Michael Weinstein Sees New Christian Conspiracy in Old Regulation

In a little noted message in April, the US Marine Corps quietly tweaked their uniform policies.  One of the changes dealt with the wear of religious items.

According to the Marine Times,

According to the changes announced in Marine administrative message 207/13, signed April 17, Marines may now wear:

– Articles of religious apparel that are not visible or apparent when worn with the uniform.
– Visible articles of religious apparel with the uniform while attending or conducting religious services or while in a chapel or other house of worship.
– Visible articles of religious apparel with the uniform, but only with special approval.

The Marine Times staff writer, James Sanborn, was in awe at what this might mean:

It was not immediately clear if the changes would pave the way for Marines to wear beards or head coverings for religious reasons…

Sanborn then referred to quote-worthy Michael Weinstein for his take on this expansion of religious freedom in the US military:

If the revisions will permit a Jewish Marine to wear a yarmulke or a Sikh Marine to wear a beard, the change could be benign, even positive, said Mikey Weinstein…

With that, Michael Weinstein gets egg on his face again.  It seems his research assistant, Chris Rodda, failed to tell Weinstein the Marine’s policy didn’t change.  In fact, Jewish Marines have been permitted to wear yarmulkes for nearly 25 years, thanks to a 1986 US Supreme Court decision (Goldman v Weinberger) inspiring Congress to change the rules regarding uniform wear in the 1988 National Defense Authorization Act.  (Weinstein quietly contradicted his own prior position, in which he ignorantly said Jews in the military shouldn’t be allowed to wear yarmulkes, apparently not realizing they already could.)

All of the military branches are governed by Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17, which was DoDD 1300.17 until 2009 (available here).  DoDD 1300.17 included the bullet points cited by Sanborn:

3.2.6. Religious items or articles not visible or otherwise apparent may be worn with the uniform…
3.2.8. Chaplains may wear any required religious apparel or accouterments with the uniform while conducting worship services and during the performance of rites and rituals distinct to their faith groups… The authority to approve the wearing of an item of religious apparel with the uniform, under the guidelines of this paragraph, shall be exercised at the command level specified by each Military Department…

As US Marine Capt Jason Rubin pointed out at Jews in Green, contrary to Weinstein’s belief, the only change to the Marine’s policy was the creation of a standard procedure for making requests.  It was little more than housekeeping.

Weinstein still took full opportunity to see a national security threat in this decades-old policy:

[Weinstein] voiced concern, however, that changes that allow for more overt religious apparel could be used by individuals to proselytize or push their religion on others.

For now, he said, Marines will have to wait and see what effects the changes will have.

These polices are years old, and there is no evidence military uniform policies that accommodate religious beliefs have been used to “proselytize” or “push” religion on anyone.  Broadly speaking, the most obvious example of this protection of religious liberty has been the permissible wear of the Jewish yarmulke; yet there hasn’t been a single case of a coercive conversion to Judaism in the US military.  Ever.

This seems to be yet another example where Weinstein’s conspiracy fears have failed to come to fruition — and yet another example where decades of data prove Weinstein wrong.