In this article, I will spotlight several of the many examples of the overt, light-of-day Christian promotion and proselytizing going on even at the highest levels of our military. Each is individually outrageous. Every non theist and even every non-Christian serving in the military is presented immediately and frequently with the clear message that Christianity is preferred, religion is essentially required, and atheistic beliefs are at best tolerated.
This situation is hardly surprising. General George Washington (see demographics insert) issued an order creating the military chaplaincy with the explicit mission to promote Christian values and practices among his soldiers. This order was issued before there was a First Amendment or even aConstitution. Washington had full authority to issue any order he liked. Many military leaders and chaplains still operate today under a Christian-nation philosophy in many ways unchanged since Washington’s day. From this philosophy flow Special Forces Bibles, crosses on government property, mandatory prayers, command-sponsored evangelistic retreats, special privileges for religious personnel, and Jesus rifles.
An additional reality is that the United States military has been nominally Christian for much of its existence. Abraham Lincoln first allowed Jewish chaplains during the Civil War. This was a progressive act, but even to this day, the Jewish population and chaplaincy is just a tiny fraction of the military. The chaplaincy included only Christian and Jewish chaplains until the first Muslim chaplain entered the military in 1992. The first Buddhist chaplain entered less than ten years ago. The first Hindu chaplain entered in 2011. The military chaplain population is currently 66 percent “evangelistic”and 98 percent Christian. Chaplains are trusted to be honest brokers operating in a pluralistic community. However, the general military population is less than 70 percent Christian and not even 18 percent evangelistic. Expanding cultural tolerance of diversity should begin with addressing the great disparity in belief between religious service providers and the service members they support.