Written by Don Byrd
In 2005, General Roger Brady led an inquiry into allegations of religious discrimination and proselytizing by officials in the U.S. Air Force Academy. As he describes it, this assignment was criticized by some because of a perception that he was an overly religious Christian, and by others because he was not Christian enough. Now retired, Brady gave an interesting interview, published in Christianity Today in which he discussed the relationship and tension (or lack thereof) between his Christian faith and his military responsibilities, as well as recounting his experiences leading that investigation.
Here is an excerpt:
Why were you tapped to lead the Air Force Academy inquiry into religious discrimination, and what was that like for you personally as a Christian military officer?
I was happy to do it, but there were some moments that were not fun at all. I had some very good but difficult conversations with people during the Air Force Academy investigation. Some of the best conversations I had were with the people who were the most concerned about religion. I had discussions with the head of the Anti-Defamation League. He was very concerned about it but a real gentleman. It was a very good and very respectful discussion.
It was very enlightening to me to have that discussion with Congress. While I shared the faith of many in Congress who were Christians, I probably had the most respectful conversations with those who disagreed with me the most, including several members of the Jewish faith. They were very understanding of the needle I was trying to thread. The goal there was to keep the train on the track and between the ditches—preserve religious freedom while not running afoul of the “establishment clause.”
You have cited the need for respect as an aspect of religious discussions in the Air Force. What else is important there?
We do need to be respectful of each other. That includes being sure that people in positions of authority do not take advantage of their positions to impose their beliefs on people in a subordinate position. That’s where the Constitution and the First Amendment became part of the discussion—especially the [religious] “establishment” clause. There was concern that there would be people in positions of authority who could impose their belief. That is clearly inappropriate.
[But] it raises a question: Can a person in a higher position ever witness to a person in a lower position? That becomes more challenging. But I think it is absolutely appropriate for military leaders—and I have done this—to encourage people to talk to a chaplain or a minister if it’s his belief a chaplain can be helpful to them.
It’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking interview, with both some troubling and some heartening perspectives and insights.