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New Coalition Demands Christian Privilege

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The most extreme proponents of conservative Christian privilege combined forces on July 9 in a briefing outside the Capitol building. This coalition included Tony Perkins and retired Army General Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council (FRC), retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews of the so-called Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), and Tea Party darlings Louie Gohmert (R-Tx), John Fleming (R-La), and Jim Bridenstine (R-Ok). They laid out their case -- since Christianity was promoted by George Washington in the pre-1st Amendment military, it should therefore be the privileged state religion of today's modern military.

This coalition is clearly committed to characterizing every real or imagined limitation on proselytizing as hostility toward not just any religion, but specifically their brand of conservative Christianity. The outcome of their actions will promote a climate of fear in the military and as recently reported by retired Army Major General Dennis Laich, will have a negative impact on unit cohesion, morale, discipline and overall readiness.

In May, the FRC distributed a listing of uncited non-events which were debunked and discredited in an article entitled "How To Fundraise Using Half Truths and Lies -- Lessons from the Family Research Council." At today's event, they doubled-down with a new list of alleged offenses against their claimed conservative Christian privilege. An analysis by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers demonstrates that these new allegations are as false as the ones posted by the FRC in May.

During the briefing, Ron Crews of CARL recounted a seemingly pedestrian story of a Christian commander processing marital benefits for same-gender couples. Because the commander had deeply held religious beliefs against same-gender marriages, Crews claimed carrying out his official duty was an infringement of the commander's religious liberty. What this coalition really wants is the right of conservative Christians to discriminate against their fellow service members simply by claiming Christian exception.

CARL published a small card listing religious rights and a website where any perceived slight could be reported. They make no mention of responsibilities to fellow service members, professional duties, or good order within the military. They set aside military duty in favor of demanding unfettered opportunities to proselytize and to enforce their religious beliefs on others.

Several journalists asked if this expansive view of religious liberty would apply to Muslim Sharia law, denial of benefits for mixed-race couples, or humanist chaplains. Those who responded denounced privileges for those ideas that did not comport with the coalition's brand of conservative Christianity. The efforts of this coalition discredit the vast majority of Christians serving in our military, who express their religious beliefs but also honor and carry out their professional duties.

The purpose of this press conference was to publicize the revised so-called "conscience provision" that Representative Fleming added as an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. OutServe-SLDN, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBT service members, described the provision as a "license to bully."

This coalition is made up of many of the same conservative Christians who opposed repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. In reality, this proposed legislation is a backdoor attempt to regain their lost right to denigrate, dehumanize and attack not just LGB service members but anyone in uniform who disagrees with their brand of conservative Christian beliefs.