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Published on 03 May, 2013

Court martials could face Christian soldiers

USA (MNN) — An atheist is trying to change policy on religious freedom in the United States military.

Mikey Weinstein heads up the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He met with officials at the Pentagon on 23 April to ask them to develop procedures to punish Christians in the military that express or share their faith.

Spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton says, "People from the Pentagon have met with this guy, they've talked about the things that he wants. Now we'll see if they'll follow his recommendations or if they simply had a meeting and now they go on and do their own thing."

"Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense," the statement to Fox News stated. "Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis."

Several of MNN's partnering ministries have military outreach that has been "under the radar" so far, and for now, the majority of them declined to be interviewed for this story. However, given the direction the story is going, it seems to fall under the bailiwick of persecution watchdog groups.

Nettleton states, "What's at stake is the ability of the U.S. military members to practice their Christian faith. That includes not only the rank and file military members: that actually includes even the chaplains."

The concern is that the definition of proselytism is unclear. Nettleton asks, "If you share your faith, if you share the plan of salvation, is that proselytism or does it become proselytism if there's some sort of coercion?" He is quick to note that while this is an alarming shift, it's not technically "persecution." But, "When we see a military chaplain who is court-martialed for preaching the Gospel, for saying ‘Jesus is the only way to Heaven,' I think then we'll be able to say, ‘Absolutely! That's persecution. Then we'll have crossed the line.'"

Weinstein accused members of the military who share the Gospel of Jesus Christ of "sedition" and "treason." He also described Christians who shared their faith in the military as "enemies of the Constitution." Yet, Nettleton says as strong as the language is, it's not really a surprise. "Christ said, ‘You will take up your cross.' The cross was an instrument of torture, an instrument of death. So He wasn't saying, ‘It's always going to be easy to follow Me.' He was saying, ‘Take up your cross. You may have to pay a price.'"

Regardless of what happens with the policy or how it is enforced, Nettleton says American believers can take a page from the book of the Global Church. "It is coming in our culture where we may have to pay a price for living out our faith in Christ, as well. Again, I point to the example of our persecuted brothers and sisters because we have so much to learn from them: they face this every single day and yet they faithfully follow the call of Christ on their lives."

Although the meeting made headlines 11 days ago, little else has been said about what happens next. Nettleton believes, "In some ways that makes this the crucial time for American Christians to call our government officials, make sure they're aware of this case so that as these regulations are being put into place, they can really speak to the issues of religious freedom and to the fact that we have to protect religious freedom for our military members."

What can be done aside from speaking out? Nettleton urges prayer. "Pray that they will have godly wisdom to make decisions that will be in the best interest of our country and also to protect our Christian brothers and sisters in the military."

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