Lawmaker Contrasts George Washington's and Obama’s Views of Religion's Role in the Military

By Penny Starr | July 10, 2013 | 5:16pm EDT

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) spoke at a press conference on July 9, 2013 at the Capitol. ( Starr)

( – Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) contrasted the way in which the first commander-in-chief and President Barack Obama see the proper “order” in the United States military, including the role played by religion.

Bridenstine quoted George Washington on the 237th anniversary of the first president’s general order establishing the chaplaincy: “In that general order, he stated, ‘The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger -- the General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.”

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While acknowledging that the military is much more diverse today, Bridenstine said the president should allow Christian soldiers to have the right to live and act like Christians.

Bridenstine, along with other lawmakers and religious liberty advocates, supports the amendment the House passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014.

The amendment, offered by Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) requires the Armed Forces to "accommodate ‘actions and speech’ reflecting the conscience, moral, principles or religious beliefs of the member.”

“I’d like to share two vary distinct statements -- one from General George Washington and the other from President Barack Obama,” Bridenstine said at a Capitol Hill press conference to announce a conservative coalition’s campaign to protect the religious liberties of U.S. military members. “In 1778, George Washington said that ‘purity of morals were … highly conducive to order, subordination and success in the army.’

“To the contrary, President Obama issued a statement that our religious liberty amendment will have, quote, ‘significant adverse effects on good order, discipline, morale and mission accomplishment,’” Bridenstine said.

He was referring to a policy statement released by the White House on June 11, 2013, which included opposition to Fleming’s amendment.

Under the heading “Expansion and Implementation of Protection of Rights of Conscience of Members of the Armed Forces and Chaplains of Such Members” the statement said:

“The Administration strongly objects to section 530, which would require the Armed Forces to accommodate, except in cases of military necessity, ‘actions and speech’ reflecting the ‘conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member.’ By limiting the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units, this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.”

Washington’s order, it is noted by the Library of Congress in the president’s papers, was given to comply with a Congressional resolution on Oct. 12, 1778 “for the promotion of morality in the army.”

“Purity of Morals being the only sure foundation of publick happiness in any Country and highly conducive to order, subordination and success in an Army, it will be well worthy the Emulation of Officers of every rank & Class to encourage it both by the Influence of Example and the penalties of Authority—It is painful to see many shameful Instances of Riot and Licentiousness among us; The wanton Practice of swearing has risen to a most disgusting height; A regard to decency should conspire, with a Sense of Morality to banish a vice productive of neither Advantage or Pleasure,” the order said.

Obama cannot dampen the faith of the men and women who serve, Bridenstine said at the press conference, where the Family Research Council released a report documenting the hostility towards Christians in the military today.

“I think there is another very important message today,” Bridenstine said.  “And that is this: Whatever the president does or does not write in a signing statement about these so-called, quote ‘adverse affects’ of religious liberties in the military, they will not be able to smother the love of God, which burns so brightly in the hearts of most of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”

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