MRFF Petition Garners Signatures for White House

Dustin Chalker, an Army Sergeant and MRFF “client,” publicly announced that he started a petition on the “We the People” website calling for an “End [to] the Military’s Discrimination against Non-Religious Service Members.”

The petition wording reflects some of the sentiment behind Chalker’s failed lawsuit against the Army — a lawsuit that was tossed out because Chalker failed to use the internal grievance systems the Army has in place.  The petition contains similarly vague claims of illegal conduct, which are (still) unsupported to date by any public facts: 

We [non-religious service members] are forced to participate in religious rituals during official ceremonies. This is not free exercise, this is forced exercise. Worship belongs in voluntary services, not in mandatory formations. This is unconstitutional establishment of an official preference for religion over non-religion.

Though he doesn’t say so, Chalker is apparently referring to ceremonial prayer in military formations when he says “religious rituals.”  Even considering the recent head-bowing incident, there is no indication the military, as an institution, “forces” anyone to participate in any religious act.

Oddly, Chalker presents a mutually exclusive proposition:  If the voluntary presence of prayer prefers “religion over non-religion,” wouldn’t an official ban on prayer prefer “non-religion over religion?”

We are forced to take an unconstitutional religious test for “Spiritual Fitness”. Those who fail the test are forced to take remedial training instructing them to go to church and pray. This proselytization by the US military is forced onto us against our will.

There is no religious test in the Global Assessment Tool, despite military atheists’ opinions to the contrary.  There is no public evidence the military instructs its Soldier to go to church and pray (though that may be one option it suggests for those who wish to do so).

The petition’s summary is dramatic:

These policies create a hostile environment, division, and resentment within the military, destroying morale and threatening national security.

Naturally, this rampant threat to national security has manifested itself in demonstrable ways.  Of course, neither the petition nor any other public source provide any examples of the ways in which unit morale has been destroyed or national security has been threatened. 

Started on October 1st, the petition required a minimum of 5,000 signatures to get an official response from the White House, a threshold it crossed on October 29th.  It’s not surprising the MRFF petition obtained the signatures — Michael Weinstein claims 25,000 “clients.”  (The threshold for new petitions has been raised to 25,000 signatures, an apparent acknowledgement that 5,000 signatures isn’t as difficult to obtain as first thought.) 

What is surprising is how long it took.  Despite Weinstein’s apparent claim of a groundswell of support and the ubiquity of his accusations of discrimination, it still took 4 weeks for him to collect signatures representing less than 25% of the committed followers he claims.  It would seem not as many share the apparent fear of world domination as Weinstein does.

As the Religion Clause noted some time ago, there are a variety of petitions on religion-related subjects.  In fact, Joshua Dubois, Executive Director of President Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, has already responded to two calling for removing references to God from US currency and the Pledge of Allegiance:

While the President strongly supports every American’s right to religious freedom and the separation of church and state, that does not mean there’s no role for religion in the public square.

A sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters.

That’s why President Obama supports the use of the words “under God’ in our Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we Trust’ on our currency. These phrases represent the important role religion plays in American public life, while we continue to recognize and protect the rights of secular Americans.

The MRFF might expect a similar response — or they may get none at all.  In another response, the White House reminded petitioners that it cannot comment on every matter:

As explained in the We the People Terms of Participation, the White House may at times decline to comment on certain specific matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies [or] federal courts…in its response to a petition. For important policy reasons, this includes specific law enforcement and judicial ethics matters. With respect to law enforcement matters, the Department of Justice is charged with investigating crime and enforcing our laws…

This particular denial was to a petition with more than 50,000 signatures, and related to prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.  The White House may recognize that the DoD, likewise, as a “federal department” has jurisdiction over the content of this petition.

As an American citizen, Dustin Chalker is entitled to petition his government even under the auspices of Michael Weinstein’s Military “religious freedom” Foundation.  Having reached the threshold, he may now get a response from the White House.  It’s a shame he didn’t use the opportunity to present a factually accurate description of the religious climate in the US military.


  • I know you’ll not publish this, but I wanted to thank you for bringing USA every day to a lower standard. We in the civilized world are already tired of your arrogance and ignorance. Keep up the good work digging that hole.

  • How unprofessional. Christian Fighter Pilot may not be an oxymoron, but is a moron.

  • How is it in any way Christian to lie like you do here? Are you feeling the burning sensation yet?

  • I find your position to be utterly confusing in this matter. For example, in another blog entry, you make a case for a direct correlation of religious orientation and patriotism:

    In the previous blog entry, you drew a statistical correlation between patriotism and religion.

    So, here’s my question: If a religious soldier is a less patriotic soldier, why are you reversing your position here? Shouldn’t you be proud of the religious institions in the Army? Doesn’t it make us more secure?

    Confused Christian Caught in the Middle

  • @Shaggy
    Unfortunately, your comment is utterly confusing. The prior article you referenced did not “make a case” for anything. No relevant “position” was made here, never mind reversed. And where did you get the premise that “If a religious soldier is a less patriotic soldier…?”

  • Why do you engage in ad hominem attacks via scare quotes? Let’s try a few others for effect:

    Family “Research” Council
    Archdiocese for the Military “Services”, USA
    “Christian” Fighter Pilot

    Oh, I see. It’s fun, isn’t it?

  • Hey JD … Where’s Dustin’s comment that he tried to post on this post last night? Still “moderating” it?

  • God hates you, he told me he thinks you’re a c[…]

    Edited by Admin

  • You are a contemptable bigot, undeserving of anyone’s respect due to your perversion of your position. You are trash.

  • Way to keep church and state separate there, bucko.

  • Wow! Pretty heavy duty stuff here. What you guys have to remember is that we are not dealing with someone in a normal debate situation. JD is a committed, Christianity first in all things kind of guy.

    When he perceives someone as attacking Christendom it is taken as a personal attack. The more sense that response to his brand of Christian Supremacy make the more it angers him. JD is what may be called a “Theocrat” that I sincerely believe would be very comfortable in a Christian governed America with Mosaic Law insetad of a constitution. JD believes that in life one must always put God first, family second and country third. This would seem to abrogate his oath to uphold the constitution.

    Dustin’s unfortunate dust up with JD is exemplary of JD’s almost rabid defense of all things Christian, good or bad. JD is a true Dominionists that believes Christianity should rule and that all other beliefs be subordinate to Christianity. Dustin is an upstart who didn’t follow the rules and bow to Christian Dominionism in the military. There are thousands of Chalkers but only a few willing to tangle with the kind of extremism that JD embodies.

    To me this is too bad. Why? Because JD is an accomplished, first rate fighter pilot. He is a young man who no doubt has made rank with time in grade and earned the respect of superior officers. No question as to his technical abilities. He is highly educated and possesses analytical skills which serve him well in debate.

    As a former USAF rescue pilot I feel a kinship with JD even though I was a low and slow helicopter driver and JD is a stove pipe jockey flying F-22 and I think F-35 fighter aircraft

    The problem is that JD is so deeply immersed in his faith that he has begun to sow the seeds of his own demise. Azlthough he has been humored by his chain of command, many of whom have abetted his excusrsions into religious hegemony, I’m sure he’s beginning to wear a bit thin on some of the more realistic commanders.

    JD is also inexhaustable. This web site, for example, must take an enormous amount of time, even if he has secret helpers. I don’t know JD’s current flight status but if he is flying or charged with other duties, between them and this site he must only get 20 minutes sleep at night.

    JD is the personal defender and body guard of Jesus Christ. He sees anyone with the slightest sign of disbelief in Jesus as a major crime. Although it would only take 20% of his religious zeal to guarantee his ticket to Heaven, he continues to exude 100%.

  • I guess the military members he bashes on here are good enough to serve but not good enough for his respect or comment on his blog.

  • @D.A.
    I’m not sure he considers it bashing. I think he just has little patience for anyone, especially military folks, who don’t share his passion for religion and whom he considers derelict in their less than fanatical religious dedication.

  • Hey, JD. Why don’t you have an open debate with Dustin right here on this creepy blog of yours? He’s a civilian now so you won’t be able to try to ruin his military carrier. Bruce H made a good point at comment #6 about your habit of using quotes.

    I can do it too.

    “Serving “God” and Country” But mainly “God” right? I bet you’d love to be a “Christian” soldier in a true American theocracy. You know, kinda like what they have in Iran only a “Christian” version, outlaw all other religions, maybe get rid of atheists, gays, you know, that sort of thing.
    “ChristianFighterPilot”, big deal. I have a lot of respect for our military men and women pilots but to be so rabid about being a “Christian” fighter pilot is, believe it or not, un-American.

    So “God and Country” is a “ministry”. All Natzi soldiers wore a similar slogan on their belt buckles, that said “Gott Mit Uns”, German for “God With Us”. You represent the worst of human frailties; “God” on our side nationalism. Rational, freedom loving Americans won’t let you Jesus-bots win you know. Eventually enough people will realize what a danger it is having religious nut-jobs like you in positions of authority in the military. Then the top brass will be pressured into showing you to the door of early retirement.