Category Archives: Government and Religion

US Army Grants Waivers to 14 Sikh High Schoolers

Matthew Cox at Military.com reports the US Army has granted 60 religious accommodations to Sikhs entering the service, most recently to 14 high schoolers who will soon enlist:

Army Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, who is the president of the non-profit advocacy group that promotes Sikhism and military service, was surprised to learn there are 13 other high school students who will be allowed to enlist in the Army and openly serve as Sikhs.

This is a new milestone, he said.

“It shows progress,” Kalsi told Military.com, adding that he has been involved in this effort since he was granted the first such accommodation in 2009. “I was the first to get the accommodation for turban and beard way back in the day.”

Kalsi, who is also president and Read more

VA Statement on Mikey Weinstein’s MRFF

VA spokesman Curtis Cashour’s statement was quoted in the last article, but it turns out it had been slightly edited. This was the full sentence that spoke to the VA’s feelings on the lawsuit — and Mikey Weinstein [emphasis added]:

“This lawsuit – backed by a group known for questionable practices and unsuccessful lawsuits – is nothing more than an attempt to force VA into censoring a show of respect for America’s POW/MIA community.”

or, as paraphrased at Read more

Manchester VA Sued over Bible on POW/MIA Table

As previously noted, both the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation claimed they contacted the VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, to demand a Bible be removed from the POW/MIA display in the foyer. The Bible was removed “out of an abundance of caution,” but the backlash — and a subsequent legal review — led the VA to apologize and return the Bible, which was donated by World War II POW and Army Air Corps TSgt Herman “Herk” Streitburger [emphasis added]:

“Manchester VAMC officials temporarily removed the Bible from the display out of an abundance of caution,” VA spokeswoman Kristin Pressly said in a statement provided to USA TODAY. “Following that removal, Manchester VAMC received an outpouring of complaints from Veterans and other stakeholders – many of whom dropped off Bibles at the facility – in protest of this action.”

Pressly said that after consulting with lawyers, the facility determined the Bible will stay and “remain indefinitely as part of the missing man display, a secular tribute to America’s POW/MIA community.”

We apologize to the Veterans, families and other stakeholders who were offended by our incorrect removal of this Bible,” she said.

Note that this apology came from Kristin Pressly, speaking for the VA, not the Manchester medical facility.

Now, James Chamberlain, described as a “devout Christian” and “Air Force veteran,” has filed a lawsuit (PDF) to force the Manchester VA to remove  Read more

California Designates LGBTQ Veterans Memorial

The Sacramento Bee reported that the local community of Cathedral City, California, dedicated the nation’s first “LGBTQ Veterans Memorial” at the end of April:

“It’s kind of a holy place. This is a place to pray for people who died in wars,” Tom Swann Hernandez of Cathedral City told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday. The gay Marine veteran has been at the forefront of the state designation effort for nearly two decades.

This was the ceremonial designation; the legal designation was noted here last fall.

The short version is if you Read more

Air Force Chapel Seeks to Integrate with Squadrons

The chapel leadership at Offutt Air Force Base is instituting a program to better integrate itself with the military units it serves. Reacting largely to the need for military readiness and suicide prevention, the effort by Chaplain (Maj) Kevin Humphrey includes a focus on personal responsibility:

“I looked deeply and believed that how we have traditionally viewed resiliency was wrong,” Humphrey said. “We have removed personal responsibility…I think we need to do a better job of showing our people how they are the stake holders and change really starts with them.”

The effort will designate hand-picked Read more

Col Linell Letendre to be Next USAFA Dean

The US Air Force Academy announced that Col Linell Letendre was the sole “finalist” to become the next Dean of Faculty at USAFA:

“This is wonderful news for our cadets, our faculty, and our Academy,” said Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. “Linell’s leadership and commitment to world-class education and leader development will be invaluable to the USAFA team. She has a tremendous perspective that will integrate and elevate our institution and our Air Force leaders of tomorrow.”

The elevation of Col Letendre, a USAF JAG, to Permanent Professor and Department Head was highlighted here four years ago, largely because of her public record on issues of religious liberty within the Air Force. She was, for example, one of a few Air Force lawyers who advised the Air Force on Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaints against ChristianFighterPilot.com.  She has reportedly towed the Read more

Update: USAFA Gen Goodwin Fired over IG Complaint

LtGen Jay Silveria addressed the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors today and said an IG complaint was the cause of Gen Kristin Goodwin’s removal as the USAFA Commandant [emphasis added]:

Goodwin was removed by her boss and the school’s head, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, amid an investigation…

The general later told The Gazette that an academy staff member filed a complaint with the Inspector General’s Office, which launched the investigation.

“I only know fractions of (the complaint),” he said. “I have not seen it.”

The investigation has since expanded beyond the single person who filed the complaint, Silveria said.

One does not normally get fired over Read more

Army General Takes Swipe at Mikey Weinstein at Prayer Breakfast

Fort Knox held its National Prayer Breakfast last month. The closing speaker was US Army MajGen John Evans Jr, commander of US Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox. He noted the value of the liberty being exercised at Fort Knox that day — despite critics who might seek to restrict that liberty:

“We gather here today, each one of us to worship in our own way,” Evans said. “There are some who would probably not agree with those in a secular society having a prayer breakfast, but we have the right to do that, just as others have the right not to…”

“I am reminded Read more

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