Tag Archives: ucmj

Military Spouses and Marijuana

After a few states recently legalized marijuana, a local paper’s article on the military and marijuana, repeated at the Stars and Stripes, raises the question of how the military will treat the active duty spouses of civilian marijuana dealers. The active duty member would be married to, federally speaking, an illegal drug dealer — though the federal government has declined to pursue such charges when the states have legalized it.  (The Air Force Academy recently reminded Airmen and cadets that marijuana was still illegal for them.)

The state law [legalizing marijuana] is in direct conflict with federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which criminalize possession and distribution of pot. A service member who is found carrying drugs, or tests positive for them, may face administrative separation or worse. Security 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

Air Force Investigates Claim of Religious Discrimination

The Stars and Stripes reports the Air Force has launched an investigation at Lackland Air Force Base to determine if Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was a victim of religious discrimination. Monk had claimed he was essentially “fired” by his commander for his religious views.

Training wing spokeswoman Colleen McGee said…the Air Force has launched an investigation into Monk’s claims, to determine if any command violations may have occurred.

Notably, the Liberty Institute — a part of Continue reading

Commander Threatens Soldier for Religious Facebook Post

As noted at FoxNews, a Colorado Springs-based US servicemember posted her opinion on Facebook — and has been threatened by her commander as a result:

The soldier, who is an evangelical Christian, said she returned home from church on Sunday and was watching a documentary about a minister who endorsed homosexuality…

Her Facebook message read:

A lot ticked off, now to all my gay friends you know I care about you so don’t think otherwise. I’m watching this documentary and this gay guy went to a church and the Pastor was telling him that he needs to embrace his way and know that it is not a sin. Ok umm wow, dude it is. I’m sick of people making Gods word what it’s not. Yes God loves you as a person but He hates the sin. Tired of hearing about Pastors being ok with homosexuality.

She was reportedly told to

either remove the post or face a reduction in rank and pay.

There is contradictory information about whether she is an Airman or a Soldier, which may be just as well, as she wasn’t seeking to make a public statement and actually asked Fox to pull the article, which it did for a short time.  She appears to have substantial Continue reading

US Army Updates Social Media Policy

The US Army has released an updated Social Media Handbook, though it largely focused on official military media actions.  Notably, an accompanying article seemed to align Army policy with previously released Air Force guidance:

Soldiers must maintain their professionalism at all times, even on their off time, said Sweetnam.

They are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and could face corrective or disciplinary action if Continue reading

Hasan Jury Can Hear About Unborn Child

Update: Judge Col Osborn denied Hasan’s request for yet another delay, during which he was considering hiring an attorney after having asked to represent himself.


Military judge Col Tara Osborn said the jury can hear about the cries of a pregnant Soldier who was killed during the Fort Hood massacre:

A military judge says witness testimony about a dying pregnant soldier’s cries of “My baby! My baby!” will be allowed during the murder trial of the Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.

That’s particularly interesting because the Army chose not to file a murder charge for the unborn child, even though the UCMJ permits it.  The child would have nearly been four years old by now.

Military Leaders Call for Moral Courage, Leadership

In the face of the “sexual assault” scandal in the US military, Department of Defense leaders fanned out across graduation ceremonies to call on new and graduating officers to live out moral courage.  From Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking to the graduating class of 2013 at West Point [ellipses original]:

When you are faced with difficult decisions, you will always know that the right thing to do…is the right thing to do.  Do it.  Listen to yourself and be guided by what you believe is right.

Standing against the crowd and choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong, as the Cadet Prayer prescribes, can be very lonely and frightening at times.  And it requires immense moral courage.

It is an interesting position to assert that every officer knows the right thing to do — meaning many in the current controversies have been knowingly choosing to do the “wrong thing.”  Of course, the “moral courage” to which Secretary Hagel refers presupposes a knowledge of right and wrong; normally, that is defined outside of “listening to yourself,” unless one includes a moral and religious upbringing in one’s character.

Secretary Hagel is Continue reading

US Military Clarifies Religious Freedom Policy. Again.

For the third time in a week, the US military released a statement attempting to articulate the DoD’s policy on religious freedom. In response to multiple media questions, LtCmdr Nathan Christensen issued the following statement [emphasis added]:

There is no DOD wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing. Furthermore, there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the UCMJ, including under Article 134.

Service members may exercise their rights under the 1st Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission; even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member. In general, service members may share their faith with other service members, but may not forcibly attempt to convert others of any faith or no faith to their own beliefs.

Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved.

In other words, the prior statement that did try to “directly address religious proselytizing” is…retracted?

The statement essentially reverts the DoD from the “new” (first, “uncomfortable,” then evangelism vs proselytizing) back to the “old” more Continue reading

DoD says Purple Hearts would Prejudice Hasan Trial

The Department of Defense has told Congress that their bills aimed at granting combat wounded status — Purple Hearts — to the victims of the Fort Hood massacre would prejudice his court-martial:

Passage of this legislation could directly and indirectly influence potential court-martial panel members, witnesses, or the chain of command, all of whom exercise a critical role under the [UCMJ].  Defense counsel will argue that Major Hasan cannot receive a fair trial because a branch of government has indirectly declared that Major Hasan is a terrorist — that he is criminally culpable.

This must be one of the awkward results of the “fairness” of the American judicial system.  Everyone “knows” he did it.  Hasan has even tried to plead guilty, and would Continue reading

Important Military Tip: Marijuana Still Illegal

The US Air Force made a point of issuing a press release reminding servicemembers that using marijuana is still illegal for them — even if the state in which they live just legalized it.

The state of Colorado voted to legalize marijuana Nov. 6, but its use is still against federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, even for service members stationed in or visiting the state.

“(Colorado’s) Amendment 64 does not change the UCMJ… Continue reading

Weinstein on Accused Fort Hood Shooter Will Shave, or Be Shaved

Col Gregory Gross, the judge presiding over the murder trial of US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan for the Fort Hood massacre, followed through on his threat and issued an order that Hasan must shave — or he will be shaved.

Gross…issued his order Thursday after a hearing to determine whether a federal religious freedom law applied to Hasan’s case.  Soldiers may be granted permission to grow beards for religious reasons, and six soldiers have been allowed to do so: a rabbi, two Muslim doctors and three Sikhs, according to Army records.

Hasan said he is violating regulations not out of disrespect, but of religious requirement:

Hasan told the judge last week that he grew a beard because his Muslim faith requires it, not as a show of disrespect. Gross ruled Thursday that the defense didn’t prove Hasan is growing a beard for sincere religious reasons.

While the whole concept might sound a bit odd to outsiders, forced Continue reading

Kitten Killer Gets Jail, but Military Files No Charges in Child’s Death

A former US Marine accused of wringing a kitten’s neck received 30 days in jail from a civil circuit judge:

Circuit Judge Thomas Forehand…found Angelo Michael Stango, 27, guilty Friday of misdemeanor animal cruelty and sentenced him to a year with 11 months suspended.

Violence against the cute and cuddly is punishable (though, oddly enough, there was apparently no body to prove the cat was actually dead).  There will certainly be some who claim the former Marine Sergeant should have received a harsher punishment.

As an interesting comparison, the US military has apparently chosen not to charge US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan with killing the unborn child of one of his (alleged) victims, US Army Pvt Francheska Velez.  Stango’s kitten killing was tried in civil court – notably, there is no UCMJ article specifically addressing animal cruelty.

There is a UCMJ article specifically addressing killing an unborn child:  Continue reading