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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? - Introduction
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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

In October 2013, the Secretary of the Army directed a halt to all “briefings, command presentations, or training on the subject of extremist organizations until that program of instruction and training has been [re]created and disseminated.” The Secretary acted because:

On several occasions over the past few months, media accounts have highlighted instances of Army instructors supplementing programs of instruction and including information that is inaccurate, objectionable, and otherwise inconsistent with current Army policy.1

Of interest is the fact that during those briefings, Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and several apolitical religious advocacy groups in Washington, D.C., had been labeled by Army instructors as “hate groups.” News of this drew negative reaction from members of Congress who strongly addressed their concerns to the Secretary."2

How could such unprofessional conduct on the part of Army instructors happen “on several occasions over the past few months” without, apparently, corrective action being taken by uniformed leaders at each location, or even at some higher uniformed level? Why did they stand on the sidelines so long that it took the Secretary of the Army to act? Why did they not recognize what the Secretary did—that such representations are “inaccurate, objectionable, and otherwise inconsistent with Army policy,” not to mention, common sense?

On November 18, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) commended the Secretary by letter for his action noting that: ". . . to the extent these trainings served to dissuade personnel from engaging in lawful associational or expressive activities, they raise serious concerns under the First Amendment . . . jeopardize[ing] other important Army goals and values."

In an accompanying news article, the same ACLU authors further noted: "The Army did the right thing in halting these trainings until it can get a handle on the curriculum to prevent inaccuracies and ensure that they properly further the program’s goals of treating everyone with dignity and respect. No soldier should fear repercussions because of their personal beliefs. The men and women who volunteer to defend the Constitution deserve its protections, including freedom of association and religion and belief, as well as fair treatment and equal opportunity for everyone."3 (bold added by authors of this monograph)

We contend that this example, one of several that we shall discuss, highlights a much larger issue—that the Army’s professional culture, as well as those of the other Services, has become increasingly hostile to almost any expression of personal moralities—and particularly those based on religion—so hostile that citizens can rightly wonder whether the conduct of the institutions continues to reflect the legal and moral foundations of the professions’ own ethics. Put another way, in a national culture and political milieu wherein an individual’s personal morality, particularly when it is based on religion, is increasingly contested, can the Services maintain professional cultures that foster the legitimacy of service and sacrifice by men and women of religious faith—or, indeed of no faith—who choose to think, speak, and act, within prescribed limits in accordance with their own personal morality? Can they serve, as noted by the ACLU, without “fear of repercussions because of their personal beliefs . . . enjoying freedom of association and religion and belief as well as fair treatment and equal opportunity?”

It is our understanding that every Soldier has a personal morality that starts with what he or she believes to be good, right, and just. More specifically, it is:
. . . the worldview component of one’s human spirit, or personal essence. This system of beliefs defines who a person is, what the person stands for, serves as a guide for determining behavior—especially in ambiguous and chaotic situations—and also provides the courage and will to act in accordance with one’s beliefs and values.4

In the doctrines of the Army, this is known as the Soldier’s character, a leader attribute that is to be marked by integrity, consistently “doing what is right legally and morally.”5 At a time in the Army’s history when failures caused by lack of individual and institutional character abound—with sexual assault and sexual harassment at the top of the list—this issue could hardly be more important to our leaders.

Understood this way, we believe this issue now presents a direct challenge to the Stewards of our military professions: Can they adapt professional cultures to attract, motivate, and retain volunteers of moral character—including those religiously based—that are compatible with the professions’ ethics, thus enabling our armed forces to remain militarily effective and ethical, earning the trust of those serving as well as that of the American people?

Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 09:22