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Army Chaplains’ Prayer Videos Removed From Facebook

May 13th, 2020

Several prayer videos created by Christian army chaplains during the coronavirus pandemic were recently removed from an army brigade's main Facebook page.
Several prayer videos created by Christian army chaplains during the coronavirus pandemic were recently removed from an army brigade’s main Facebook page.

Several prayer videos created by two military chaplains offering Christian messaging during the coronavirus pandemic were recently removed from Facebook following complaints that this content constituted “illicit proselytizing” of Christianity. This situation serves as an interesting example of how interested parties view the role of the establishment clause during the pandemic.

How Debate Over the Prayer Videos Originated

Four prayer videos featuring a captain and major of the United States Military were recently posted on the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade’s Facebook page. In one of these videos, the major requested that everyone was invited to pray for the sick as well as leaders. In another video, people were encouraged to visit a military base because it was a “great place to hear God’s voice,” and another video quoted from the Bible

The prayer videos were then taken down on April 20th after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) sent a letter arguing that the videos violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause. The MRFF organization contacted the army on behalf of eight non-Christian Fort Drum soldiers who “objected to the Christian nature of the Facebook messages” but wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

The MRFF argued that the prayer videos belong only on a chapel page rather than on the base or unit’s main Facebook page. The organization later stated that these demands were necessary to make sure that church-state separation was followed.

While the organization later thanked the Army brigade for removing the videos, the organization also reprimanded the chaplains for having posted the videos at all and argued that they should have known better than to publish faith-based content on the United States military’s Facebook pages.

Previous Claims Involving the United States Military

While this case represents the first time that the United States Military has been contacted by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation during the pandemic, the organization has commented on several other supposed violations by the military in the last few years.

In 2016, the organization urged the Department of Defense to investigate several military chaplains for violating federal rules by praying publicly while in uniform at events created to promote religious liberty. Also, last spring, the organization forced the removal of a World Word II-era Bible from a veteran’s hospital display because this action placed more value in one faith than others.

Criticism of the MRFF’s Response to the Prayer Videos

Not all organizations viewed these videos as a violation of the establishment clause. Instead, an attorney for the First Liberty Institute commented that he was shocked to discover this demand had been made.

The attorney commented that during a time when many people in the country feel hurt and hopeless, such attacks on prayer were unnecessary. This lawyer also commented that every president in the United States has publicly prayed for the military and that if the president can pray, so can soldiers.

Continue Reading the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy developments in issues concerning the church’s role in government operations. While many required religious separation laws have existed since the creation of the Constitution, there are various cases each month that still test these boundaries. By reading the blog, you can remain up to date with the most noteworthy of these developments.

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