This wasn’t the military, though. It was a grade school.
South Bristol Elementary School eighth-graders will launch their handmade skiffs next month without the traditional “blessing of the fleet” after a letter from…Americans United for Separation of Church and State informed the school that student involvement with the historic maritime ceremony violated the First Amendment.
The US Navy and various small towns conduct “blessings of the fleet” in accordance with centuries of maritime tradition. Indeed, the US Navy just performed theirs.
Since former cadet (and current MRFF “client”) Blake Page made his awkward public departure from West Point over “criminal” Christianity, there has been a simmering of the issue of prayer at the US Military Academy. For the most part, the only loud voices were critics who want to see West Point end public prayers.
The Alliance Defending Freedom just recently weighed in, encouraging West Point to stand firm in the face of criticism and honor both its legacy and religious freedom. The ADF’s David Hacker said
“The First Amendment allows public officials to acknowledge our nation’s religious heritage,” he notes. “Anti-religious groups with misguided ideas about the First Amendment should not be allowed to destroy a time-honored, perfectly constitutional American custom.”
In a letter to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon and other officials, Americans United asserted that the academy’s prayer policy runs afoul of the Constitution and violates the rights of cadets.
West Point responded simply by saying there are no mandatory prayers at the Academy. Americans United seems to believe the First Amendment was written to protect offended ears, not speech. Their letter supports — unwittingly or not – the stereotype that merely being exposed to a ‘religious act’ is offensive and therefore illegal [emphasis added]: Continue reading →
Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and state threatened to sue the city of Santa Monica over its proposed ‘holiday display’ policy for the Christmas/Hanukkah season. Last year it had a “lottery system” which was dominated by anti-religious displays. Americans United
threatened to sue the City of Santa Monica if it moves forward Tuesday with a proposal by Nativity scene organizers that would ban signs and banners that “denigrate” holiday traditions.
If one wasn’t aware of her history, it might have been surprising to see a recent pair of articles highlight the intellectually inconsistency of the MRFF’s Chris Rodda.
Rodda recently went on record defending the construction of the US Air Force Academy chapel facility called the “Falcon Circle” from those who claimed it was an inappropriate use of government money for three cadets (a separate issue discussed elsewhere). She said:
Designating the stone circle as a chapel facility simply accommodates a religious group with a worship area that meets their needs, something taken for granted by other religious groups at the Academy. Whether the users of that worship space number in the hundreds or in single digits is completely irrelevant when it comes to providing a place for them to worship according to their beliefs.
Comically, four days later an article appeared in the Tennessean quoting the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s 2009 criticism of the construction of a different chapel at Fort Campbell.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has written to base commander Col. Nick Marano, saying the cross’s establishment on government property represents an unconstitutional endorsement of the Christian religion.
U.S. soldiers assigned to Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan said the removal of a cross from an Army chapel has created a “huge controversy” and at least one soldier called it a “direct attack against Christianity and Judaism.”
How Judaism plays into it isn’t exactly clear, but if the facts are correctly laid out in the article, he may actually have a point:
The chapel is used for general Protestant services and a Baptist church service. There is a smaller chapel used for other services. The camp also has a mosque and a German chapel that is used for Catholic services.
In other words, every faith group has a place to ‘call their own.’ What do you think the chances are the mosques are identifiably Islamic?
In a letter this week responding to concerns expressed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick wrote that he’s confident the planned “Rock the Post” event doesn’t infringe on anyone’s freedoms. Continue reading →
[Zed] started and ended the prayer with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work. Zed sprinkled few drops of sacred water from river Ganga in India around the podium before the prayer.
Zed also provided the Mayor and the AZ Secretary of State with a copy of the religious text Bhagavad-Gita.
The decision in Salazar v Buono directly relates to faith in the military profession, as its very basic premise has far reaching implications:
Is a cross on government land an unConstitutional endorsement of the Christian faith?
A variety of organizations reported on the Supreme Court ruling Wednesday essentially allowing the World War I memorial Mojave cross to remain standing. The ruling reversed the appeals court decision initially declaring the cross on federal land unConstitutional, and then declaring the US Congress transfer of land to the VFW invalid due to its attempt to “avoid” the injunction.
The Supreme Court issued six separate opinions, with no single majority opinion. The decision itself (pdf) is largely procedural, though the net effect Continue reading →
Last year, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State complained to the military that former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt was representing himself as a current Chaplain. In the end, Klingenschmitt responded by adding a disclaimer to his publications saying he was a former Chaplain. Rob Boston, one of the lead voices of the AU, subsequently saidContinue reading →
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has, again, filed a complaint with the IRS asserting that Liberty University is misusing its status as a tax-exempt (501(c)3) organization. The original complaint can be read here.
For its part, Liberty barely addressed the merits of the complaint, instead saying that this was simply another attempt by the AU to intimidate Liberty. In fact, Mat Staver, the Liberty School of Law dean, said the school was considering legal action in response to the AU’s attempt to intimidate Liberty students:
“We’re now looking at whether we are going to respond by filing some kind of civil action against Americans United — because what they’re trying to do is essentially intimidate Liberty University, particularly the students, from exercising their constitutional right to vote,” he argues. “We’re not about to allow this organization to do that to Liberty University students.”
As noted in the discussion last year when AU filed a complaint against Liberty, the AU is frequently associated with criticisms of Christians in the military. It remains a “partnering link” on the MRFF page, and Michael Weinstein has claimed AU membership at one point.