Senator Cruz Urges Secretary of Defense To Protect Religious Liberty of Military Service Members

June 19, 2020
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by Todd Winking & Megan Moses • 4 min read

During a recent episode of FLI Live! discussing America’s constitutional crisis during CV-19, First Liberty informed U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) about ongoing violations of religious liberty happening against our military servicemen and women. Only a few days later, Senator Cruz sent a letter to Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, urging him to protect religious freedom within the Department of Defense.

Specifically, Cruz called out reports regarding the Army’s censorship of military chaplains during the coronavirus pandemic—access he states is essential for many service members, but also mandated by the Constitution.

In his letter, Cruz writes:

“As you know, military chaplains play a crucial role tending to the spiritual and moral well-being of America’s service members…Unfortunately, DOD and the Army have been hindering chaplains’ efforts to send messages of hope and faith through a series of extremely concerning infringements on military chaplains’ free exercise rights. We write to urge you to ensure that DOD complies with the religious freedom mandates of the Constitution and to ask you to issue clear guidance that strongly protects religious freedom within the DOD.

The All-Out War Against Our Service Members

For over two decades, Senator Cruz has—and continues to be—a courageous warrior for religious freedom, donating time during his legal career fighting in key cases for First Liberty, and as an advocate in 10 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, Cruz has once again gone on the offensive, calling out the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for its all-out assault on chaplains, stating:

“During this global pandemic, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has been waging a campaign against the chaplaincy, and frankly, against religious freedom in the military generally. In response, the Army has censored chaplains’ religious speech based on the flawed and arbitrary notion that military chaplains may not carry out their official duties outside of a religious ceremony that occurs within the four walls of a chapel.”

In four specific instances of an egregious blockade to fundamental rights, the MRFF called for shutdowns harshly and swiftly, including:

  • In Fort Drum, New York, chaplains dispensed to the 10th Mountain Division posted videos that invite the audience to pray for the COVID-19 crisis. The MRFF ruthlessly demanded that they take these videos down.
  • At Red Stone Arsenal in Alabama, an Army Chaplain issued a message of hope on their social media platform and the MRFF made them take it down.
  • At Camp Humphreys in South Korea, another Army Chaplain wanted to give encouragement during these times to his Christian colleagues recommending a Christian book to read. However, the MRFF demanded that they be disciplined for their actions.
  • At USAG Stuttgart in Germany, a chaplain preached on the balcony of his apartment. However, the MRFF once again halted the chaplain’s services.

Let Chaplains Be Chaplains

Clearly, like many government officials during the COVID-19 crisis, the MRFF has once again overstepped its bounds.

“Crisis reveals character,” is how Senator Cruz aptly described this defining moment to First Liberty President, Chief Executive and Chief Counsel, Kelly Shackelford during the recent FLI Live! broadcast.

What’s most revealing (if not ironic) is that our military service members put their lives on the line to preserve the very freedoms we all enjoy under the Constitution. Isn’t it our duty then, to ensure that these brave men and women are honored with the same rights they swore an oath to defend and protect in the first place?

Of course, it is.

In fact, it was our country’s first great military leader, George Washington, who initiated the chaplaincy because he understood the importance of religious expression for those serving in uniform.

In his conclusion, Sen. Cruz urges Secretary Esper to comply with congressional mandates, executive orders and the Constitution:

“Service members give their lives to defend the principle of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution, and that principle must be protected within the military. These unlawful infringements must end. We urge you to ensure that DOD implements the religious liberty training program that Congress has mandated. We also urge you to issue clear guidance, in accordance with the Attorney General’s Memorandum on Religious Liberty, regarding the protections afforded to religious expression and how issues concerning religious freedom should be addressed amidst the pandemic.”

Of course, this battle is far from over. But with your faithful and continued support, First Liberty will continue to be the Force Multiplier for our men and women in uniform. Your generous gift today will help provide Lt. Col. Mike Berry (USMCR) and his “troops” the resources necessary to continue to fight for religious freedom for our brave military service members– even outside the four walls of a chapel.

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