Gen. Boykin to Congress: Religious Liberty Must Be Affirmed, Cherished in Military
(CNSNews.com) – In a statement put into the record at a Jan. 29, 2014 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel, retired Lt. Gen. William “Gerry” Boykin, said religious liberty is a “core value of our nation,” and that religious beliefs “sustain” troops who face harm or death in the course of performing their duties.
“In sum, religious freedom and expression is not something to be given begrudging accommodation,” Boykin, the former commander of the U.S. Special Forces Command, said on behalf of the Family Research Council (FRC) as its executive vice president. “It is a core value of our nation, necessary for strengthening individual troop wellbeing and instilling the values of respect and goodwill.”
“Religious freedom must be celebrated, affirmed, and cherished within our military just as our men and women sacrifice to defend that freedom for those outside the military,” Boykin said in the statement.
Boykin also spoke about the nature of a soldier’s duty and the role religious belief plays in it.
“Given the unique stresses and dangers of military life, a conscious focus on spiritual matters often accompanies military service,” Boykin said. “The ability to live out one’s faith openly with the support of one’s peers and the military chaplaincy can afford the comfort, certainty, and security so necessary to service members otherwise faced with serious injury and death on a regular basis.”
“As members of the military cultivate extraordinary levels of self-discipline, it is imperative that they have the ability to draw upon the moral and religious beliefs which sustain them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually,” said the general.
Boykin opened his statement by referencing the flight from religious persecution in Europe by America’s founders and the protection of religious liberty as a “core national ideal.”
“Given our nation’s history as a country formed in large part by communities fleeing religious persecution, the principle of religious freedom has long stood as a core national ideal, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and guaranteed to all Americans,” Boykin said.
“The freedom to express one’s faith publically and practice one’s faith according to conscience sets America apart in a world faced with increasing levels of militant and state-driven religious persecution,” he said.
The House Armed Services Committee hearing focused on religious liberty, following growing reports of discrimination and reprisals against soldiers who expressed or practiced their religious beliefs, in particular Christian military members.
The statement included information about the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, a group of 23 non-profit organizations, which documented examples of those discrimination reports, including an officer who was ordered to remove a Bible from his desk so as not to offend anyone, and an Army chaplain’s assistant who was ordered to remove a social media post that expressed her own religious and moral views.
The FRC compiled a report it released in December on numerous incidents where troops faced discrimination or recrimination for expressing or practicing their religious beliefs entitled, A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.
Lt. Gen. Boykin served 36 years in the Army where, in addition to his commands in Delta Force, he commanded all the Army’s Green Berets as well as the Special Warfare Center and School. Prior to joining the FRC, Boykin served four years as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.