MRFF Belittles Senator Cornyn’s Defense of Constitution

As predicted, it wasn’t long before Chris Rodda came out in defense of Michael Weinstein’s “big victory” for his self-founded Military Religious Freedom Foundation that Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) recently seemed to undermine.  From the Huffington Post:

This summer, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) scored a big victory…

Senator John Cornyn…doesn’t like the Air Force’s decision…

Rodda’s article is essentially a rehash of the prior writeups, with the addition of Cornyn’s letter.  One “new” piece of information is Rodda’s claim that 38 more Air Force officers wanted “to join” the original complainants, which shouldn’t be unexpected, given the MRFF claims 20,000 “clients” from which it should be fairly easy to gather 38 more names.  Rodda also said the quantity of Bible verses in the Air Force’s brief was an issue, and then she said this:

In addition to the number of Bible verses in this training, it’s hard to figure out what some of them even have to do with Just War Theory.

Despite her near-epiphany, she can’t quite connect the dots.  The bulb is glowing dimly — perhaps she’ll eventually get it.  (For the curious, a version of the slides is here.)

Most surprising, however, was Rodda’s title:

Texas Senator Demands That Air Force Answer to Him on Pulling of “Jesus Loves Nukes” Training

As written, Rodda appears to be demeaning or questioning Senator Cornyn’s perceived authority to make the Air Force “answer to him.” Given her position as a “researcher,” her statement is disingenuous.  Let’s review:

As a frequent provocateur, the MRFF is likely well aware of what is known as a “congressional.”  Any member of the military can contact their congressman, and that congressman can “demand” a response from the military on the issue.

All [military members], civilians and family members are entitled to contact their Congressional representatives without fear of reprisal (Public Law 100-456).  Commanders and other leaders cannot restrict or deny this right, or require that individuals notify them before requesting Congressional assistance (Section 1034, Title 10, US Code).

Despite not being in the military chain of command, the US Congress is, in many respects, in control of the military.  Many seem to forget the US Constitution gives Congress — and no one else — the power to “raise and support Armies.”  Thus, the US military takes these “congressional inquiries” seriously, and in some places has standing offices to address them.

All it would take, then, is one letter to Senator Cornyn on this topic from a servicemember (or anyone else, for that matter).  Senator Cornyn is within both tradition and protocol to make such a request.

Senator Cornyn is, as Rodda notes, also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Care to guess what’s in their jurisdiction?

the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force, generally

Thus, this issue is squarely in Senator Cornyn’s purview.

Finally, Senator John Cornyn represents Texas.  The Air Force command in charge of the training course at issue, represented by the spokesman Chris Rodda quotes, is Air Education and Training Command (AETC), headquartered at Randolph AFB…Texas.

So, despite Rodda’s condescension, it is entirely appropriate that the Air Force “answer to” Senator John Cornyn in this matter.  That Rodda doesn’t like his apparent opposition to her position is irrelevant.

While the MRFF likely considers almost any publicity good, they are probably reacting so strongly and defensively because Senator Cornyn’s letter hurts.  It may stem or even reverse momentum they thought they had in getting the Air Force to ask “how high?” when they said “jump.”

As noted previously, Weinstein has failed to acknowledge the complexity of the military reaction over a complaint about specific religious issues.  Then again, its been fairly well established that “religious freedom” is little more to Weinstein than a catchy phrase.

In a bit of comic relief, Rodda counts 61 “Christian Air Force officers who completely disagree with Senator Cornyn.”  A few years ago some Air Force Academy cadets made light of a policy requiring a disclaimer on some public statements by publicly posting the USAFA Honor Code:

We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.

followed by the required disclaimer:

This statement does not represent the official position of the US Air Force.

The point, of course, is that one can easily become blinded by adherence to formula (or dogma).  Rodda does precisely the same thing (as, apparently, have her allies).  In her haste to oppose and criticize the Senator, she apparently failed to read the letter, which is rife with the desire to protect Constitutional freedoms.  The MRFF and its “Air Force officers” apparently “completely disagree” with Senator Cornyn’s statements saying:

Our military services, like our nation, are comprised of people representing all faiths…

The First Amendment is intended to guarantee an individual’s right to the free exercise of religion according to his or her conscience…

I strongly urge you to ensure that a correct interpretation of the First Amendment is applied in resolving this situation…

The MRFF is supporting officers who “completely disagree” with the Air Force applying a “correct interpretation” of the US Constitution.  Who knew?

The statement the MRFF almost certainly does disagree with is this one:

Although our Founding Fathers rightly included language in the Constitution that precludes the Federal government from establishing an official religion, this language does not, as some have argued, protect them from exposure to religious references.

As noted, the MRFF has stated its belief in a Constitutional freedom “from” religion, which would run counter to Senator Cornyn’s (correct) interpretation of the First Amendment.  Of course, Weinstein only complained about the Christian references; “freedom from religion” apparently doesn’t extend to references to Judaism.

Incidentally, in focusing on how many Air Force officers “completely disagree” with the Senator, one wonders if Rodda has considered how many Air Force officers have contacted their members of Congress, including Senator Cornyn, “completely disagreeing” with Michael Weinstein and herself.

Their voice may not be as loud or as shrill, but, if Senator Cornyn’s response is any indication, they’re being heard.