Tag Archives: Constitution

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

Army: Chaplain’s LOC Not Punishment

Update: Chaplain Lawhorn’s attorney responds to the Army characterization here, and Chaplain Lawhorn says

As is the case with every endeavor or circumstance in my life, my ultimate intention will be to bring honor to God. To that end, I will be praying and pursuing as this case and these circumstances continue to evolve.


The Army responded to the outcry over the story of US Army Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn being punished for sharing his personal story of battling with depression by saying he wasn’t, in fact, punished:

Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, [said] in a statement on Friday: “A local letter of concern is not punishment. Rather, it is an administrative counseling tool, with no long-term consequences.”

So the Army is saying that an officer was ordered to report in to his boss’s boss, was told he was violating US Army regulations, and was told his personnel record would reflect this adverse response — but he wasn’t being punished?

Whether it is “punishment” within the military lexicon is ultimately irrelevant. The Army officially responded negatively to a chaplain only because an atheist complained that the chaplain said something religious — even when there was nothing wrong with him saying something religious. The chaplain’s lawyer maintains the official negative response is inconsistent with military regulations and the US Constitution — charges to which the Army has not yet responded.

The chaplain’s ecclesiastical endorser has likewise asked the commander to rescind the letter.

Army Punishes Chaplain for Mentioning Faith

Update: Chaplain Lawhorn’s initial LOC is now available, and, as reported, it hinges entirely on (subsequently rescinded) violations of two regulations — and this interesting justification:

As a result, an individual in attendance wrote an article about the event on http://militaryatheists.org.

It would be interesting to see the Army cite a regulation that supports action against a Soldier because “a person wrote an accusation on the internet…”


Update: Now covered at the Army Times, the Christian Post, the Gospel Herald, the Daily Caller, and Opposing Views.  Atheist Jason Torpy responded to the “evangelical backlash” over his accusations against the Army.


The Liberty Institute is now representing a chaplain who was punished by the US Army for mentioning his faith during a unit training day:

On November 20, 2014, Chaplain Lawhorn conducted suicide prevention training [in which he] discussed his own personal struggles and how he used the Bible to successfully combat his depression. One of the soldiers in attendance complained to an atheist group about Chaplain Lawhorn’s presentation. In response…Colonel David G. Fivecoat, issued Chaplain Lawhorn a Letter of Concern alleging that Chaplain Lawhorn “advocated for…Christianity and used Christian scripture and solutions” and therefore violated Army regulations.

The complaint was shepherded by atheist and former Army Captain Jason Torpy, who published the complaint online 24 hours after the event — meaning it was public even before the Army had a chance to respond.  The Army may also have been influenced by the publication of the “scandal.”

In a seeming admission the commander might have gone too far, Col Fivecoat apparently called Army Chaplain (Capt) Joseph Lawhorn back Continue reading

Wheaton ROTC Under Review for Christian Requirement

Wheaton College — an unabashedly Christian university — has had an ROTC program since a few years after the close of World War II. Wheaton requires its faculty to be of the Christian faith, a requirement also levied upon its ROTC instructor, as the instructor is considered to be a member of the Wheaton faculty (though they are paid by the US military, not the school).

When the position of ROTC instructor was recently advertised among Army officers, the “must be of Christian faith” requirement caught the attention of a Soldier who pointed it out to Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF.  Weinstein was typically unmoved [emphasis added]:

Wheaton and its fundamentalist Christian ROTC unit are to the United States Constitution what a dog with a full bladder Continue reading

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

Atheist Chaplain Applicant Sues US Navy over Rejection

Jason Heap, a humanist who applied to become a US Navy Chaplain, has filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination over his rejection:

Religion scholar and former youth minister Jason Heap filed suit Wednesday along with the organization backing him, the Humanist Society, alleging that the military unfairly passed him over earlier this year not because he lacked qualifications, but because he doesn’t believe in a traditional religion.

There are a few high hurdles Heap has to overcome. First, he has to prove the Navy “passed him over…because he doesn’t believe…” Remember, the Navy previously said less than 50% of the Chaplain applicants were approved. Heap has to prove that he was rejected because of his non-theistic beliefs, and not for any reason similar to Continue reading

Mikey Weinstein Attacks POW/MIA Displays

POW/MIA display tables — symbolically empty tables representing those who did not come home — have long been a fixture in military dining halls and formal ceremonies. They’ve also been a sore spot for militant secularists, who object to the traditional inclusion of a Bible on the table. Prior controversies have been discussed before, including one at Patrick Air Force Base earlier this year that resulted in the table being completely removed because it was “divisive.”

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has now gotten into the fray, complaining to the US Navy that an official Navy blog included an info graphic of the traditional table — complete with Bible:

Weinstein had a predictably adjective-filled response:  Continue reading

Kirtland AFB Responds to Criticism over Email Bible Verse

A civilian Air Force employee at Kirtland AFB sent out a request for response to a small business contract opportunity — and raised the ire of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein when she did so. The closing of her email said this, as redacted and publicized by Weinstein:

vr
(Name of USAF AFMC AFRL/RD employee withheld)
Small Business Specialist

AFRL/RD-RV
3550 Aberdeen Ave SE
Kirtland AFB, NM 87117

Commercial: (505) XXX-XXXX  Continue reading

Group Objects After Air Force Pulls Commander’s Article on Faith

The 180th Fighter Wing Commander has reportedly censored an article written by his Medical Group Commander, Col Florencio Marquinez, because of a complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.  (The article can be read here.)

According to the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), [a civilian] complained about Marquinez’ article, claiming that it was “odious” and “offending.” In response to the complaint, Commander Col. Craig R. Baker ordered the newsletter to be republished without Marquinez’ piece.

Weinstein claimed full credit, praising the commander.  The “odious” and “offending” words were his [emphasis added]:  Continue reading

Commander’s Comments: A Spiritual Journey as a Commander

The following appeared as an article in the 180th Fighter Wing publication The Stinger, but was removed by order of the Wing Commander, Col Craig R. Baker, because of a complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein that it was “odious” and “offensive.”  (See discussion here.)  The sentences in which Col Marquinez mentions his faith are highlighted.


Colonel Florencio Marquinez
Medical Group Commander

First, I want to honor and thank you, present and past veterans, for your dedication and service to our wonderful, great nation. Every military branch has their own creed, serving as a guidepost for our actions. Each creed has similar themes and values reminding us of our responsibilities and duties when we put the uniform on. Of course, the most important to us, and my personal favorite is the Airman’s Creed.

I am an American Airman.
I am a warrior.
I have answered my nation’s call.

I am an American Airman.
My mission is to fly, fight and win.  Continue reading

Mikey Weinstein Reveals Anti-Christian Bias in Patrick Henry Interview (Video)

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein was recently invited to Patrick Henry College to be interviewed as part of its “Newsmaker” series. The interviewer was Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World News Group, which produces WORLD Magazine.

Olasky started the interview by presenting Weinstein with a variety of situations pulled from the media regarding expression of religion in the US military, querying Weinstein as to whether he felt there was a problem with the particular event.  His answers were almost exclusively no, though he started to hedge as he figured out where the conversation was going.

Olasky asked about events in the military from four different religions over a period of just a few minutes, and Weinstein addressed each one succinctly. When Olasky broached a Christian topic, however, Weinstein Continue reading

Air Force Seeks DoD Review of Oath

Update: Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for the American Family Association, wrote an article saying “The U.S. Constitution makes it clear: American atheists are not and should not be barred from serving their country through military service.”


Facing scrutiny for its letter-of-the-law requirement that Airmen enlist with “So help me God,” the Air Force has asked the DoD General Counsel to provide an official legal opinion:

The Air Force said Tuesday it was awaiting a legal opinion from the Defense Department’s top lawyer on whether an enlisted airman who’s an atheist can opt out of the phrase “so help me God” in his re-enlistment oath…

“The opinion that we’re seeking will help inform future decisions and the latitude that can be taken with the oath,” Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said Tuesday. “But the Air Force has to comply with law.”

From an objective position, Continue reading

Air Force Oath: Atheists Protest Right Thing the Wrong Way

The American Humanist Association — the same group vying for an atheist chaplain — has threatened to sue the Air Force because the military enlistment oath ends in “So help me God,” and an Airman at Creech AFB lined out part of the oath on his enlistment form:

According to the AHA, the unnamed airman was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept his contract because he had crossed out the phrase “so help me God.”…

That is unconstitutional and unacceptable, the AHA said.

“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller said. “Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or reenlistment contracts.”

They’re correct. The problem with the AHA’s position is they demonstrated an amazing lack of comprehension of the law — and basic public relations skills.

After three pages of pontificating in their demand letter, the AHA Continue reading

Mikey Weinstein Belittles, then Speaks at Georgia School

Update: The recent articles reference complaints filed this past summer by UNG’s “Students for Secular Freedom.”  For background, Cadet David Gormley started a Change.org petition on April 27th calling for “Remov[ing] Christian Prayers From School Sponsored Events.”  This was apparently the day of UNG’s Memorial Retreat, according to a video uploaded to YouTube by Gormley but attributed to another student, Saara Wintersgill.  (Wintersgill is credited on another video from another ceremony the same weekend.) UNG’s SSF subsequently advertised the petition on Reddit, saying a “U.S. Public College Forces Sectarian Prayer on Cadets.”  An atheist posting of the controversy in April generated some interesting comments on both sides of the debate.  The SSF apparently has crossover with UNG’s “Skeptics Society,” for which Gormley and Wintersgill are listed as officers.  Wintersgill has previously published articles at the student paper on the activities of her group.


Cadet Daniel Holder of the University of North Georgia — “the military college of Georgia” — apparently objected to prayers offered at school events. After being “ignored” by the school, he called Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF. Weinstein promptly wrote a letter (PDF) to the school, accusing UNG of violating the Constitution and being “Christian supremacists” [emphasis added]:

UNG’s brazen contempt of our Constitution is undeniable…This state sponsored organization [the cadet chaplain corps] is a Christian Supremacist group

Until the day comes that the United States chooses to follow the shining examples of Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, and Continue reading

Allen West Compares Mikey Weinstein, ISIS

In an interesting twist to an old tale, Allen West — a retired Army LtCol and former Florida Representative — compared the “covert action of atheist groups” in the United States to the militant attacks by the terrorist group ISIS in Syria and Iraq:

What is the difference between the violent actions of ISIS and the covert actions of these atheist groups? Let’s be honest, the desired end state and result is the same — the death of Christianity.

Citing Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s attacks on religious liberty (specifically, his support for the  Navy lodges banning Gideon Bibles), West said  Continue reading