WildcatPW: You're missing one small but essential point: private U.S. citizens may exercise rights that military (this case) or government (also covered by the Constitutional provision) may not exercise some of their rights while serving as officeholders of the United States government. Your example of the Coast Guard Ensign is a clear violation - he may invite his buddies ONLY when off base and NOT in uniform. When the uniform goes on, so does a silence on any religious preference or non-preference because he is a defender of the Constitution which is neutral and so must his every action while engaged as that representative be. Similarly, he cannot write up a flier for his bible study and use his rank next to his name as that is an official endorsement that the military and government may not lend. The rights you fear for are not 'taken away' but restricted to protect the neutrality of the government and the military and everyone who raises their hand to take the oath of enlistment, commission, or government service knows this. No one is trying to strangle Christianity nor any other religious practise of their voice - only to ensure that it is done within the confines of the United States Constitution and that means not on government land, with government money, or via sanction of a government office.
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