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The latest assault on religious liberty in the armed forces

By Mark Alexander
web posted December 16, 2019

On a daily basis, some boorish leftist organization wins the headlines jackpot with top billing after having said or done something so absurd and obnoxious that the Leftmedia bobble heads report it.

I've branded the basis for these examples of idiocy "The PETA Principle" (as distinguished from "The Peter Principle," regarding the tendency of organizations to promote people to levels beyond their competence).

As you know, PETA is that so-called "animal rights" cabal of emotionally unstable individuals who suffer media attention deficit disorder (MADD). No, that's not the inability to pay attention, but rather, the inability to tolerate not being the center of media attention. In PETA's case, when the acute desire for more media attention hits, the organization inevitably does something absolutely ludicrous — like selling bloody "Wool Hurts" Christmas sweaters in its latest campaign against the use of wool.

PETA Principle provocateurs are an obnoxious lot who have broad appeal among other emotionally unstable cadres, most notably those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). They tend to make a lot of noise but, fortunately, that's generally the sum total of their contribution to society.

Occasionally, however, those afflicted with MADD do things to generate attention that actually have broader consequences for all of us — even for our Constitution and its protection of Liberty, particularly religious Liberty.

This month, anti-Christian agitator Mikey Weinstein and his socialist sidekick, Christine Rodda, demanded that the Department of Defense cease the licensing of service-branch logos to our partner organization Shields of Strength. SoS is a military ministry outreach operated by my faithful friend Kenny Vaughan, who also produces Shields of Strength for those in other high-risk occupations.

Longtime Patriot Post readers know that for the last 15 years, Operation Shield of Strength (OpSoS) has been a significant part of our Mission of Service to our nation's warriors, veterans, and their families. The Shields are dog tags, many with a service-branch emblem on one side and Joshua 1:9 on the other: "I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged; for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go."

Through the Patriot Foundation Trust, we've distributed hundreds of thousands of Shields at no charge to military units, their family support groups, and veterans nationwide.

In the first month of our OpSoS deliveries, a note I received from a young Air Force fighter pilot on his first deployment with Operation Iraqi Freedom told me everything I needed to know about the importance of our mission. Landing at an airbase in the region, he wrote, "I was very unsettled. I was well trained to be in dangerous environments, but what was most unsettling is that I knew nobody. But then I noticed that the Airman who greeted me as I was raising the canopy was wearing the same Shield of Strength I was wearing. And there was great comfort in that."

Last year, I wrote about Gunner Gilbert Bolton, a highly decorated Marine veteran who received the Silver Star for his heroic actions on Hill 25 in Vietnam. The gunner attends every USMC School of Infantry-West graduating class, and he tells young Marines, "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war." He has personally presented every SOI graduate with a small gift, one of our Marine Shields of Strength. At last count, he's handed out more than 30,000 Shields to Camp Pendleton's SOI graduates.

Aside from their official flag insignias, these Shields are the most commonly carried item among our military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. And for the families of those who never return from combat, these Shields are much more than dog tags.

But Weinstein and Rodda want no more of that, and they've demanded that the DoD order Kenny Vaughan to stop producing the tags with military emblems.

That demand is now being challenged by First Liberty, a legal-defense organization that is genuinely concerned about religious liberty. Its mission notes: "As our Founding Fathers declared, religious liberty is our first and most foundational right. It serves as the catalyst of all subsequent freedoms. When religious liberty is threatened or attacked, every other freedom is endangered. And once our First Freedom is lost, it will be gone forever."

That mission is diametrically opposed to that of Weinstein and Rodda, who operate the deceptively misnamed "Military Religious Freedom Foundation." They claim their mission is to ensure "all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." More accurately, they devote their energy to ensuring that those in the military are free from any exposure to religion. They base that mission on the erroneous "separation of church and state doctrine, which actually undermines the endowed Rights of Man outlined in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our Constitution.

I've had dealings with Weinstein previously, when my son was at the United States Air Force Academy. The Academy is Weinstein's favorite target, and I suspected his fingerprints were on a subversive effort in 2012 that removed the words "So Help Me God" from the cadet and officer handbook oaths "to support and defend" our Constitution. The Patriot Post exposed that subversion and, with the help of veteran members of Congress, put an end to it with a letter to the Academy superintendent.

If the leftists had gotten away with that deliberate deletion, they would've then sought to remove those words from all military oaths — with the help of the most faith-intolerant regime in our nation's history.

Now, according to Weinstein, "Shields of Strength is clearly following the Great Commission," referring to the Christian mandate to spread the Gospel. "The problem is, there's a conflict between the Great Commission and the Great Constitution."

Of course, that conflict exists only in Weinstein's delusional America-hating imagination.

"What Shields of Strength is doing is perfectly permissible under the Constitution and the law," said Michael Berry, director of military affairs at First Liberty. Berry added, "These are men and women who put their lives on the line defending our freedoms, which include our right to religious freedom and religious expression. And to take that away from them ... that's insulting, it's cowardly, and it's cruel. It's just wrong." (For the record, nobody is forcing anyone to wear Shields of Strength, as Berry and Vaughn noted in this Fox News interview.)

General of the Army George C. Marshall once wrote, "The soldier's heart, the soldier's spirit, the soldier's soul are everything. Unless the soldier's soul sustains him, he cannot be relied upon and will fail himself, his commander, and his country in the end."

To that end, I'm reminded of a humble man, small in stature only, who earned the Medal of Honor for his incredible display of courage on Okinawa's Hacksaw Ridge. My old neighbor, Desmond Doss, said these words each time he went back through the fields of fire to retrieve another wounded American soldier: "Lord, please help me get one more man."

I am quite sure that Desmond would have supported Operation Shield of Strength and condemned Weinstein's objections.

May God bless our men and women in uniform — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — who have stood for generations and continue to stand in harm's way. For their steadfast devotion to duty, honor, and country, we, the American people, offer them and their families our humble gratitude and heartfelt thanks. For those who have moved beyond this life, let us, in the words of Gen. George Patton, "Thank God that such men lived." ESR

Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.

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