Tag Archives: Congress

Congressmen Call Air Force Religion Rules Unconstitutional

Update: Congressman Lamborn’s potential political rivals reacted, with Republican Bentley Rayburn, a retired Major General and 1975 USAFA graduate, saying Lamborn hasn’t done enough to support religious freedom at USAFA, while Democrat Irv Halter, also a retired Major General and 1977 USAFA graduate, says Lamborn has gone too far.


A few weeks ago congressmen asked the Secretary of the Air Force to document and explain the Air Force religious policy and its application at the US Air Force Academy, following USAFA’s command decision to pull down a Bible verse on a cadet’s whiteboard. As noted then and in a subsequent congressional hearing, the Air Force has relied heavily on AFI 1-1, a Chief of Staff level AFI published in the final days of General Norton Schwartz’s tenure in 2012.

Now, Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado (home to the US Air Force Academy) has written a letter signed by 22 other congressmen asking Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James to revise the policy at issue:

The August 2012 Air Force regulations which govern religious freedom and expression (AFI 1-1) are inconsistent with Congressional intent and current law…

The first issue Lamborn cites is the “undefinable” standard the Air Force uses [emphasis added]:  Continue reading

US Army Supports Air Force Plan to Cut A-10

The Air Force defended its decision to cut the A-10 from its inventory in a meeting with lawmakers last week:

Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., suggested the Air Force has more work ahead to convince Congress that retiring the A-10 is a smart move.

“So for about $3.5 billion over the next five years, if [Congress] could find the money, could you afford to keep the A-10 on board?” Graham said.

Welsh said money wasn’t the only problem…

In an interesting twist, the US Army — which has traditionally been “accused” of wanting the A-10 and criticizing the Air Force for wanting to get rid of it — actually seems to be supportive of the decision:  Continue reading

Report: Bible Controversy at Maxwell AFB

FoxNews Todd Starnes reports on a “Bible controversy” at Maxwell AFB that is, actually, many years old:

For more than a decade new military recruits at Maxwell Air Force Base – Gunter Annex in Alabama have received a Bible from Gideons International volunteers. But that tradition has come to an end after volunteers said they were told by the military that they would no longer be allowed to personally distribute the pocket-sized Bibles to recruits.

A MEPSCOM spokesman explained a little bit more:

Gaylan Johnson, is a public affairs officer for the Military Entrance Processing Command. He told me the Gideons’ side of the story is “not strictly true.”

“They can place their literature within our facility, but they are not allowed to stand there and talk with applicants or hand them (the Bibles) out.”

Unfortunately, this is the product of an old ACLU complaint — from Continue reading

Congressmen Criticize US Military Religious Liberty Implementation

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman John Fleming (R-La) recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that was critical of the way the Department of Defense has implemented the religious liberty provisions of the 2014 NDAA — legislation they authored.

In short, the two say the military has focused on accommodation of religious clothing and failed to specifically address religious expression [emphasis added]:  Continue reading

Klingenschmitt: Chaplain’s Statement Proves Need for Protections

Former US Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt recently responded to testimony by the Rev James Magness, the Episcopal Church’s Armed Forces Bishop, given at the House Armed Services Committee (previously discussed here):

Klingenschmitt calls it arrogant for James Magness, the Washington National Cathedral’s bishop for the armed forces, to say that chaplains who pray in Jesus’ name risk offending non-Christian troops and harming unit cohesion.

“This quote by him demonstrates exactly the reason Continue reading

Paper Revives DADT Survey Debate

The Department of Defense “studied” the impact of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by performing a much-contested survey of US troops in 2010. While the effort was reportedly intended to gather data and draw conclusions based upon that data, there were accusations at the time its actual purpose was to justify repeal — not assess its impact.

The Washington Post recently revived the DADT debate when it wrote about one of the two co-chairs of the survey, then-DoD General Counsel Jeh Johnson, in an article entitled “Four straight black men who led on gay rights.” The article seemed to allude Continue reading

Congress Asks Tough Questions of Military Chaplain Chiefs

As previously noted, the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel heard testimony from several witnesses on religious freedom in the military after the DoD’s recent changes to accommodation policy.

The Stars and Stripes noted that while many have focused on ‘turbans and beards,’ Congress didn’t:

Accommodation for minority religions was not the main concern of the primarily Republican House members present Wednesday, however. Many of their questions centered around allegations that free expression of faith by Christian believers was being suppressed…

Instances of Christians being told Continue reading

Congress Hears Testimony on Military Religious Freedom

The House Armed Services Committee heard testimony from several DoD and civilian sources on Wednesday on the topic of religious accommodation in the US military.  Witnesses included Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, Ms. Virginia Penrod, US Army Deputy Chief of Chaplains (BGen) Charles Bailey, US Air Force Deputy Chief of Chaplains (BGen) Bobby Page, and US Navy Chief of Chaplains (RAdm) Mark Tidd.  The statements, questions, and answers in the hearing were quite interesting.  The hour-long CSPAN-worthy video can be viewed here, with highlights discussed below.

Military.com summarized the session as “Lawmakers Accuse Military of Anti-Christian Bias,” and the Religion News Service noted “Top brass say they’re not aware of bias against military chaplains.”  It would seem the public perception of the hearing was somewhat different than what the participants thought.

Retired US Army Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (MajGen) Doug Carver Continue reading

Update: Responses to DoD Changes on Religion Rules

Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”


There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.

The Christian Post, like many sites, focused on the apparent ability to wear religious accoutrements:

The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.

While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.

The US Navy appeared to try to quell Continue reading

US Military Publishes New Religious Freedom Guidance

A host of websites have reported the US Department of Defense has “relaxed” its rules regarding religious accommodation. More accurately, the military has updated its policies on requesting such accommodations in a manner that does seem to imply they will be more amenable to such requests.  Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17 (DoDI 1300.17) now has “Change 1″, which can be found here (PDF).

“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members,” [Pentagon spokesman Navy LtCmdr Nathan Christensen] said, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.”

When a service member requests such an accommodation, he added, department officials balance the need of the service member against the need to accomplish the military mission. Such a request is denied only if an official determines that mission accomplishment needs outweigh the need of the service member, Christensen said.

The key word in the quote and the instruction itself — the DoD will accommodate.

These changes include an apparent allowance of religious facial hair and “body art,” as well as direct responses to the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) requiring the US military to accommodate religious expression: Continue reading

Military Religious Freedom Group Petitions Congress

The group Military-Veterans Advocacy, represented by J.B. Wells, has written a letter to Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, stating that the Veterans Administration is preventing “chaplains and patients…from exercising their rights to religious expression.”

Wells indicated he was aiming for the same protections for religious expression the active US military recently received:

“We wrote the letter to provide support and also to suggest hearings on the situation. My goal is to see similar provisions enacted for veterans and VA employees as were included in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.”

Wells is currently suing the VA over discrimination Continue reading

Chris Rodda, Mikey Weinstein Go Off Script on Religious Freedom

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation believes the 2014 NDAA language requiring the US military to accommodate religious expression — not just religious belief — is “a good thing.”

Simultaneously, Weinstein’s MRFF also believes the language is “a blank check for bullies.”

Awkwardly, Weinstein and his “special research assistant” Chris Rodda issued opposing MRFF statements on precisely the same subject.

In mid-December, Rodda, speaking for Weinstein’s “charity,” said this in a little-noticed MRFF posting [emphasis added]:  Continue reading

NDAA Religious Liberty Language “a Win”

Update: Retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty was similarly “grateful” that President Obama signed this “improve[d] religious liberty provision” into law.


The Family Research Council released a statement regarding the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act which has passed the Senate and gone to President Obama for his signature. In short, the FRC was pleased to see a strengthening in specific liberty language.

Noting last year’s version of the language, the FRC said the [emphasis added]

DOD has refused to issue the implementing regulations required by that law…Moreover, military branches such as the Air Force have interpreted the law very narrowly to apply only to a service member’s ability to hold a belief, not to practice or express that belief.

That truncated view of religious liberty has Continue reading

Senate Confirms New Secretary of the Air Force

Deborah Lee James has been confirmed by the US Senate, which clears the way for her to be sworn in later this month as the newest Secretary of the Air Force.

“On behalf of the more than 690,000 men and women of the U.S. Air Force, I want to welcome Secretary James to our Air Force family,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a Dec. 13 statement. “I’m confident that she’ll lead us with the same vision and passion she’s shown throughout her public service and private sector leadership, building on the extraordinary accomplishments of our Acting Secretary Eric Fanning, who has magnificently led our Air Force these last few months.”

Acting Secretary Eric Fanning has been filling in since Secretary Donley retired in June.

2014 NDAA Strengthens Religious Liberty, Raises Mikey Weinstein Concerns

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that came out of the congressional conference committee last week strengthens language protecting religious liberty in the US military — and implicitly scolds the Department of Defense for not implementing such guidance already.

The House has already passed the new bill.  In short, if the Senate passes the bill and President Obama signs it, which seems to be expected (excepting the new controversy over retiree benefits), the Department of Defense will be required to accommodate not merely belief, but also expressions of belief, to the extent that it does not adversely affect the mission. The Act amends Section 533 of the last NDAA to read [changes emphasized]:

Unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Armed Forces shall accommodate individual expressions of belief of a member of the armed forces reflecting the sincerely held conscience, moral Continue reading