Tag Archives: Congress

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

Even Atheists Find Mikey Weinstein Unreasonable

Upon hearing that Michael “Mikey” Weinstein would be testifying at a congressional hearing on religious liberty in the military, atheist activist and former Army Captain Jason Torpy had a particularly biting retort:

When will the reasonable voices get their day in Congress?

Given that Weinstein is so often accused of being an atheist, and given the core ideologies (if not the methodologies) of Torpy and Weinstein generally align, it is interesting to see Torpy’s sharp response.

On the other hand, it should not be entirely surprising.  There has been bad blood between the MAAF and MRFF (particularly Chris Rodda) for some time.

It turns out Weinstein and his acolytes can be so vitriolic and derisive they alienate even those who agree with them.  And if you’re an ally with the gall to criticize the MRFF’s methods, they might even turn that vitriol on you…

US Air Force Revises Religious Guidelines

As previously noted, the Air Force has published a revision to its AFI 1-1, “Air Force Standards,” which alters the wording and tone on how the service views religious liberty and expression.  The new AFI can be found here (PDF).

The greatest sources of consternation were paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12, and that’s where the Air Force made its revisions. In one notable change, the topics of 2.11 and 2.12 have been reversed: The Air Force now talks about religious freedom and expression before it talks about restrictions and the Establishment clause. While that may seem insignificant to some, it is noteworthy for the tone of the regulation.

The most significant change to the AFI — in direct response to laws passed by Congress — also marks its most dramatic explicit statement. The new regulation now says [emphasis added]:

Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment.

Every Airman has the right to express their religious beliefs.  Further, Continue reading

Congressional Hearing on Military Religious Freedom, Hostility

As previously noted, the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel invited five civilian witnesses to provide testimony on the state of religious freedom in the US military last Wednesday.

Attending were:

  • Michael Berry, Liberty Institute attorney who acted on behalf of cadets at the US Air Force Academy this year
  • Retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews, an outspoken advocate for military religious freedom
  • Travis Weber, Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, US Naval Academy graduate and former Naval aviator.
  • Rabbi Bruce Kahn, a retired Navy Captain and Chaplain, a founding member of the Equal Rights Center, and an advocate for homosexual “rights.”
  • Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, founder and sole employee of his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, engaged in a self-described “war” against Christians in the US military.

Contrary to some predictions, it wasn’t really a contentious meeting. What the hearing did reveal was the committee members were Continue reading