Congress Chides DoD on Response to Frivolous Complaints
A group of Congressmen has become the latest part of the government to take the US military to task for its apparent capitulation to external critics. In this case, 23 members of the House signed a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta concerning the removal of the DoD insignia from Holman Bibles, a “scandal” previously discussed. The Congressmen said the issue was not that the seals were removed, but the fact the action was taken only because Michael Weinstein was bothered by it:
“The problem here is that it appears the decision made by DoD was in response to a manufactured, frivolous complaint,” [Congressman Alan] Nunnelee said. “The military should not be succumbing to pressure from outside groups to alter longstanding policy.”
The letter does not demand that permission to use the seals be returned; it is three paragraphs of concern over why it appears the US military keeps “bowing” to Michael Weinstein:
We are alarmed by the appearance of the Department of Defense bowing to a third-party.
Finally, the Congressmen note what they think the military should be doing:
We are troubled by the fact that the Department of Defense has not clearly renounced these attempts and stated its intentions to preserve religious freedom in the military.
In other words, why placate the critic rather than tell them to pound sand and attempt to preserve religious freedom in the military?
Clarity on this issue is needed, and we look forward to your response on how the decision to revoke this trademark permission was made and what the Department of Defense is doing to ensure that the religious freedom of the members of our military is preserved and protected.
In all but one of the publicized cases, the US military has almost immediately “bowed” to the demands of Michael Weinstein or one of his allied critics who have complained about something being too “Christian” in its association with the military. The sole exception was the Travis AFB Nativity; while it was not removed as Weinstein demanded, the Air Force did give special permission for the atheists to erect a display mocking the religious ones.
As the Congressmen aptly note, it does not appear the military has ever mentioned the virtues of the religious freedom of its troops — even as the actions it takes to placate critics seem to target the exercise of those freedoms. The potential result is the perception of an environment hostile to religious freedom — a perception these and other Congressmen seem to be seeing.
An old Army First Sergeant giving a lesson on leadership once said he would always — always — defend his troops to his superiors. He always assumed the best, not the worst, of his troops. If it turned out his troops were in the wrong, he would rip them up one side and down the other, but he would still defend them to any outside critic. They might not be perfect, but they were his boys.
This leadership trait bred two responses:
First, a tenacious sense of responsibility: After all, no one wanted to bear the wrath of the First Sergeant.
Second, a uniquely intense respect for, and loyalty to, the First Sergeant: They knew Top would go to bat for them, and they didn’t want to put him in the position of trying to defend them if they were in the wrong. They also knew that if someone tried to come after his troops without cause, he’d light into them like nobody’s business and defend them for the Soldiers they were. First Sergeant always saw their virtues, even if they were temporarily obscured by a vice. Because the troops knew the First Sergeant would go to bat for them, they wanted to perform for him.
There may be a lesson in there the military as a whole could use.
Text of the letter below (PDF):
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write today to express our concern over recent actions to remove military insignias from Bibles. As you are aware, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is claiming responsibility for the revocation of permission for B&H Publishing group to use official emblems on its military-themed Bibles. While we are aware that each branch has replied individually to the MRFF, they did so on the same day with similar responses, and we are alarmed by the appearance of the Department of Defense bowing to a third-party.
Religious freedom is one the founding principles of our nation. Enshrined in the First Amendment is the right for Americans to worship our creator without the obstruction of the government. The brave men and women who have committed their lives to protect and defend the Constitution should surely be granted this fundamental opportunity. We are frustrated by outside groups aiming to limit these protections, but we are troubled by the fact that the Department of Defense has not clearly renounced these attempts and stated its intentions to preserve religious freedom in the military.
Clarity on this issue is needed, and we look forward to your response on how the decision to revoke this trademark permission was made and what the Department of Defense is doing to ensure that the religious freedom of the members of our military is preserved and protected. We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.
- Alan Nunnelee (MS)
- Todd Akin (MO)
- Sandy Adams (FL)
- Roscoe Bartlett (MD)
- Paul Broun (GA)
- Ann Marie Buerkle (NY)
- Renee Ellmers (NC)
- Randy Forbes (VA)
- Gregg Harper (MS)
- Andy Harris (MD)
- Vicky Hartzler (MO)
- Randy Hultgren (IL)
- Tim Huelskamp (KS)
- Bill Johnson (OH)
- Walter Jones (NC)
- Mike Kelly (PA)
- John Kline (MN)
- James Lankford (OK)
- Doug Lamborn (CO)
- Jeff Miller (FL)
- Steven Palazzo (MS)
- Dennis Ross (FL)
- Lynn Westmoreland (GA)