Kansas City Star: Religion often crosses swords with -- and sometimes supports -- war. This war is no different. For good or ill, religion figures into it.
Religion is providing comfort for worried people. Faith communities gather in prayer and support American military families. It's vital work that provides a broader human context for war.
As war approached, religion also led protests against violence as a way to deal with Saddam Hussein's toxic regime. For example, the leader of the Lutheran World Federation accused the United States, Britain and Spain of threatening the United Nations' "integrity and authority" by acting without a U.N. mandate. And many American religious leaders backed a religious magazine editor's six-point plan to remove Hussein without war but indict him for war crimes.
Religion at times has extolled patriotism and supported troops and political leaders. Some American religious authorities -- especially those who describe themselves as conservative -- have preached about standing against Hussein, even if that requires war.
Religion also is entangled with the war on terrorism, and President Bush says disarming Iraq is an extension of that war. Radicals who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks claimed to act in the name of Islam. Clearly they abused an ancient religion, but similar extremist voices continue to speak out. The war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, however, must not be a war on Islam.
Bush is committed to religious views he often expresses -- too often, in fact. From his "faith-based initiative" to overtly religious language in speeches, he aligns himself with a generally conservative Christian view. His insistence that Saddam "is evil" and the United States is "pure and good" reflects an unambiguous religious viewpoint.
Americans are trying to understand all aspects of this war, including the religious elements. As they do, they should celebrate the fact that among the values our military defends is freedom of religion.