God may delegate to the state the right to take life, but “it is obvious that he does not give that right to the motorist. If, then, we recognize the moral imperative behind the commandment [not to kill], we will drive as responsible, decent human beings, conscious of our obligations to our creator.” Thus said the manual in the Army’s character-guidance program.

That is, it said something about a moral obligation to act as though there might be a God until representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union went to work. By late last year, references to God and religion had been deleted. The word was slow in getting around, but when a couple of congressmen got hold of it this month there was righteous indignation aplenty. Newscaster Paul Harvey fanned the flame and the fire was burning. Soon “What’s-this-country-coming-to” letters were piling up on congressmen’s desks, at a rate almost akin to that reached when Madalyn Murray (now O’Hair) was knocking devotions out of public schools.

Defense Secretary Melvin Laird found a full-blown peace move expected of him. He said Army orders for chaplains to stop referring to God were news to him, then called for a departmental review. Within a week he took even more forceful steps, and God was “redrafted,” as the Toledo Times put it.

Laird, a Presbyterian elder who has one of his children attending a Christian school, overruled Army brass: “With regard to the character guidance programs within the military departments, I want to state that there will be no prohibition against the use of ‘God,’ ‘Supreme Being,’ ‘Creator,’ ‘faith,’ ‘spiritual values,’ or similar words.” He did admonish chaplains, however, not to promote their own religious dogmas or sectarian beliefs in teaching the men ...

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