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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? - Evolving Culture of Hostility continued
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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

May 2013: The DoD issued the following statement: The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution. . . . Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).16

If religious expression within military cultures was not at issue, then why was such a directive needed?

June 2013: The House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment by Representative John Fleming (R-LA) to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Fleming Amendment seeks to ensure protection of the rights of Armed Services members to hold, act upon, and practice freely their religious beliefs as long as they do not interfere with any constitutional liberties of others. As Representative Fleming notes in his press release:
. . .troubling reports indicate that the military may be focused only on protecting beliefs of service members and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs. My amendment is necessary to ensure that men and women of faith will not be discriminated against in the Armed Forces, and will be free to exercise their religious beliefs.17

June 2013: President Barack Obama objected to the Fleming amendment. On June 11, after the House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the NDAA (H.R. 1960) with Representative Fleming’s language, a White House Statement of Administration Policy was issued, indicating that the President’s senior advisers would recommend a veto because they strongly objected 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 significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.18

But, why would the President’s advisors recommend he veto legislation based exactly on the “military necessity” language in the DoD and Service policies; unless, that is, they did not want accommodation of such actions and speech?

We conclude from these examples that the institutional behavior of our military professions within the DoD manifests cultures that can fairly be described as increasingly hostile to personal moralities and their rightful expression, especially when based on religion. While this is deleterious today to ethical military professions, we must also be mindful of the second order effects occurring in the current development of junior professionals. Simply stated, they take their cues from those above them, making their decisions based on their construal of senior leaders’ priorities, values, guidance, etc. They correctly see the need for everybody in the organization to get on board with current policy. But our concern is that they may then equate dissent or difference in belief with insubordination. If junior leaders make that type of construal regarding their obligations to senior officers and lack the experiences to see the value to the profession of a rich array of personal beliefs (even those that may lead to conflict between soldiers), then they will be more likely to establish in the future their own command climates wherein religion and its influences on character development are not encouraged and perhaps not even welcomed.

While much of the hostility has been directed at the Chaplains’ Corps of our Armed Services, we have excluded all such examples (which are, in fact, far more numerous than those offered here) since the Chaplains’ Corps are not the focus of this monograph. We focus instead on the challenge this cultural hostility presents to the Stewards of our military professions as well as to both uniformed and civilian leaders of all ranks within them whose personal morality is based on one of the world’s major religious faiths.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 09:22