The U.S. military is a stronghold for Christian-nation evangelism. That statement may sound inflammatory, but it accurately represents the convictions of many in the chain of command that, among other things, the United States is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles and that it is not only legal but required to utilize personal rank and military resources to spread the message of Christianity.
Military ministries like the Officers’ Christian Fellowship and the Campus Crusade Military Ministry operate with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The military chaplaincy is nearly 98 percent Christian, and nearly two-thirds of its members hail from denominations that prioritize proselytization of their beliefs. So-called spiritual fitness programs, which flourish throughout the military, are developed and overseen by those same chaplains, so no one should be surprised that service members are being pushed toward religious worship and prayer. But this trend carries many costs. Across the armed forces, compulsory religion is driving a wedge into the military team, failing to resolve issues of post-traumatic stress, isolating many service members, and violating our Constitution.
In growing numbers, advocates of secular government are standing up to fight back against religious discrimination and advocate for the rights of those who have suffered from the improper intrusion of religion into government. The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy is an organization of current and former chaplains who are helping to steward the military through its implementation of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Forum is also paving the way for increasing diversity in the military, including transitioning and queer service members. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation engages in media and legal activism to fight against Christian evangelism in the military. My organization, the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF), builds community for atheists and humanists in the military. By and large, these organizations didn’t exist or were in their infancy just ten years ago. Now, they and others are building strength to turn the tide against a well-entrenched and powerful Christian military establishment.