Protecting troops’ religious freedom: LCMS calls for clear DoD guidance

The LCMS has sent a request to the Secretary of Defense to ensure specific protections for chaplains, service members, medical personnel, DoD civilians and other DoD-affiliated employees, as service members purportedly are experiencing increasing restrictions on living out their faith in their military vocations.

The LCMS has sent a request to the Secretary of Defense to ensure specific protections for chaplains, service members, medical personnel, DoD civilians and other DoD-affiliated employees, as service members purportedly are experiencing increasing restrictions on living out their faith in their military vocations. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

By Roger Drinnon

In light of the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) recently mandated LGBT Pride Month and its new policies for transgender service members which among other things advocate in-service gender transitions while serving in the military, the LCMS has sent a request to the Secretary of Defense to ensure specific protections for chaplains, service members, medical personnel, DoD civilians and other DoD-affiliated employees.

Read the request

The Synod’s request, signed by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Chaplain (U.S. Navy Capt. Ret.) Craig Muehler, director of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces, calls for specific protections for expressing personal religious beliefs to be codified in DoD and service-specific guidance, as service members purportedly are experiencing increasing restrictions on living out their faith in their military vocations.

“Current DoD and service-specific policies and guidance for religious protections do not provide sufficient protections,” the Synod’s request states, “as they allow for implementation of a wide range of subjective religious restrictions based on what a local commander deems as contrary to ‘good order and discipline.’ ”

Earlier this year, the Synod in convention adopted Resolution 2-04, which reaffirms LCMS military chaplains’ rights of free exercise of religion in the face of LGBT inclusion in the armed forces, and Resolution 14-01 to encourage intentional leadership in matters of religious freedom. The Synod in convention also adopted Resolution 14-09, which commends the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations document “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective” (click here to see this document and others related to marriage and sexuality).

“The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod clearly spoke in convention this summer that we as a Synod will continue to stand together to support the free exercise of religion and the right of conscience for our LCMS members [and those of other faith groups] who selflessly serve our nation in the military,” said Muehler. “The Department of Defense needs to ensure safeguards are in place to protect the rights of those who wish to abstain from any event, practice or activity that will force them to compromise their deeply held religious belief on homosexuality or gender orientation.”

He said the request has been sent directly to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, to the Armed Forces Chaplains Board (AFCB) and to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Peter Levine, who oversees the AFCB, Sept. 8. As of Sept. 15, it remains unclear when and how DoD officials will respond.

“We stand to protect service members’ God-given, constitutionally protected religious liberties and right of conscience,” said Muehler. “No American, especially those who wear the uniform, should be denied their religious freedom or be forced to go against their conscience. The men and women in uniform serving on the front lines to defend our nation should not be penalized for exercising the same freedoms they are fighting to protect.”

Muehler said the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty has applauded the Synod’s efforts to protect religious liberty in the military, and the organization has shared the Synod’s request with other faith groups who might make similar requests to the Defense Department.

Roger Drinnon (roger.drinnon@lcms.org) is director of Editorial Services and Media Relations for LCMS Communications.

Posted September 16, 2016

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4 Responses to Protecting troops’ religious freedom: LCMS calls for clear DoD guidance

  1. Kelley September 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Great job Craig! This country was founded on religious freedom and people left England because of religious persecution. History is repeating itself. This is America and freedom of religion and speech is for ALL people and it is being trampled on and we shouldn’t be forced to feel that we can only speak in public on what a leader or jury says we can or can’t speak on or we take away or foundation to freedom except for certain groups. If we do then we will become those countries we read about in history about persecution of freedoms.

  2. Tim Z. October 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    As a retired CMSGT of the USAF (35 years), I have watched with disgust the deterioration of Christian Military Service members regilious freedoms, for the sake of “inclusion”. Being a lifelong devout member of the LCMS, my Faith is strengthened, and I am proud to be one of the long-lineage of those called the “Old German Lutherans”. Before I took the oath that went with wearing my uniform, I made a promise before God not to surrender one Article in the Book of Concord. “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

  3. Robert Bjornstad November 8, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    Question: when an individual joins a branch of the military, does he or she not promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States? And, if so, is an individual given the option to answer Yes; “with qualifications”?

    • LCMS Church Information Center November 9, 2016 at 11:03 am #

      You are absolutely correct that when we take our oath as a military member we swear or affirm that we will support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and we take the oath under the assumption that those who defend freedom also get to exercise the freedoms explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution. This is precisely why we wrote the letter to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. One of the most fundamental freedoms and liberties in our Constitution is that we have free exercise of religion. The Department of Defense needs to respect the constitutionally protected freedoms of medical doctors and all medical personnel (military and civilian) who do not want to be forced to participate in medical procedures that violate their faith. Neither should our military men and women be forced to compromise their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs on human sexuality by forcing them to celebrate and/or condone the LGBT lifestyle. One of the important roles of the LCMS Ministry to the Armed forces is to defend and maintain religious liberty and freedom of expression and conscience that the constitution guarantees our chaplains and those whom they serve. We pray that the United States of America continues to be a nation where all chaplains, and every military person whom they serve, may continue to freely exercise their God-given and constitutionally protected religious liberty without fear of reprisal.

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