The separation between church and state is a fundamental tenet of the American political system. While the struggle how that separation is played out on Capital Hill is played out public and full view there is another and equally important battlefield.- the military.
As of late the various institutions which form the American military have come under increasing scrutiny. Substantial and influential leaders are accused of demanding certain religious fealty. It has reached the point where there are now organizations which have been formed to specifically challenge and address the problem.
We are a nation predicated on political and religious pluralities. What distinguishes us is the awareness that we are all equal, free to believe in what we will or not believe at all.
America troops serve all over the world, in different cultures and societies who may worship in different ways. If military enlisted service members and officer corps are recognized for their religious beliefs over what are inviolable American beliefs, there will be conflicts we cannot begin to imagine. The American military is supposed to serve our constitution, not God. They are not meant to resemble Al Qaeda.
Our military who serve overseas are in effect, American ambassadors. They often are the first contact people very different than ourselves have with Americans. As such, they need to see what America stands for, not what individual Americans believe.
The article below was written 3 years ago, Since then the problem has worsened.
When Sergeant Jeffery Humphrey and his squad of nine men, part of the 1/26 Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division, were assigned to a Special Forces compound in Samarra, he thought they had drawn a dream duty. “Guarding Special Forces, it was like Christmas,” he says. In fact, it was spring, 2004; and although Humphrey was a combat veteran of Kosovo and Iraq, the men to whom he was detailed, the 10th Special Forces Group, were not interested in grunts like him. They would not say what they were doing, and they used code names. They called themselves “the Faith element.” But they did not talk religion, which was fine with Humphrey.
An evenhanded Indianan with a precise turn of mind, Humphrey considered himself a no-nonsense soldier. His first duty that Easter Sunday was to make sure the roof watch was in place: a machine gunner, a man in a mortar pit, a soldier with a SAW (an automatic rifle on a bipod), and another with a submachine gun on loan from Special Forces. Together with two Bradley Fighting Vehicles on the ground and snipers on another roof, the watch covered the perimeter of the compound, a former elementary school overlooking the Tigris River.
Early that morning, a unit from the 109th National Guard Infantry dropped off their morning chow. With it came a holiday special—a video of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and a chaplain to sing the film’s praises, a gory cinematic sermon for an Easter at war. Humphrey ducked into the chow room to check it out. “It was the part where they’re killing Jesus, which is, I guess, pretty much the whole movie. Kind of turned my stomach.” He decided he’d rather burn trash.
He was returning from his first run to the garbage pit when the 109th came barreling back. Their five-ton—a supersized armored pickup—was rolling on rims, its tires flapping and spewing greasy black flames. “Came in on two wheels,” remembers one of Humphrey’s men, a machine gunner. On the ground behind it and in retreat before a furious crowd were more men from the 109th, laying down fire with their M-4s. Humphrey raced toward the five-ton as his roof shooters opened up, their big guns thumping above him. Later, when he climbed into the vehicle, the stink was overwhelming: of iron and gunpowder, blood and bullet casings. He reached down to grab a rifle, and his hand came up wet with brain.