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Stop the Insanity: Free Exercise of Religion in the Military

October 17, 2017

By Daniel Briggs

Stop the Insanity! Or P90X, or CrossFit, or whatever fitness program works for you. When it comes to spiritual fitness—and if you’re in uniform—mum’s the word. At least, that’s what some argue should be the case.  Not only is this argument wrong, it is dangerous.

Recently, COL Thomas Hundley wrote a blog post on (Defense Health Agency) as part of a Motivational Monday series.  Hundley is a fitness expert in his personal capacity.  Apparently, some readers were offended by references to God and the power of prayer for spiritual health, one component of overall fitness that Hundley referenced in his post.  And they’re entitled to take offense.  But offense does not a constitutional injury make. A simple blog post that includes one perspective on prayer among other means of maintaining spiritual fitness does not violate “separation of church and state,” a concept found nowhere in the Constitution and recognized as “tiresome” by the courts.

The health of our service members is of utmost concern, now more than ever before.  Years of protracted conflict overseas and severe force shaping (layoffs) have taken a toll.  According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes.  22 per day.  This is a tragedy and a travesty, and we must provide them every bit of support for every challenge they face, from physical to mental to spiritual.  The Department of Defense recognizes the crucial role of spiritual health.  For its part, the Air Force demonstrates a commitment to “Comprehensive Airman Fitness.”  General Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff, stated, “Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other, and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings.” One of the pillars of this comprehensive fitness is spiritual health.  And Marine Corps Sgt. Major Bryan Battaglia, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed the importance of spiritual health in total fitness, saying, “We want to get [service members] whatever help they need to manage the injury or the illness, thereby returning the mind, body, and spirit to an optimal level of performance.”

It seems like taking offense has become a hobby for some.  Purported complaints by some readers are not grounds for censoring religious expression.  We live in the marketplace of ideas.  As in any marketplace, different things appeal to different people.  Those who disagree with the speech in question are entitled to their opinion, but as the Supreme Court noted, “[A]n Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views . . .” Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S.Ct. 1811, 1826 (2014). 

COL Hundley is well within his rights to share a faith-based perspective.  If it could help one service member regain spiritual health, it would be worth it.  Because those willing to give all deserve no less.

Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

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Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith


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