Complaints Over Military Interviews in Religious Video
The Kansas City Star, which has increasingly become an outlet for press releases from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, noted that Weinstein’s MRFF has complained of a broadcast by the Trinity Broadcasting Network that contains military content. The 2-hour video, the “Red, White and Blue Spectacular” hosted by Christian music singer Carman, was filmed in 2003 and rebroadcast in 2005 as a military-focused independence celebration. The video is scheduled to be rebroadcast this year.
The primary complaint was an interview with then-Major General Van Antwerp, who was also then-President of the Officers’ Christian Fellowship. Carman was also given a tour of an Aegis cruiser and an interview with the uniformed Pentagon Chaplain.
Weinstein, who calls this a “repeat” of the “putrescent disgrace” of the Christian Embassy filming (previously discussed here and here), appears to have forgotten that this film was actually made prior. In that report, the investigators specifically stated that religion was not germane. The officers were investigated only for their potential endorsement of a non-federal entity. In this case, General Van Antwerp makes only biographical statements about his involvement with OCF, other than to say it is a “great organization.” (No other filmed military member makes any statement regarding any non-federal entity.) Since “non-federal endorsement” is not an issue, Weinstein appears to be primarily concerned with the military members’ statements about Christianity.
The MRFF appears to take issue with the General answering questions such as:
What’s it like to be in battle as a Christian?
What’s the loneliest moment for soldiers?
and making statements such as:
First of all, the authority in my life is God, and then the authority of my superiors over me.
In his typical vitriolic and hyperbolic fashion, Weinstein says the military content “maliciously defiles and lays waste” to military regulations, even though military regulations do not prohibit military members from speaking about their faith, even while in uniform, and the General does not endorse a non-federal entity.
In addition, the MRFF has asked the Defense Department to “halt” the broadcast and “prohibit” future DVD sales of the video. It is unclear what legal justification the MRFF would suggest the military use to assert control over civilian broadcasters and private media.
The content of the video is remarkably benign. The attempt to raise a furor over it seems to lend support to the belief that Weinstein’s actual intent is to stigmatize any public expression of Christian faith within the military, even that which is within regulations. While Weinstein has claimed he is defending the Constitution from militant Christians, efforts such as this run counter to the Constitutional free exercise rights of religious military members (all, not just Christians), which even the Supreme Court have upheld.
Also reported on the Religion Clause.