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A Soldier's Morality, Religion, and Our Professional Ethic: Does the Army's Culture Facilitate Integration, Character Development, and Trust in the Profession? - Opportunities for Leaders of Religious Faith
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Article Index
A Soldier's Morality, Religion, and Our Professional Ethic: Does the Army's Culture Facilitate Integration, Character Development, and Trust in the Profession?
Background & Context
Background & Context continued
The Evolving Culture of Hostility toward Religious Presence and Expression
Evolving Culture of Hostility continued
The Army's Professional Ethic
Army's Professional Ethic continued
The Challenge and Opportunities to the Leader of Faith
Challenge & Opportunities continued
Opportunities for Leaders of Religious Faith
Why Not Just Let Soldiers of Religious Faith Leave the Army?
All Pages

IV. Opportunities for Leaders of Religious Faith
Some have responded that there should be no moral dilemma for Soldiers in such circumstances. Simply stated, in their view, the law rules—volunteers, religious or not, should park their personal morality at the door when they take their oath. We designate this as the legalist view, one which holds that all Soldiers, regardless of personal morality, should simply reconsider their legal obligations as laid out in the Constitution, Federal statutes such as Title 10, their Oath of Service and their Service’s regulations, and do what the law requires. In this view, the Army has no responsibility to preclude or attempt to resolve moral dilemmas other than to keep the legal foundations of its ethic current to the official mandates of the public it serves.37

Perhaps too narrowly characterized, there are nonetheless two obvious difficulties with this view. First, it does not address the dilemma created by recent policies and orders that the leader of religious faith believes to be immoral; in other words, it fails to understand, as discussed in Section II, that the profession’s ethic has moral as well as legal foundations, and that the moral foundation is an essential element of the character of every Soldier and leader of Soldiers. Second, it fails to recognize, also discussed earlier, that the institution does have developmental responsibilities, shared with the individual professional, for preclusion of such moral dilemmas to the extent possible and for their prompt resolution, should they occur.

Contrary to the legalist view, as we see it, there are three opportunities for Soldiers of religious faith when facing what they perceive to be a conflict between their religion-based personal morality and what the institution is expecting of them:

  1. They may choose to compromise their religion-based convictions so as to go along with the prevailing institutional/cultural view. In doing so, however, they will be inauthentic to their core values and thus dishonest; they will be leaders without integrity. They become compartmented leaders and, by their actions, also encourage others to do the same. Lack of integrity in dealing with a known ethical dilemma, particularly by an Army leader, whose every decision and action is carefully watched by his or her followers, will lead to lack of integrity and/or trust by the followers.
  2. They may continue to serve honorably within the Army Profession, but in order to maintain their integrity they will work within the institution to preclude and resolve such moral dilemmas. In other words, they are to get off of the sidelines and “lead-up,” actively engaging and assisting the Stewards of the Profession in their vital role of maintaining, over time, both the effectiveness and the ethical standing of the Army Profession.38 We will return to this theme in our recommendations section.
  3. The Soldier of religious faith could leave the military profession, having decided, presumably, that the cost of compromising one’s personal integrity is too high a price to pay to continue in sacrificial service to the Republic. The tragic loss to the Army and to the Republic of such integrated men and women of character, many with well over a decade of distinguished service in combat, leads logically to a discussion of why this opportunity is to be earnestly avoided by both the individuals and by the Army.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 09:22