While speaking yesterday with right-wing Iowa talk show host Steve Deace, Sen. Ted Cruz listed a litany of “tragic” incidents which he said are proof that “we have never seen an administration more hostile to religious liberty than the Obama administration.”
“Whether it is threatening punishment for service men and women who share their faith, whether it is just recently ordering a young service man to take off a scripture verse from outside his room on a white board that was an open forum for speech, whether it was ordering an Air Force chaplain in Alaska to delete from his blog posting the phrase ‘there are no atheists in foxholes,’ or whether it is most astonishingly persecuting the Little Sisters of the Poor,” he said.
Cruz’s claim that service members face punishment for “sharing their faith” relies on a completely discredited crusade by Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who repeatedly misrepresents Defense Department guidelines on proselytizing and religious bias that actually date back to the Bush administration.
The Texas senator also mentioned a case at the Air Force Academy where a cadet in a leadership position wrote a Bible verse on a dormitory white board. Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson explained that the cadet voluntarily decided to erase the verse “following discussion over the issue,” and noted that the verse “could cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality. With the mentorship of the active duty commanding officer as part of the discussion, the cadet squadron commander raised this potential perception and the cadet voluntarily elected to erase the scripture.” Military.com adds that “a female cadet’s attempt to show the verse was improper by writing ‘there is no evidence that God ever existed’ on the whiteboard outside her room led to two senior cadets forcibly holding her back while they wiped the board clean.”
In the other incident of supposed persecution, the website of the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska posted an essay with the title “No Atheists in Foxholes.” After the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which also complained about an ‘Ask An Atheist Day,’ said that the posting was demeaning to non-religious service members, the essay was briefly removed from the website but later restored, this time with a disclaimer that the comments “are strictly those of the author and do not convey endorsement by the U.S. government.”
As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, the legal challenge isn’t about trying to “force individual citizens to violate tenets of their faith” by purchasing a health insurance plan that includes contraception coverage. The Little Sisters are in a church plan, Christian Brothers Trust, that is not required to provide the contraception coverage.
But according to Cruz, these are the “astonishing” cases that demonstrates the Obama administration’s supposed hostility to religious freedom.