MRFF Advisory Board Member John M. Compere’s (Judge and Brigadier General, US Army, Retired) – The Constitution, Any Religion & Our Veterans

THE CONSTITUTION, ANY RELIGION & OUR VETERANS

The mission of the US Department of Veterans Affairs is to serve our veterans by providing them care and benefits earned through their military service – not promote a religion or its writings. The US Constitution 1st Amendment expressly prohibits our secular government or its representatives (which includes the DVA) from promoting a religion. Religion is private, the DVA with its operations and funding are public. DVA personnel may privately practice a religion or no religion, but they may not lawfully use their DVA office, position or employment to publicly promote private religious beliefs or impose them on veterans. This problem seldom arises when DVA leadership demonstrates intelligence, integrity and adherence to the DVA mission, our American Constitution and the long established law of the land.

The Constitution 1st Amendment provides, respectively, 3 basic religious liberties for all Americans:

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

Freedom of religion – our secular government is prevented from “prohibiting ” free exercise of religion. It is the right of all Americans to privately practice any 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 secular government is prevented from “abridging ” freedom of speech. It is the right of all Americans to speak publicly about 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 religious speech on Americans.

There should be no misunderstanding about the operative verbs of these first 3 clauses of the 1st Amendment. All one has to do is first 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 public records over 3 centuries, publicly acknowledged by every President since Thomas Jefferson, continuously confirmed by our US Supreme Court, and permanently embedded is the established law of our land. The Constitution pointedly 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 deceitfully dispute.

Simply stated, we Americans have the right to our private religious or non- religious beliefs, but we must respect the rights of others to determine and enjoy their own beliefs (the same right we demand for ourselves). This is a timeless universal principle known as the “GOLDEN RULE” and even commanded by Jesus in every New Testament version (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). The obsession of self-righteous religionists to publicly force their private religious beliefs on others without extending them this basic human right is the height of human hypocrisy, violates all moral teaching and creates continuous civil conflict.

Founder & 3rd President Thomas Jefferson penned this classic public confirmation: “Believing…religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God…legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the American people which declared that legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion’…thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” (Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress, January 1, 1802).

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).

Christian evangelist Billy Graham in a 1985 sermon at Washington National Cathedral praised constitutional separation of church and state – “We enjoy the separation of church and state and no sectarian religion has ever been and we pray God, ever will be imposed upon us.”.

Unfortunately, the wisdom of the late American humorist Will Rogers is too often applicable these days – “ There is no argument in the world that carries the hatred that a religious belief one does.” (“The Best of Will Rogers, Bryan Sterling, M. Evans & Company 1979, page 193).

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); Military Religious Freedom Foundation Advisory Board Member; and Texas rancher.

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6 Comments

  1. American Patriot

    Freedom to speak about religion – our secular government is prevented from “abridging ” freedom of speech. It is the right of all Americans to speak publicly about 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 religious speech on Americans.

    With all due respect General, I will speak publicly about my religion wherever and whenever and with whomever I so choose to. The Constitution does not provide for any “space spaces” for people to not hear me speak about my faith with someone else. If I feel like preaching on a street corner, I have the right to do so, if people do not want to hear it, they can just move along. Also, who is going to determine if it violates the rights of another American, you? If I want to talk about my faith with another Christian at work in the break room, I can do that if I want to and who cares if someone gets offended about us talking about our common faith.

  2. G

    As usual AP, you don’t have a clue of what the separation of church and state in the US Constitution is all about.

  3. Mark Sebree

    Anti-Patriot,

    As usual, you have no clue as to what the problem actually is. You are not a government employee, elected official, or member of the military. Therefore, nobody in their right mind (which tends to exclude you anyway) would think that you speak for the government. Therefore, the Establishment Clause does not apply to you.

    And as for who determines whether or no you are violating the rights of another person, that person is a judge, and the judgement only comes after a lawsuit has been filed against you and brought before that judge.

    And as far as talking about religion at work, that is up to your superiors at work, including the HR department, your supervisor, the ethics department, and any equal opportunity officer. It also depends on where you work, and what their rules are.

  4. American Patriot

    No job can stop you from talking about religious matters with another Christian while you are on a break, otherwise that would be a violation of your freedom of religion.

    Your liberal interpretation of freedom of religion would stop all people from talking or exercising their religious freedoms 24/7, 365, and no the constitution nowhere states that it is only to be done inside a church, synagogue or mosque.

  5. G

    If you are in the military and you talk about religion to the detriment of others; yet, you need to stop talking.

    “no the constitution nowhere states that it is only to be done inside a church, synagogue or mosque.”

    Well, since you feel that way, then we need to start talking about sex, politics, and money; however, our top political and economic leaders don’t want to hear about those things since it would threaten their hold on the country and they don’t want the kids to have a knowledge on the birds and the bees.

  6. Tim Zerr

    There have been way too many wars “with God on our side”, as Bob Dylan sang. We really do need watchdogs to keep this from happening anymore. In Vietnam I remember hearing many times some cynical black humor statements like “lets go kill some Commies for Christ”, right before we went out on an air assault.

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