Onward Christian Soldiers

August 20, 2010

For those who think Establishment Clause violations involving coercion are a thing of the past, this story from the Huffington Post is a useful reminder that where there’s a will to impose a religious message on others, there is often a way—especially if you are a commanding general.

The outrageousness of this action speaks for itself and no analysis is necessary. I will make a couple of observations on one aspect of this event, however, and that is the use of the euphemism “spiritual” in an effort to mask the religious nature of the event. “Spiritual," “spirituality,” and related terms have become the default way to describe religious practices when there is a desire to have such practices appear to be secular or have a secular justification. For example, the contracts the Florida Department of Corrections uses in funneling money to faith-based contractors providing drug rehabilitation (a practice that is being challenged in court by the Council for Secular Humanism) stipulates that the contractor’s program will include elements of “spiritual renewal.” What the “spiritual renewal” amounts to in reality is religious indoctrination. But apparently government officials who want to merge church and state think “spiritual” is so vague a term that they can be absolved of expressly promoting religion. Sorry, but we are not fooled. Although some may think they are succeeding in cloaking religion, “spirituality” is nothing but a see-through dress. And we don’t like the looks of what’s underneath.