I will be glad when the day comes that I can joyfully report that the religious freedoms of our military men and women have been fully restored, and are no longer in danger. Sometimes I feel like it is somehow the reverse equivalent of “crying wolf,” when column after of the All Things Soldier column is dedicated to sounding the alarm. At the end of the day, though, I would rather be remembered as someone who would not relent, rather than someone who remained silent.
In yet another attack on our officers’ right to express themselves in prayer, and that in a time-honored tradition, we are kicking off the football season at West Point with Lucy tormenting Charlie Brown, as she does every year.
Here is what happened. West Point has not had a stellar football season for a very long time, in fact, since 2010. On September, the Black Knights of West Point won against the Temple University Owls with a score of 28- 13. They were ecstatic, and their coach, Jeff Moken, asked one of the other coaches to briefly lead the team in a prayer of thanksgiving. Lord knows there are a lot of those types of prayers that are launched heavenward here in Alabama the Beautiful every weekend in the fall, and for most of us, that is as it should be. All was well up North, or so it seemed, and someone filmed it and posted it on the ubiquitous Facebook.
Well, wouldn’t you know, someone complained, the result being that the original Facebook posting was removed, and then re-posted, with the brief sequence catching the group prayer having been edited out. Please remember that Temple University, the alma mater of Bill Cosby and Mark Levin, was started in 1888 by a Baptist minister, and I would imagine that on that campus they are fairly used to praying voluntary prayer. I hope the complainant was not from Temple, but these days, you never know.
In an unfortunate demonstration of spinelessness, the West Point Commandant, Lt. General Robert L. Caslen said that while 90% supported the prayer, “…there were some concerns, and I think they’re valid concerns.” Concerns? I’ll tell you what concerns me. We all know that the chances that God actually moved in favor of one team or another on the football field are probably pretty slim, but it never hurts to thank Him anyway. The problem is that our soldiers go into way more dangerous situations than a football stadium, and if you make their heartfelt spiritual expression of gratitude into a problem, you are going to, at the least, dent their armor and shield, and at the worst, strip it right off of them. Football players pray and celebrate, they always have. Soldiers pray and celebrate, they always have. Football soldiers who are training to be our nation’s finest officers pray and celebrate, they always have. For God’s sake, and I do mean that literally and unashamedly, leave them alone!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner