Tag Archives: Constitution

Navy Chaplains Quietly Fix Uniform Rules

The US Navy recently revamped its uniform program — again — in a move that was largely unnoticed but by those who have been critiquing the US military’s hunt for a long-term uniform over the past few years. As the issue was largely ignored, missed also was the substantial impact to US Navy chaplains.

It seems the Navy’s current versions of camouflage uniforms didn’t authorize a Chaplain’s insignia — meaning it was impossible for average Sailors to easily identify their chaplains:

“The fact you couldn’t identify a chaplain by his or her religion immediately on site [sic] was something the Navy Chaplain Corps requested to fix…Allowing sailors to identify their chaplains and 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

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

Al Mohler: The End of Legislating Morality

The Rev (Dr.) Albert Mohler wrote an interesting article responding to comments by Jonathan Turley, the lawyer for the successful Utah “sister wives” legal challenge and law professor at George Washington University [emphasis added]:

Turley’s article is an example of a concerted, very sophisticated, libertarian argument that is fast gaining ground in American life. Just last year the state of Colorado decriminalized adultery. The president of the Independence Institute testified for the decriminalization, stating that “it is a conservative value to get rid of bills that are useless.”…

The original statute was hardly useless. It was a profound moral statement about the sanctity of marriage and the crime of violating the marriage vows, thus subverting marriage and the family and endangering children and weakening the larger community.

Mohler also revisits the argument that the state should not “legislate morality,” which he accurately rebuts by 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

SecDef Hagel Releases Statement on Same-Sex Benefits

Following the recent kerfuffle over the National Guard and state laws regarding homosexual benefits, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel released a statement seeming to declare the matter closed:

On Oct. 31, I called on the chief of the National Guard Bureau to work with several states to fully implement Department of Defense policy by providing DoD identification cards to all eligible military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation. Following consultations between Continue reading

Military Religious Freedom Makes the DuffelBlog

Apparently, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has arrived.

The DuffelBlog — the military-themed takeoff of the satirical Onion website — riffed the recent controversy over the Guantanamo Bay Nativity scenes with a fake article entitled “Detainee Live-Action Christmas Diorama at Guantanamo Triggers Controversy.”

The site, which some might consider offensive but apparently has a Pentagon fanbase, built a satirical tale for most of the article, but finished without really having to embellish all that much:

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was circulating an anonymous e-mail from eighteen other guards that went even further, referring to “the blatantly unconstitutional activities we’ve seen aboard Guantanamo. Obviously we’re referring to the nativity scene in the chow hall…”  Continue reading

Mikey Weinstein wants Religious Freedom Confined to Chapel

In a short pieced entitled “Atheist says, ‘Boo!’ Navy jumps to attention,” Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty executive director retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews lamented the US military’s seeming subservience to Michael “Mikey” Weinstein:

“It’s just disappointing that the military, the Air Force and now the Navy, is just caving in to a shout from Mr. Weinstein,” says Crews. “He says, ‘Boo!’ and they hide – and that’s very disappointing.”

More interestingly, Crews highlights the core of the push Weinstein has most recently tried — and the one that brought him this “victory:”  Continue reading

Guantanamo Nativities Moved after Weinstein Complains

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein targeted two Nativities erected on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

A pair of Nativity scenes, one in the dining room for prison camp guards, are apparently causing a bit of a stir among a few troops at this remote outpost…

Ironically, Weinstein’s own letter undermined his cause, when one of an anonymous 18 complainants wrote [emphasis added]:

When they finally have time to relax with their military family they should not have to feel uncomfortable, out of place, or insignificant because their beliefs are not represented.

So its not about the presence of the Nativity, but the absence of other beliefs? Odd thing is, no one has complained that GTMO prohibited other displays, though its unclear what other belief systems celebrate Christmas. (GTMO residents say the base has been fairly public about several holidays, including Ramadan and Hanukkah.)

Weinstein, a former lawyer, called the displays “wholly Continue reading

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

Shaw AFB Restores Nativity at Base Chapel

Does it pass the Air Force common sense test that a Nativity is officially removed because no one else wants to put up another display alongside it?

In an event that drew national attention — including from the US Congress — Shaw Air Force Base erected a plastic figurine Nativity in front of the base’s Palmetto Chapel. As predicted, it was placed in its traditional location from years past:  Continue reading

Shaw AFB Statement on Nativity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NATIVITY SCENE AT SHAW AFB

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – Last week a group of volunteers set up a nativity scene near Memorial Lake. All faith-based and secular groups were offered an opportunity to put up holiday displays; however, only one group elected to do so resulting in the nativity scene being the sole display.

Based on only one faith group being represented, 20th Fighter Wing officials determined the appropriate course of action was to celebrate the holiday season consistently and elected to remove the nativity scene from Memorial Lake. In previous years, the nativity scene had been displayed on the grounds of the base chapel. All faith-based and secular groups wishing to place a holiday display on the grounds of the chapel this year are encouraged to coordinate with the Shaw chaplain staff.

So, if Christians want to put up a display, they are allowed to do so only if they create one from another faith?

There’s an interesting discussion here about the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome.

Shaw AFB Tries to Articulate Nativity Policy

Following the revelation that Shaw Air Force Base had removed a Nativity scene immediately following Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s request, public outcry has left the Air Force “mulling” how to respond to the other side of the issue — those who view such a move as both unconstitutional and a questionably inappropriate relationship with Weinstein.

Though Weinstein was able to get action from the Air Force in “two hours and 15 minutes,” other normal Americans and a few reporters had trouble even getting a statement — which inspired Fox News columnist Todd Starnes to publish the (publicly available) phone numbers and emails of Shaw Public Affairs to see if others would have more success (they didn’t). This may be because most people did try to go through Public Affairs — while Weinstein had managed to get connected through the Base Command Post. (In what is unlikely a coincidence, Shaw AFB removed their Command Post phone number from their website yesterday.)

Shaw has subsequently clarified the situation, noting that a Shaw AFB chapel congregation put the Nativity up next to the Base Christmas tree, which Continue reading

Mikey Weinstein Targets Military Christmas. Again.

FoxNews reports that last Friday Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s “charity” once again attacked the Air Force for erecting a Nativity scene on an Air Force Base. Two years ago, it was Travis AFB in California. This year, they targeted Shaw AFB, SC:

The MRFF’s Paul Loebe wrote in a statement that since the display was not erected near a chapel, it was illegal.

“It was very sectarian in nature and a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as a blatant violation of Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.11,” he said.

Weinstein presumably called the office of LtGen Richard Harding, The JAG of the Air Force, and getting no relief there, called Shaw AFB via their Command Post.

Most civilians who call an Air Force base will probably be directed to Public Affairs, because it is the job of PA to help military commanders interact with the public and ensure the correct message is conveyed. Weinstein was transferred to the Commander’s office, where an “office assistant” reportedly spoke for the Air Force. The assistant told Weinstein the display was erected by “a volunteer group” and it was being taken down. Loebe was free to interpret this as the Air Force agreeing with the MRFF position:  Continue reading