What is the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) so afraid of? On Monday, the president of the conservative Christian think tank, Mark Tooley, blogged on FrontPage Magazine about the upcoming Truth Commission on Conscience in War (scheduled for March 21 at the Riverside Church in New York City), full of distortions, misinformation, and wildly unwarranted speculation.
Tooley attempts to smear the religious, academic, and community leaders serving as commissioners; individuals traveling to New York from around the country to receive testimony from military veterans and expert witnesses about the issues of moral and religious conscience facing our nation’s service members. The IRD claims to want more religious freedom, though not, evidently, for those serving in the Armed Forces. In his sneering diatribe, he manages to suggest that personal testimony from veterans of war is trivial entertainment, that supporting the exercise of moral conscience in war is America bashing, and that honoring the religious and moral conscience will emasculate the military.
Tooley did, to his credit, get one fact right, though he totally missed the significance of that fact. One of the most heartening aspects of this Truth Commission is that a number of peace groups, which have worked for decades to stop all war—the Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Mennonite Central Committee to name a few—have joined over 40 co-sponsoring organizations (including Yale Divinity School and Union Theological Seminary) to honor and protect the moral consciences of all service members—not only pacifists, but also those who subscribe to moral or religious principles of Just War and international law.
Together, Commissioners from pacifist, Just War, and many other traditions will receive personal testimony from veterans and expert witnesses on the moral and religious questions facing soldiers, criteria of just war, international agreements governing the justification and conduct of war, and the limits of military regulations on Conscientious Objection.
So if the March 21st Commission will address the moral and spiritual injuries of war, and promote respect and reconciliation among veterans, military families, our religious communities, and our society, then what, we ask Mark Tooley and the Institute for Religion and Democracy, is so scary about that?