At West Point, an Effort to Silence Prayer and Religious Liberty
- By Alan Sears
- Posted Jan 30, 2013
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Perhaps there is no more vivid illustration of the growing and open assault on your religious freedom in America today than what is happening to chaplains in our nation’s military.
Under the present administration, increasing pressure has been exerted on these ministers to ignore the Scriptures – and refrain, for instance, from any sermons or counseling that might suggest homosexual behavior is something counter to the love and truth of God. Now, our government is being urged by secular groups to eliminate formal prayer altogether from military installations and events.
Last month, Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote to the United States Military Academy at West Point to suggest that invocations at academy events (including Plebe Parent Weekend, Ring Weekend, Thanksgiving Dinner, the Martin Luther King Award Dinner, and graduation) are unconstitutional and coerce cadets to participate in and endorse religion.
In response, Alliance Defending Freedom sent West Point officials a letter on January 10 on behalf of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, explaining that “The historical practice of offering prayer, especially at military and university functions at West Point, does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” (The Chaplain Alliance is made up of veteran service members who defend the religious freedom of military chaplains and those in service.)
The letter also reminded officials that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has affirmed that invocations like the ones offered by West Point chaplains and cadets, “solemnize public occasions, express confidence in the future, and encourage the recognition of what is worthy of appreciation in society.”
“West Point does not require cadets to participate in the invocations or even listen to them,” our attorneys wrote, adding that “two federal courts of appeals rejected the notion that prayers at significant public university events coerce attendees to participate in religion.”
“The First Amendment allows public officials to acknowledge our nation’s religious heritage,” says Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “Since the Revolution, the U.S. Army has offered soldiers the opportunity to hear invocations. West Point has continued this tradition. Anti-religious groups with misguided ideas about the First Amendment should not be allowed to destroy a time-honored and perfectly constitutional American custom.
“Our Founding Fathers opened their meetings with prayer and ensured this freedom would be protected in the Constitution,” adds Hacker, who is representing the Chaplain Alliance along with James P. Trainor, one of our ministry’s nearly 2,200 Allied Attorneys and a 1981 graduate of West Point. “It’s unfortunate that groups like Americans United disrespect the history behind our brave military men and women, who train to preserve this freedom for future generations.”
Please join me in praying not only for all of our attorneys and allies as they stand in defense of your family’s religious freedoms, but for all of the chaplains and other faithful believers serving in our military, as they try to live out their religious convictions in an environment no longer as supportive of their First Amendment-protected rights.
Author: Alan Sears