The beginning of this story is about a month old, but there are some recent events related to the story, so I am posting it now. Admittedly, I missed it when it happened.
On July 24, Breitbart.com posted an article about Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, a U.S. Air Force Christian chaplain currently serving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Col. Reyes has a page on the base’s website called “Chaplain’s Corner.”
The article reports:
Reyes recently wrote an essay entitled, “No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II.” This common saying is attributed to a Catholic priest in World War II, made famous when President Dwight D. Eisenhower said during a 1954 speech: “I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth that there are no atheists in the foxholes.”
As reported by Fox News’s Todd Starnes, when Reyes referenced this famous line in his essay, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) contacted the base commander, Col. Brian Duffy, demanding he take action on Reyes’s “anti-secular diatribe.”
MRFF’s letter says that by Reyes’s “use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, ‘no atheists in foxholes,’ he defiles the dignity of service members.” They accuse him of violating military regulations.
The essay was removed from the website and Col. Duffy apologized to the MRFF. However, the MRFF wanted more. They stated, “Faith based hate, is hate all the same,” and, “Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately punished.” (Emphasis added).
The article quotes the response of Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council, “A chaplain has been censored for expressing his beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of service members… Why do we have chaplains if they aren’t allowed to fulfill that purpose?”
Thanks to the actions of the American Family Association, the essay has been put back up on the website. Base commander Colonel Brian Duffy was influenced by over 70,000 emails and scores of posts on the base’s Facebook page by AFA supporters.
So what is the lesson we can learn from this episode? Anyone can call anything they want hate speech. If you are someone that supports the rights of military chaplains to speak of their faith, you need to be ready to respond when something like this happens. The response of everyday people like us makes a difference–even the military will respond to public opinion. If you hear of an incident like this one, speak up, be heard. If this is important to you, get involved with an organization such as the American Family Association or the Family Research Council. If we do not speak up when something like this happens, we may lose the right to speak at all.