Update 2: General Umbarger has issued an apology, saying
I apologize for and regret the negative attention my well-meaning endorsement of an organization which so generously offered to help our Soldiers, Airmen, and their families. As I have done so many times before, I instinctively advocated on behalf of my service members.
This situation underscores the enduring need for all of us to pursue every possible avenue in providing services to our faithful military families.
It is my earnest desire and sincere hope that my comments will not detract from the professionalism and dedication of the extraordinary men and women who serve and sacrifice every day in defense of our communities, State, and Nation.
Governor Mitch Daniels, who is responsible for appointing the Guard Adjutant General, has defended the General. That’s pin #1 for Weinstein’s promised lawsuit. The Army Inspector General is reportedly looking into the complaint.
Update: Weinstein said he plans to file a “class-action lawsuit” if no action is taken against the General.
As is his common practice, Michael Weinstein has called for the court-martial of Major General R. Martin Umbarger, the Adjutant General of Indiana, making him the point man for “the Indiana Army and Air National Guard, the Indiana Guard Reserve and State employees, totaling more than 15,800 personnel.”
General Umbarger had appeared in a short video, in uniform, requesting support for a charity called Centurion’s Watch. His comments included:
“Centurion’s Watch is a wonderful way that you can help. Any donation or resource that you can give this organization…I can’t think of a better organization that you can support. So if you want to give back, if you want to have some way you can help, I would highly encourage that you support this organization.”
“Maj. General Umbarger is incontrovertibly endorsing…a private sector entity which is clearly a comprehensively sectarian, proselytizing, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian parachurch organization…”
As support for his claim, Weinstein cites the Christian Embassy scandal from 2007 — a case that shows the frivolity of his accusations. As the IG noted at the time with respect to Christian Embassy, religion is irrelevant. Everything after “entity” in Weinstein’s accusation does nothing to his case, except highlight the fact he has a problem with Christians.
It is unusual for a uniformed General officer to so clearly solicit funds for a private organization, and there is a legitimate question as to its permissibility. But that question has nothing to do with the religious nature of the organization itself, nor his service or personal character. (The two-star General was called an “f[--]d up troop” by atheist Army Sgt Justin Griffith, who initially notified Weinstein of the offense.) The issue is also not the mission of the group, which is to support military marriages. (An obviously ignorant ”military law expert” said it is “not the military’s business to reduce the divorce rate.”)
There are indications the situation may be more complex than implied. There is also some room for precedent. As noted at the time, the IG’s condemnation of the Christian Embassy video required a tortured reading of the regulations.
More recently, however, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff opened up a similar Pandora’s box, when he was the keynote speaker at a gala for the “private sector entity” ThanksUSA, calling the event “one of the most important” things he gets to do. What General Dempsey did not do was solicit funds for the group — though he did specifically detail their fundraising efforts. General Dempsey also clearly supported the group and its founders, praising the “spirit of service” of the children who founded ThanksUSA — and equating their service to that of Generals in World War II.
They have strengthened the bond of trust between America and its military. And for that, we are deeply, deeply grateful and enormously proud.
Some would say General Dempsey clearly “endorsed” ThanksUSA.
As predicted at the time, Michael Weinstein said nothing — not because ThanksUSA wasn’t endorsed, but because ThanksUSA wasn’t Christian.
Also at Army Times.