Congressmen Call on SecDef Esper to Defend Military Religious Freedom

Congress accuses Mikey Weinstein of “preying” on military chaplains.

Today, US Rep Doug Collins (R-GA) and 19 House colleagues wrote a letter (PDF) to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper demanding that the US military

follow federal law in protecting [chaplains’] religious liberties and ensure that the ongoing pandemic is not exploited by nefarious organizations bent on removing faith from the U.S. military.

(Collins is also an Air Force Reserve Chaplain.)

The letter specifically calls out Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF and its recent attacks on Chaplain Kim in Korea, the removal of chaplain videos from Facebook, and the demand that LtCol David McGraw be punished for singing and preaching from his home’s balcony in Stuttgart, Germany:

In recent weeks, you and Army commands across the globe have received multiple, unfounded complaints from an organization that has a reputation for preying on military chaplains…

Importantly, as has been highlighted here, the letter noted the Army’s inconsistent reaction to religious liberty issues — despite being directed to do otherwise:

It is clear that Army commands are not on the same page about how to address religious liberty issues that may arise. Congress has given the Department mandates on this very topic…

Finally, the congressmen chided Secretary Esper for a Department of Defense over “knee-jerk” reactions to “loud complaints” that end up being overturned after actual, thoughtful consideration:

We are growing frustrated as senior military leaders, often out of ignorance, continue to violate the religious liberty and clearly expressed, explicit intent of Congress when it comes to chaplains.

Far too often, commanders react in a knee-jerk fashion to loud complaints from vocal anti-religion activists only to have their decisions immediately overturned upon scrutiny, but often only after congressional intervention pressing the Services to adhere to their own regulations (let alone the Constitution). This must end.

If this sounds familiar, it should.

As has been said here many times before, Mikey Weinstein’s greatest “victories” come from blindsiding ignorant, even if well-meaning, military officers and commanders who kowtow to his demands rather than take the correct protection actions against him. These victories are often reversed once they are brought into the light and undergo an actual legal and command review. However, the failure of the military to educate, inform, and demand uniformity of enforcement from its commanders creates a situation in which Weinstein can move from base to base, or post to post, and make the same demands — racking up “victories” in restricting the religious liberty of US troops, even if those “victories” are short-lived. But Weinstein loses his microphone when the US military uniformly implements the correct policies.

Though far from perfect, the US Air Force has largely reacted by publishing “Weinstein guidance” for commanders, as well as distributing command-level directives that explicitly presume the value of religious exercise and freedom. The existence of this guidance may be responsible, in part, to the fact Weinstein has seen far less success in his attacks against the active duty Air Force than he has against the Army.

First Liberty Institute’s Mike Berry seemed to agree, and in their own letter to Esper (PDF) repeated the call for “clarifying policy guidance”:

First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest religious freedom law firm, also sent a letter to Esper Thursday urging clear DOD guidance protecting religious liberty that will “slow the spread of misinformation, flawed legal arguments, and religious discrimination.”

“For too long now, anti-Constitution zealots have used fearmongering and dubious legal claims to bully the military,” Mike Berry, general counsel to First Liberty, told Fox News. “It seems that all it takes to bring the Army to its knees isn’t a missile strike or a global pandemic, but rather a poorly-written complaint from Mikey Weinstein.”

He may have some fight left in him, but it seems likely that Mikey Weinstein’s latest string of “victories” is coming to an end.

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5 comments

  • Susan K Hisey

    FINALLY!!! I hope this will at least curb Mikey’s childish actions.

  • Mikey is a blackhead on the face of religious liberty. It’s good to see that Congressmen are intent on preserving America’s First Freedom by removing such infections that threaten the very health and well-being of our foundational freedom as Americans.

  • William Robinson

    The congressman’s letter should be required reading for every new commander and public affairs officer—every single year. The letter could be a stand-in for the dozens of others just like it that have been written the last decade and a half. Another volume could be prepared that contains the hundreds of “Mikey Fail” stories that have bitten commanders in the backside during this same period.

    The lessons that must be re-learned are a function of the fact that half of all commanders at every level in every military service change every year. The one constant is an anti-religious zealot blogging from his basement in New Mexico. The amount of time, effort, energy, and taxpayer dollars wasted on his failed attempts to tube the religious freedom of warfighters and their families is criminal. Period.

    • @William Robinson
      It may be true that commander changeover contributes, but that should not be an excuse upon which the military relies — anymore than it would use that excuse for continuing trends of sexual assaults, discrimination, or any other wrong. As an institution, the military has figured this out. It needs to demand that its commanders react appropriately to attacks on religious liberty, regardless of the source.

  • William Robinson

    Exactly. Not an excuse, just reality.

    Which is why every new (and continuing) commander is inundated with training on sexual assault, sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination, and the like. Because they have figured it out is the very reason religious liberty training should be routine. If it were, these incidents would be greatly reduced.

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