Republican lawmakers in Kansas want the state Legislature to call on the U.S. military to aggressively defend the "Judeo-Christian tradition" in the face of alleged discrimination by the Defense Department.
The Republican-controlled Kansas Senate passed a resolution on the subject this past Friday, while two of their colleagues in the state House are having a similar resolution drafted.
"There is certainly concern with what is going on at the Pentagon," state Rep. Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane), a sponsor of the resolution, told The Huffington Post. "They are singling out Christianity with our troops. We have a long history of being a Judeo-Christian nation."
During Friday's Senate debate, state Sen. Mitch Holmes (R-St. John) told colleagues that he knew of 20 instances of what he described as military attacks on Christianity, including a ban on Bible verses being printed on rifle scopes by the vendor and a proposed policy on proselytizing, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reported. The Defense Department has explained that the latter proposal would allow troops to express their faith but not to attempt to convert someone else. But Christian activists have raised concerns about Pentagon officials' reported meeting with the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about the proposal.
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing last month in Washington, U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) questioned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on a series of similar issues, including an alleged Bible ban at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in late 2011 and an Army Reserve training program of unreported date that had listed evangelical Christians and Catholics as religious extremists. Hagel, who became secretary of defense at the end of February, said he did not know about either incident.
For its part, the Navy has said that the restriction on bringing Bibles to the medical center came from a poorly worded visitors policy that was not enforced and quickly rescinded. In April, the Army told Fox News that the shocking identification of religious extremists was an "isolated incident" involving one instructor that was also dealt with.
But DeGraaf, a ministry director, told HuffPost that the reports he has seen lead him to believe that the Kansas Legislature needs to protect Christians in the military. He said a resolution that he is sponsoring with state Rep. Josh Powell (R-Topeka) will likely come up for a vote soon. One draft of the resolution, circulated by state Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills) on Facebook, includes language calling on Kansas' congressional delegation to "aggressively defend the rights of religious conscience and the free exercise of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the U.S. Military and support the professional chaplaincy."
Bollier, a moderate Republican, is leading an effort to block the resolution. She said that the measure is not necessary and that it is not inclusive of all religions.
She also suggested that the resolution is coming up now because the Legislature has been at a standstill over a new tax plan and most of her colleagues have little to do. During a brief House session Wednesday, legislators cast two procedural votes and were briefed on the agenda for Thursday's weekly prayer breakfast.
More to the point, Bollier said it's not the Kansas Legislature's job to run the U.S. military.
"Personally I think the military is quite capable of handling this without our intervention. Some people feel that they need to make statements," she said. "I feel if we make statements, we should be inclusive. I believe that Kansas is an inclusive state."
DeGraaf said that as officials elected by the people, the state legislators have the right to weigh in on national military policy. In terms of addressing all religions, he said he believes that only Christians are being attacked.
"Unfortunately the Pentagon's attack is not on all religions," he said. "We are a Christian nation that is open to all religions. Our Founding Fathers are Christian, our philosophy is Christian, our laws are based on Judeo-Christian ethics."