My friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State have released a detailed and thorough report debunking an earlier report put out by the Family Research Council that has been widely cited to make it look as though Christians are being censored by the military. The opposite is true.
The AU report, “Clear and Present Falsehoods: The Real State of Religious Freedom in the Military,” responds to an earlier report by the Family Research Council (FRC) that purported to list widespread instances of religious liberty violations in the armed forces.
In fact, AU says, the FRC report (titled “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military”) is merely a list of overblown and inaccurate claims that often don’t provide context or give the whole story.
Many examples of religious liberty “violations” listed in the FRC report were in reality efforts by military officials to enforce separation of church and state or were ambiguous policies that were quickly fixed. A final category included examples of private individuals being critical of military policy.
None of these things, said Americans United, amount to real violations of individual religious freedom.
“This Family Research Council’s report is essentially a list of grievances, not religious liberty violations,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The FRC’s report is built on a tissue of distortions, half-truths and hearsay. It’s a shame that anyone took it seriously.”
Lynn noted that despite its shortcomings, the FRC report has been cited as evidence of bias against fundamentalist Christians in the military. Last month, examples listed in it were used by Republicans during a House subcommittee hearing on religious liberty issues in the armed forces.
Asserts Americans United in the report’s introduction, “Although the FRC report didn’t contain any serious violations of religious liberty, it still had an impact: it has been used as support in the effort to weaken religious liberty protections in the military. By telling these stories over and over (and failing to mention that many have been judged to be baseless or have been resolved), groups like the FRC create the false impression in the public mind that there are deep-seated problems with the rights of evangelicals in the military.”
None of this is surprising, of course. Like many other Christian right groups, the FRC’s entire fundraising strategy requires that they create and build up this myth that Christians are terribly persecuted and they often lie — they have to, what else do they have? — to keep it going.