Opinion

Comments about religious controversy at Incirlik 'exhibit ignorance of the law': Letters

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation represents over 100 military and civilian personnel at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, a Muslim country. I has complained about an officer's Christian religious proselytizing on the base website. A letter from a retired Navy commander published Nov. 14 in the print edition and on Air Force Times online [" 'Nuts' to demand"] belligerently exhibited ignorance of this law and regulation violation as well as the MRFF.

The military mission is to defend our diverse nation against all enemies – not promote a religion. The sworn service oath is to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States ... and bear true faith and allegiance to the same" – not to a religion. The First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits our government or its representatives from promoting a religion.

USAF Instruction 1-1 is mandatory and requires its leaders "... to ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief." Military leaders may privately practice a religion or no religion, but they may not lawfully use their public office to impose private religious beliefs on others. This problem does not arise when military leadership demonstrates intelligence, integrity and loyalty to mission and oath.

The MRFF represents more than 48,000 military and veteran clients, most of whom are Christians, who requested their constitutional freedom from government imposed religion be respected and protected. We proudly fulfill that that purpose.

Ironically, our experience is that the most hateful opposition to our American religious freedom work comes from fundamentalist Christians. The wisdom of the late Will Rogers is too often true: "There is no argument in the world that carries the hatred that a religious belief one does."
Army Brig. Gen. John Compere (ret.)
Former chief judge, U.S. Army Court of Military Review
Baird, Texas

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