The U.S. military has come under scrutiny of late for its handling of church-state separatism. While some hold that the ranks are too rooted in Christian themes, others lament the purported removal of faith values. And now, as the holiday season ramps up, yet another religious controversy is brewing after the Navy forced U.S. service members in Bahrain to cancel a live nativity event following a complaint from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), an atheist activist group.
The MAAF argued that the Christian scene would endanger American servicemen and women in the predominately Muslim country and that it also is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, Fox News’ Todd Starnes reports. The event, which was slated to unfold at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, is nativity a tradition that has been going on for quite some time.
Part of a larger festival, the reenactment typically features other Christmas staples as well, including: Santa Claus, a camel, holiday music and a tree lighting. Children and other family members of military personel traditionally act in the nativity — something that will no longer be happening as the result of a complaint launched with the Navy’s Inspector General by the MAAF.
The atheist group, which regularly targets military practices and events that purportedly cater to people of faith, claimed that the nativity event would distinguish “Christianity as the official religion of the base.” The group, clearly seeking an end to the practice, also noted the dangers that this faith-based event could allegedly pose.
“It’s unconstitutional, it’s bad for the military and in a Muslim country it’s dangerous,” Jason Torpy, a spokesperson for MAAF, said in an interview with Fox.
Torpy and his organization were apparently convincing in making their arguments, as the chaplain at the NSA confirmed the cancellation. And the Navy purportedly issued a statement addressing the issue and agreeing to halt the nativity. According to the MAAF, it reads:
“Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time.”
The reaction has been swift, with some officers claiming that their children are devastated over not being able to participate in the nativity.
“It was horrible. It was devastating,” said one officer who asked not to be named. “Here we are serving in the Middle East, defending our country and other people’s religions and we couldn’t understand why we can’t enjoy our own religious freedoms.”
Others outside of the military also disagree with Torpy and MAAF. Hiram Sasser, the director of litigation at conservative Liberty Legal Institute, for instance, believes that atheists are wrong about this matter.
“Once again, the Grinches prove their hearts are two sizes too small,” he told Fox. “The Supreme Court already saved nativity Christmas displays in 1984 and the Navy of all organizations shouldn’t back down against Grinches when law and history are on its side.”
This story was first reported by ChristianFighterPilot.com.
(H/T: Fox News’ Todd Starnes)