|Back to Index|
US: The Archdiocese for the Military. Religion in the US and France
From Paris, Tom Sancton asks "is there a Grand Mufti for the Armed Services? A Head Evangelist for the Armed Services? An Anglican Archdiocese? And, while we're at it, why not a Chief New Age Channeler or a Supreme Athiest Philosopher for the Armed Services? This institutional link between the Roman Catholic Church and the U.S. military is not only politically troubling, but raises the question of how you guarantee freedom of religion--and equal treatment in the practice of religion--in an increasingly multicultural society".
From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer replies: "Viewed from France, I suppose, where less than half of the population believes in God, the whole idea of religion itself seems ludicrous. Separation of Church and State is irrelevant in such a country. The key issue in basically atheist societies is freedom of religion. France has not quite achieved Soviet standards there, but seems to be working hard on it. See The State v. Religion in France , http://www.icrf.com/Whatsnew/heber.htm, and the State Department Report on religious freedom in France: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/irf_france.html. See also the scathing report of the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights: http://www.ihf-hr.org/appeals/000615.htm
Here is what M. Vivien, the president of MILS, the French state body responsible for repressing non-approved religions, says about religious freedom in the U.S.: "In the United States, freedoms are crazy. In the name of the First Amendment of the American Constitution which forbids legislation on religious matters, one can say and do anything." (quoted in The State versus Religion in France, Jentsch, op. cit.)
On the other hand, in countries where the religious beliefs of its citizens are respected, such as the U.S., the provision of pastoral counsel and comfort to soldiers facing possible or likely death, when questions about the immortality of the soul and the meaning of life and death are foremost in one's mind, is the most natural thing in the world, if not perhaps even a fundamental human right. I am troubled that anyone could find that troubling .
The U.S. Constitution wisely forbids the establishment of religion. It does not forbid or even discourage the provision of chaplains in the military or non-denominational references to God in the speeches of public figures. Eliminating God from public life in America, on the contrary, amounts to the establishment of atheism as a state religion. Viewed from Russia, where atheism was in fact established as a state religion for 75 years, Tom Sancton s comments border on the ludicrous".
Ronald Hilton - 12/12/02