Tag Archives: Congress

Congressman Collins Backs Fired Navy Chaplain Modder

A variety of media outlets continue to cover the story of Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder, who was removed from his unit after complaints that he made offensive statements in counseling.

At the Daily Signal, Kelsey Harkness notes there are actually two chaplains facing sanction right now. Besides Modder, Army Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn was also punished for telling personal stories involving his faith; his story has faded somewhat from the press, but it is still ongoing.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the only U.S. congressman to also serve as an Air Force Reserve chaplain, believes the military has gone too far in punishing Modder and others like him.

“It’s First Amendment rights for a reason,” Collins told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview. “Not because you agree with it.”

Rep Collins went further, repeating Continue reading

Linell Letendre Named USAFA Law Department Head (Video)

USAF LtCol Linell Letendre has been named as a new permanent professor to “lead the law department” for the US Air Force Academy:

“Lt. Col. Letendre’s selection for permanent professor indicates the trust placed in her by those who lead our nation,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, the Academy’s dean of the faculty. “Her impeccable record of service and dedication to education will strengthen the Academy and nation as we strive to develop leaders of character.”

Ordinarily such a staffing decision hardly rates notice, much less an official press release, but the status of permanent professor at a military academy requires Senate approval and bestows a permanent rank of Colonel, making it somewhat notable.

Potentially more notable, however, are LtCol Letendre’s unique qualifications. Far from being an unknown JAG, Letendre has become a veritable “go to” legal officer in cases involving religion or homosexuality (or both).
LtCol Linell Letendre
In 2007, she and retired US Army Major David Fitzkee (also a USAFA law professor) co-authored a paper in the Air Force Law Review entitled “Religion in the Military: Navigating the Channel Between the Religion Clauses“. This paper was called a “definitive work” on the subject. As noted previously, Fitzkee wrote an abridged and updated version of this same article in 2012, and both works contained strong positive and strong negative statements on regarding military religious freedom.

Their paper was subsequently published again in Attitudes Aren’t Free, a collection put together by then-LtCol James Parco (an avowed supporter of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and frequent critic of Christians in the US Air Force).

Letendre was also the legal advisor to US Army General Carter Ham while he was co-chair of the controversial Comprehensive Review Working Group tasked to assess the impact of repealing the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Letendre’s advice Continue reading

Congress Questions Navy’s Treatment of Chaplain Modder

Members of Congress have written a letter (PDF) to the Secretary of the Navy asking for details on why US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder is facing adverse action for his religious beliefs [emphasis added]:

Our understanding is that Chaplain Modder’s commanding officer has requested that Chaplain Modder be Detached for Cause after a Sailor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command complained about Chaplain Modder’s views on pre-marital sex and homosexuality…

These beliefs on sexual intimacy do not constitute a legally viable reason to bring action against Chaplain Modder or any member of the military… It is dangerous to fall prey to the fundamentally false proposition that individuals who support natural marriage can only be motivated by animus for others.

Realize that these are the members of Congress who wrote the law they are now explaining to the Navy. They’re telling the Navy Continue reading

Critics Falsify Congressman’s “So Help Me God” Bill

Several critics — primarily on the liberal-leaning, anti-religious freedom side — have laid into US Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Tx) for his “Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015″ — and it is abundantly clear that none of them actually read the proposed bill.

Most of the critics portrayed the act as some version of requiring enlisting military members to “pledge to God” during their military oaths — something that recalls issues with the US Air Force and Air Force Academy in 2013. One employee of the Air Force Academy summed up much of the criticism when he tweeted to the Congressman (thick with irony):

What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” did you miss, sir?

You are in Congress. You are sponsoring a bill to establish Christianity as a state religion. Have you READ the Constitution?

— Phoenix Blue (@Phoenix_Blue) March 23, 2015

Similarly, an astonishingly ignorant Michael “Mikey” Weinstein claimed Continue reading

Air Force Issues Mikey Weinstein Directive. Again.

Following a public relations debacle in which a low-level commander gave Michael “Mikey” Weinstein a short-lived “victory” in his attacks on religious freedom, the US Air Force reiterated to its commanders that they should not be directly dealing with Weinstein.  Quoting retired US Army Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews:

Military officials have told him the days of Weinstein’s bullying are over. Air Force commanders, he says, are being told that when the MRFF founder calls, “tell him Thank you for the call and then send it up chain of command so they can start making correct decisions early on.”

Air Force JAGs — Weinstein was once one — published “Weinstein guidance” as early as 2010, advising commanders not to engage with or accede to external activists like Weinstein. Yet, commanders have continued to do so — and the Air Force has suffered the public relations hits as a result. The apparent unfettered access Weinstein had to Air Force commanders even drew congressional attention.

Crews expressed hope that some senior leaders wanted to “do the right thing” — which included ending the apparent perception the US Air Force was granting undue deference to Mikey Weinstein, or that he was using the Air Force as a tool in his personal vendetta against Christians.

Air Force Reverses Mikey Weinstein Ban on Blessed Day

Just a few hours after a Security Forces squadron commander banned his troops from saying “Have a blessed day” in an attempt to appease Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, the Air Force issued a formal reversal, saying there’s nothing wrong with the phrase:

“We are a professional organization defended by a professional force. Our defenders portray a professional image that represents a base all of Middle Georgia can be proud of. Defenders have been asked to use the standard phrase “Welcome to Team Robins” in their greeting and can add various follow-on greetings as long as they remain courteous and professional.

The Air Force takes any expressed concern over religious freedom very seriously. Upon further review and consultation, the Air Force determined use of the phrase “have a blessed day” as a greeting is consistent with Air Force standards and is not in violation of Air Force Instructions.”

Robins Air Force Base should get credit for the most affirmative statement ever in a Weinstein-reversal, in which they not only undid the ban but also firmly supported the statement in question.

The Robins statement generated nearly Continue reading

Congressmen Seek Army Review over Chaplain’s Punishment

Twenty four members of Congress wrote a letter (PDF) to Secretary of the Army John McHugh questioning the circumstances surrounding the Letter of Concern given to Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn.

While the Army has maintained that Chaplain Lawhorn wasn’t “punished” (and therefore there is apparently nothing to discuss), the Congressmen communicated their concerns that even the “administrative action” was chilling to rights protected under the law and Constitution:

We believe this administrative action sets a dangerous precedent for Army suicide prevention initiatives, the role of Army chaplains, and most importantly, the ability for service members to exercise and express religious beliefs, as protected under the First Amendment and reinforced by current law and DoD regulations.

The letter also raises concerns that the action Continue reading

Military Should Distro Mikey Weinstein “Lessons Learned”

The miniature scandal involving Michael “Mikey” Weinstein complaining about a human interest story of an Airman’s missionary trip revealed an important insight to how Weinstein’s money-making attacks on US military Christians work. With emphasis added:

The command began reviewing the article on Jan. 27 after the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation demanded it be taken down. MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein, in an email to 433rd AW Vice Commander Col. Aaron Vangelisiti, called the article a “shameless and incredibly prominent and public promotion” of religion on official Air Force websites…

Over the course of emails back and forth, Vangelisiti assured Weinstein that his concerns were pushed up the chain to Command headquarters…

Weinstein said Vangelisiti said a formal response was being readied on Thursday and would be released Friday after being approved by the wing commander, Col. William W. Whittenberger Jr.

Perhaps more so than the other branches, the US Air Force Continue reading

MRFF Claims US Army Validated Violation of Constitution

Over the years, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has demonstrated that he is fairly adept at public relations, though he has stumbled a few times. (For example, he failed to rebut accusations he was “cashing in” on donations last year, and he more recently failed to support his claims of his White House duties.)  Contributing to his public relations “victories” have been the public relations shortcomings of his primary foe, the US military.  In many cases, the US military has allowed Weinstein to shape the narrative — an opening of which he has taken full advantage.

Weinstein recently claimed that a US Army recruiting poster that said “On a Mission for God and Country” was

  • an “unconstitutional disgrace,”
  • an “unconstitutional catastrophe,” and
  • a “stinking poster of unconstitutional malfeasance.”

Ultimately, the Army told the recruiters to remove the poster, said publicly the poster hadn’t gone through the proper processes, and indicated Continue reading

Atheists Misrepresent Military Religious Data. Again.

In what has become standard practice for atheists trying to inflate their numbers, the Freedom From Religion Foundation ran an ad in USA Today’s Year in Defense claiming nearly a quarter of the US military is “not religious” [emphasis added]:

Proselytizing officers got you down? Annoyed by preaching chaplain emails? Frustrated by prayer at mandatory events? Tripping over bibles with every about face? If you’re one of the 23.4%* of the U.S. military who is not religious, join the ranks of America’s largest non-prophet nonprofit…

As previously noted, atheists who take pride in their “skepticism” and reliance upon demonstrable data over mere belief have been very quick to express their belief in the report from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers that initiated the 23.4% number — despite the fact the data does not support the conclusion.

The asterisk in the ad leads to Continue reading

Article Exposes Mikey Weinstein “Stretching” the Truth

Mark Stricherz at aleteia (tagline: “Seekers of the Truth”) wrote a lengthy exposé on Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and his self-founded charity, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, entitled “Meet “Mikey” Weinstein, the Questionable Critic of the Pentagon’s Religious Policy.”  (It was repeated at Newsmax as “Man Leads Effort to Scrub God From Military.”)  While some of the article is a mere statement of Weinstein’s positions or status, Stricherz does an excellent job of revealing Weinstein’s reliance on hyperbole and showmanship (even Weinstein’s wife admits he goes “overboard“) — something that undermines Weinstein’s credibility in a meaningful way.

For example, Stricherz starts off with Weinstein’s opening statement to November’s congressional hearing, in which

Weinstein made an opening statement in the familiar manner of those who testify before Congress.

It was a fairly droll narration of a prepared statement. But that’s not how Weinstein portrayed it later [emphasis added]:  Continue reading

Confusion Continues over Military Religious Freedom

An article at the Stars and Stripes, making a reference to the congressional testimony a couple of months ago, notes that “both sides agree” that there continues to be confusion over the US military’s policy on religious liberty. The article led with the story of US Army Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn — who was punished for mentioning his faith during a briefing and who was cited again recently in the Washington Times — as an example.

Nearly a year after the Department of Defense issued a heavily revised religious expression policy that advocates said would bring a new level of religious freedom, the dispute at Fort Benning, Ga., is evidence that the new wording hasn’t done away with old disputes. The fight  Continue reading

Ohio State House Passes Military Religious Freedom Bill

The Ohio State House of Representatives passed “a resolution,” HR 283,

To urge the United States Congress and the United States Department of Defense to protect and uphold the religious and free speech rights of military service members.

The resolution cited several incidents of apparent religious hostility in the US military, but oddly missed one that was very close to home. The resolution noted that the Ohio National Guard had the same challenges Continue reading

President Signs 2015 NDAA: Mt Soledad Addressed, No Religious Liberty Provisions

For the first time in several years, Congress passed and the President signed a National Defense Authorization Act with no sections directing the US military on issues of religious liberty. Over the prior few years, Congress has inserted legislation requiring protection of religious expression within the military, for example, which resulted in changes to DoDI 1300.17 and Air Force Instruction 1-1.

One thing the NDAA does include, however, is authorization to transfer the Mount Soledad Memorial Cross to a private organization:  Continue reading

Sailors in Bahrain Celebrate Christmas without Christ

While recent changes in Air Force regulations and a favorable congressional hearing have given some groups a positive perception of the direction of religious liberty in the US military, it is worth noting that even that trend isn’t universal, and it hasn’t reversed some of the damage done over the past few years.

Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain recently kicked off the holiday season with its traditional tree lighting — absent one of its longstanding traditions. In 2012, Jason Torpy — an atheist and former Army officer — single-handedly persuaded the US Navy to ban a children’s “live Nativity” from the tree lighting ceremony.

The reason? According to Torpy, the kids

threaten[ed] US security and violat[ed] the Constitution.

It was probably “easier” for the Navy to surrender to Torpy and remove the children’s event rather than try to defend it for its positive value. Thus, plastic baby Jesus Continue reading