Congressmen, Advocates Call for Military Religious Freedom

Increasingly, each one of us in our different organizations and capacities have been getting confidential calls and other reports and information from members of the military pointing to this growing hostility toward religious freedom. Unfortunately, members of the military cannot speak out about these things.

This is just a sampling of the cases that have been made public.

- Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

Representatives from 14 groups joined three US Congressmen to release a report on “The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military” (PDF) and press for passage of legislation allowing US military servicemembers to act and speak on their faith: 

“We get calls all the time telling us how bad it is to be a religious person in the military,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, now executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council. “Political correctness has destroyed the ability to live your faith in the military.”

The congressmen were Rep. John Fleming (R-La), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx), and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Ok).  The included report was a 7-page chronology of the “threat to religious liberty” in the US military, and the ignoble first bullet was “Casey Weinstein.”  The introduction to the report also specifically calls out the US Air Force, both for being a “target” of “anti-Christian activists” and for “cooperating” with those activists.

Michael Weinstein bristled at all of the news – in some part, no doubt, out of a bruised ego from their successful publicity.  (The FRC reported 170,000 people signed their petition calling for military religious freedom protections.  Weinstein’s week-old post on this subject received 18 “likes,” including his own.)  In fact, at one point Weinstein seemed to grudgingly acknowledge the success of the groups’ methods — implying, of course, they were emulating his own: Getting in front of the cameras with moving stories of oppressed US troops, even if such stories are told anonymously ‘over fear of retribution.’

(Notably, the FRC-led group also created a new website, www.MilitaryFreedom.org, which calls for a defense of military religious freedom — key words which will certainly start to siphon traffic from Weinstein’s own poorly named “military religious freedom” website.)

Though Weinstein claims the same purpose as these groups — a support for religious freedom — Weinstein has refused to acknowledge any validity to any of their statements — instead deriding the proposed religious liberty protections as the government giving military Christians a ”license to kill.”  Weinstein has declined to defend liberties even in such obvious examples as the US military censoring chaplain’s religious services or an Air Force officer being told to remove a Bible from his desk.

And this is where Weinstein is likely starting to worry — because he realizes he’s losing control of the narrative.  For years, he has been the loudest voice in the room, claiming that Christians in the US military were forcing subordinates to convert to Christianity.  Now, people are seeing the obvious lack of evidence for those claims, while opposing claims — that Constitutionally protected religious exercise is actually being restricted — are increasing in volume over Weinstein.

The American public is seeing reports the US military is censoring a Catholic chaplain administering a Catholic church service to Catholic troops — and they see Michael Weinstein doesn’t object to that.  With this and other reports in the public eye, people can see Weinstein’s words don’t match his actions.  They’re seeing, some for the first time, that Weinstein doesn’t support “religious freedom.”

For its part, the DoD appears to have issued a very carefully worded statement, which the Stars and Stripes partially paraphrased [emphasis added]:

In a statement, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said there have not been any new complaints or problems with the department’s policies on religious expression…

LtCmdr Christensen apparently didn’t provide a cut-off date for what constituted a “new” complaint about military policies on religious expression, but he seems to have tacitly admitted the religious liberty advocates’ anonymous complaints may be factually accurate.

While it is somewhat florid to directly connect military policy decisions to personal choices by President Obama, a recent court decision about force-feeding inmates at Guantanamo made an interesting observation:

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that “[t]he President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States … ” It would seem to follow, therefore, that the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority — and power — to directly address the issue …

With reference to the ADF.