed by the government or its representatives.

Freedom of religion – our government is prevented from “prohibiting” free exercise of religion. It is the right of all Americans to privately practice a religion or no religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans. It does not include the right of the government or its representatives to impose religion on Americans.

Freedom to speak about religion – our government is prevented from “abridging” freedom of speech. It is the right of all Americans to speak publicly for or against religion provided it does not violate the rights of other Americans. It does not include the right of the government or its representatives to impose religion (which includes religious speech) on Americans.

There should be no misunderstanding about the operative words of these first 3 clauses of the 1st Amendment. All one has to do is read them and then look up the definition of “respecting ”, “prohibiting ” or “abridging ” in any American dictionary.

Historic separation of church and state is a fundamental liberty of free people that keeps private religion out of public government and public government out of private religion. It is clearly the intent of our Founders as confirmed by the Constitution and its 1st Amendment, indisputably documented by countless historic public records, publicly acknowledged by every American President since Thomas Jefferson, continuously confirmed by our US Supreme Court, and permanently embedded in the established law of our land. The Constitution expressly provides “no religious test ” shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust (Article VI). These are inconvenient truths history deniers and religious revisionists intentionally ignore and dishonestly dispute.

Simply stated, we Americans have the right to our private religious beliefs, but we must respect the right of others to determine and enjoy their beliefs (the same right we demand for ourselves). This is also commonly known as the ageless “Golden Rule” and even taught by Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). Those who do not respect and extend to fellow Americans this human right are guilty of the height of hypocrisy and irrationally rejecting basic moral teaching.

The late Republican President Ronald Reagan acknowledged, accepted and applauded this critical Constitutional liberty in a public speech – “We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.” (Valley Stream, New York, October 26, 1984).

Unfortunately, the wisdom of the late American humorist Will Rogers applies too often these days – “There is no argument in the world that carries the hatred that a religious belief one does.

John Compere

Brigadier General, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired); former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review; disabled American veteran (Vietnam era); Military Religious Freedom Foundation Advisory Board Member; and Texas rancher.

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. watchtower

    Nicely said, whole heartedly agree.

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