The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Freedom has responded to a secularist group’s demand that chaplains at a New Hampshire military base not be allowed to offer invocations at on-base events.
On Feb. 6, a lawyer with the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Lt. Col. Thaddeus Day at Pease Air National Guard Base on behalf of guardsmen who complained that official Air National Guard ceremonies at Pease International Tradeport “regularly include invocations led by a chaplain.”
The FFRF letter asserts that having invocations and endorsements of religion at military and government events that employees are required to attend is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The letter calls on Day to end the practice of prayers and Bible readings at official Air National Guard events and argues that the Supreme Court mandates that the government maintain neutrality toward religion.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Freedom, a coalition of over 30 agencies that endorse over 2,600 military chaplains, responded to the the FFRF letter by asking the Texas-based religious freedom law firm First Liberty Institute to send a letter to the base’s commanding officer, Col. James P. Ryan, telling him that there is “no legal requirement” for him to give into FFRF’s demands.
The letter was written by First Liberty senior counsel Mike Berry, the director of the law firm’s military affairs department. The letter was sent to Ryan on Tuesday.
“Their demands appear to be based on the flawed notion that military chaplains cannot offer invocations at ANG functions. The FFRF’s position and legal argument are incorrect,” Berry explained. “Federal law, military regulations, and court precedents belie the FFRF’s specious claims.”
“Uniformed chaplains are clearly permitted, indeed protected, when they offer invocations at military functions,” he added.
Berry cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to argue that the military and government are forbidden from burdening a person’s religious exercise unless there is a “compelling government interest” to do so.
SOURCE: SAMUEL SMITH