Word from the Center Digest: August 16, 2019

Surrendering Freedom, But Not the Religious Kind

by Craig Muehler

Religious liberty in the United States military is a constant topic of discussion as well as actual legal battles about this issue.  There are groups who are aggressively trying to restrict and eliminate religious liberty from our Armed Forces.  (For some most recent legal cases and challenges, please visit the First Liberty website.)

There are several cases outlined that have serious ramification for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Christians who have served and those who are currently serving in the United States military.  Without a doubt America’s military continues to remain a force that places a high value on the role of religion in life. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, there exists a robust historical framework for religion and religious expression within the United States military.  With that comes the constant battle from those who wish to restrict the free exercise of religion for our chaplains as well as all members of the military.  The LCMS has endorsed chaplains to serve in the military since the Civil War, when C. F. W. Walther endorsed Pastor Friedrich Richmann to serve as a chaplain to the Ohio Regiment in 1862.  The LCMS continues to send forth pastors to serve as chaplains in the military to ensure our LCMS men and women are able to receive Word and Sacrament ministry while they are selflessly serving our nation. 

American service members voluntarily surrender many freedoms and liberties when they join the military.  However, religious freedom is not one of them. Religion and faith have played integral roles in America’s military since before our founding. Today, service members continue to enjoy broad, robust First Amendment rights. Service members are free to engage in religious expression in a manner consistent with their faith.

The authority and discretion of military officials to curb such expression has to meet some requirements.  And those who find themselves the victims of First Amendment violations may allege constitutional claims against those responsible.  Religious liberty is a right protected by U.S. law.  This also applies to our LCMS chaplains and all who serve in our military.

Our LCMS chaplains have the constitutional right as well as policy and doctrine protections from the Department of Defense and Congress to conduct religious services, worship, teaching, fellowship, counseling, and ecclesiastical or sacramental functions in accordance with our LCMS doctrine and practice. Our chaplains provide for the religious and moral needs of service members and are able freely to exercise and appropriately express their own faith, and ensure service members are free to do the same, without substantial government burden, except when that burden furthers a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.  All have a right to be free from discrimination based on their religious beliefs and also be free from censorship based on others’ objections to their appropriately expressed religious and moral beliefs.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod continues to stay engaged and work to protect religious liberty in the military through its Ministry to the Armed Forces and through the work of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. We also work to protect religious liberty for our LCMS pastors who are serving as military chaplains and for our LCMS members who selflessly volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces.

Chaplain Craig G. Muehler is director of the Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces.

Be Informed

Should states be able to“oust parents and children from neutral benefit programs because they choose a religious private school”? Learn more about a new Supreme Court case taking up this important issue.

Be Equipped

Rev. Dr. Greg Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, and Congressman John Shimkus, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 15th congressional district, joined Kip Allen of KFUO to talk about religious liberty and how Lutherans interact with politics in American society. Have a listen!

Be Encouraged

“Dear Lord Jesus, you are the Great Physician. You know every one of our hairs on our head and number them. You know when a sparrow falls out of the sky. Look with favor upon all Your dear Christians the world over, in every dark and difficult prison, in every torturous situation, in every situation of mental fatigue and anguish and attack by states and other powers and false religions. We pray that You would grant justice and liberty in the world so all peoples may have the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience. And we pray that You may open doors even through the blood of Your martyrs for the witness so that more and more may believe in You until the Last Day. We plead it for Your sake. Amen.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

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