US Air Force Revises Religious Guidelines

As previously noted, the Air Force has published a revision to its AFI 1-1, “Air Force Standards,” which alters the wording and tone on how the service views religious liberty and expression.  The new AFI can be found here (PDF).

The greatest sources of consternation were paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12, and that’s where the Air Force made its revisions. In one notable change, the topics of 2.11 and 2.12 have been reversed: The Air Force now talks about religious freedom and expression before it talks about restrictions and the Establishment clause. While that may seem insignificant to some, it is noteworthy for the tone of the regulation.

The most significant change to the AFI – in direct response to laws passed by Congress – also marks its most dramatic explicit statement. The new regulation now says [emphasis added]:

Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment.

Every Airman has the right to express their religious beliefs.  Further, Continue reading

Congressional Hearing on Military Religious Freedom, Hostility

As previously noted, the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel invited five civilian witnesses to provide testimony on the state of religious freedom in the US military last Wednesday.

Attending were:

  • Michael Berry, Liberty Institute attorney who acted on behalf of cadets at the US Air Force Academy this year
  • Retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews, an outspoken advocate for military religious freedom
  • Travis Weber, Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, US Naval Academy graduate and former Naval aviator.
  • Rabbi Bruce Kahn, a retired Navy Captain and Chaplain, a founding member of the Equal Rights Center, and an advocate for homosexual “rights.”
  • Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, founder and sole employee of his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, engaged in a self-described “war” against Christians in the US military.

Contrary to some predictions, it wasn’t really a contentious meeting. What the hearing did reveal was the committee members were Continue reading

Pope Elevates US Air Force Chaplain to Bishop

Air Force Chaplain (Maj) Chad Zielinski, currently the deputy wing chaplain at Eielson AFB, was recently selected by Pope Francis to be the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska. According to the Air Force announcement, it is the first time an active duty chaplain has been elevated to bishop.

“I was very shocked and humbled to be chosen by the Holy Father,” Zielinski said. “I’m looking forward to the new venture and challenges, but by the grace of God and the talents of the people around me the transition should be smooth.”

Chaplain Zielinski previously served at the US Air Force Academy, and received accolades there, as well.

The article indicates the chaplain will continue to serve in the Air Force Reserve while he is the bishop.

Sikh Denied ROTC Files Lawsuit

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the US Army on behalf of Sikh Hofstra University student Iknoor Singh, who was denied entry into ROTC because he would not comply with Army grooming standards that conflict with his religious beliefs.

From the filing (PDF):

When Mr. Singh asked for a religious exemption from these rules…, Defendants denied his request, despite approving similar religious and medical accommodations for other uniformed Army personnel in recent years.

Mr. Singh is now left with an untenable choice: Enlist as an ROTC Cadet and abandon the sacred religious practices that he has followed his entire life, or forfeit his dreams of joining ROTC–along with Continue reading

World Magazine Posts Mikey Weinstein Interview

WORLD Magazine has posted excerpts from the Marvin Olasky interview of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein conducted in late September.

Olasky’s summary was tellingly entitled “Michael L. Weinstein: Fighting Christian influence,” and he introduced the excerpts by noting

[The MRFF is] media-savvy group that fights what it says is religious intimidation by evangelicals in the U.S. military. I disagree with Weinstein and probed his biases before an audience of Patrick Henry College students…

Read the full article here, or watch the original interview.

Military Religious Freedom goes to Congress

The congressional hearing postponed in late September, in which a House Armed Services subcommittee was to hear testimony on military religious freedom, has been rescheduled for tomorrow, 19 November, at 1400 Eastern.  The hearing is scheduled to be broadcast online.

The original invitees included retired Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry, Travis Weber of the Family Research Council, retired Navy Chaplain (CAPT) Bruce Kahn, and former Air Force Captain Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.

Chaplain Crews recently made a point of saying he intended to speak about the “duplicity” of the US Air Force, which published an atheist’s commentary but censored a Christian’s.

US Navy Surveys LGB Sailors to Assess Post-DADT Readiness

The Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control has teamed with Palo Alto University in California to survey homosexual Sailors to determine their psychological and emotional health.

“The repeal of this policy really implemented a culture change for the U.S. military and it’s incredibly important to comprehend how this shift is not just impacting our people, but also affecting readiness,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, NCCOSC director and a Navy medicine psychology expert, in a statement Wednesday.

Navy Capt. Scott Johnson appears to be the first US official to openly admit the repeal of DADT “really implemented a culture change,” while most others have publicly said it was a “non-event.”

The implication that there has been an impact on readiness is interesting, given that even supporters of repeal (and the DoD itself) have claimed Continue reading

Chaplain Klingenschmitt Gets Elected

With 70% of the vote, former US Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt was elected as a Republican to the Colorado state legislature from a district encompassing the major military bases in Colorado Springs — including the US Air Force Academy, his alma mater.

Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt beat out his Democrat challenger Tuesday with a landslide 70 percent of the vote in the state’s District 15, according to results published by the secretary of state.

District 15 encompasses Peterson Air Force Base, and is near Colorado Springs, Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

While Klingenschmitt’s positions may have been considered “far right,” his opponent’s were apparently as equally “far left.” In an election that saw Colorado’s legislature and governorship go to Republicans, it seems the “right” won out.

Klingenschmitt is famous for being discharged from the Navy over the “pray in Jesus’ name” controversy. He was also unsuccessfully sued by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and his wife Bonnie — whom he subsequently sued.

Also via Klingenschmitt’s press release.

Atheist Chaplain Applicant Sues US Navy over Rejection

Jason Heap, a humanist who applied to become a US Navy Chaplain, has filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination over his rejection:

Religion scholar and former youth minister Jason Heap filed suit Wednesday along with the organization backing him, the Humanist Society, alleging that the military unfairly passed him over earlier this year not because he lacked qualifications, but because he doesn’t believe in a traditional religion.

There are a few high hurdles Heap has to overcome. First, he has to prove the Navy “passed him over…because he doesn’t believe…” Remember, the Navy previously said less than 50% of the Chaplain applicants were approved. Heap has to prove that he was rejected because of his non-theistic beliefs, and not for any reason similar to Continue reading

Air Force Updates Religious Guidance after Outcry

The Air Force announced it has updated AFI 1-1 — because of issues regarding religious liberty [emphasis added]:

Air Force officials approved Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, Nov. 7, to clarify guidance on Airmen’s religious rights and commanders’ authority and responsibility to protect those rights.

The announcement contained a summary of the changes. The changes [emphasis added]

clarify guidance for how commanders should handle religious accommodation requests or when Airmen’s rights to free exercise are questioned. Chaplain corps officials also clarified policy language to assist commanders in balancing the constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.

Importantly, General Welsh is quoted as specifically Continue reading

F-16 Crashes in Gulf, Pilot Killed

An F-16 pilot from Tyndall AFB was killed last Thursday morning when his jet crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The pilot was civilian Matthew LaCourse, a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel and 1978 US Air Force Academy graduate. LaCourse was a part of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, which is the unit fielding the pilotless QF-16s as full-scale drones.  He had previously topped 2,000 hours in the F-4/QF-4, which preceded the QF-16.

As with all mishaps, the Air Force will investigate and report on the incident.

LaCourse’s death serves as a regrettable reminder of the danger of the pilot profession.

Also at the Stars and Stripes (and previous reports), FoxNews (previous), and the Air Force Times.

Cam Ranh Bay: What the Captain Means

The following video captures the audio of a (genuine) 1966 spoof public affairs interview, in which a fighter pilot gives “real” answers to a reporter’s questions, and a Public Affairs officer then “translates,” with the repetitive lead-in, “what the Captain means…”

Some might say the “filter” from front line reality to the media portrayed in the piece is as true today as it was then.

Warning: The audio contains multiple profanities — in answer to every single question.

The video was reportedly created by two US Air Force PA officers.

Navy Chaplain Advances Pentagon’s Relationship with Faithful

Is it the role of a US military chaplain to advance the US military’s relationship with Christians around the world?

An article at the Quantico Sentry (and repeated at a US military site) highlights US Navy Chaplain (Cmdr) Abuhena Saifulislam, one of the more prominent faces of Islam in the US military over the past few years. The article notes

He’s served as the public face of an all-inclusive U.S. military and as a living example that the U.S. armed forces and Islam were not inherently incompatible.

About Islamic extremists, Chaplain Saifulislam said  Continue reading

Mikey Weinstein Threatens to Sue UNG

After previously belittling and then speaking at the University of North Georgia, multiple headlines now claim Michael “Mikey” Weinstein is going to file a lawsuit:

The University of North Georgia has come under fire in the ongoing war on Christianity.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is suing the school, accusing it of holding a 9/11 memorial service that invoked the “Christian God…”

The media articles (including one from the student paper) fail to note that Weinstein has threatened to sue many people for many reasons over the years — including even this website — and has almost never followed through. (The few he did file were quickly dismissed.)  Weinstein’s threats are empty, if they’re even threats at all. In this case, it wasn’t even Weinstein who made the threat: West Point dropout Blake Page Continue reading

Federal Court: Humanism is a Religion

In an ongoing lawsuit involving a self-described humanist inmate in Oregon, a Federal district court held that “Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.”

Interesting to see how this will be received on both sides — particularly since being lumped with religion might bring “baggage” as well as benefits.

Via the Religion Clause.