President Bush proclaimed September 5th through the 7th as the annual “National Days of Prayer and Remembrance.” From the announcement:
We also pray for the safety and success of the members of our Armed Forces now serving freedom’s cause. We seek God’s grace on their families, and commit to Heaven’s care those brave men and women He has called home…As we defend our country against its enemies, we pray for help in protecting the gift of freedom from those who seek to destroy it, and we ask the Almighty to strengthen all those securing liberty on distant shores.
According to a Kansas paper, Army Specialist Jeremy Hall (who is currently suing the Defense Department for “religious proselytizing”), was rebuffed in a visit to the IG to complain about “violations of his religious freedoms.” Weinstein said this “undermines” the DoJ’s move to dismiss, which cited Hall’s failure to use the in-place grievance systems.
According to the article, the visit occurred “earlier this month.” That would make it appear to be a response to the DoJ motion, which was filed last month, and possibly an attempt to generate content for Hall’s response to the motion, which is due next month. In addition, Weinstein (a former JAG) appears not to see a conflict of interest with the Army conducting an internal investigation about charges which are currently involved in, or related to, an ongoing federal lawsuit in which it is essentially a defendant.
According to the article, Weinstein also plans to bring up the fact that someone posted a mock Soldier’s creed (that ridiculed soldiers with medical duty waivers) in Hall’s platoon area. The article lists a previously unknown medical restriction for Hall. How Weinstein plans to integrate the faux creed about physical fitness into a lawsuit about religion is unclear. The sarcastic modification of military mantras is a fairly common brand of critical cynicism in the military, and is limited neither to the Army’s creed nor physical conditions.
General Schwartz took over as the new Air Force Chief of Staff today. His assumption of command received far less fuss than did the news of his original nomination.
In an interesting turn of events, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) undermined Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) in its recent effort to complain about Fort Leonard Wood’s “Free Day Away” (discussed here).
In July, the AU requested an IG investigation…something the MAAF did two years ago. The MAAF also complained again last January, and received a reply (which noted that the IG had already investigated their complaint) at nearly the same time the AU made their IG request. From the DOD reply:
The [IG] found that the program does not violate Army policy in that participation is voluntary…The IG determined that…soldiers have opportunities to participate in non-religious morale, welfare, and recreation programs. More specifically, during the Free Day Away program,…soldiers can remain in the barracks or go to an on-post facility, such as a Post Exchange Annex.
The Free Day Away event has also featured prominently in the MRFF lawsuit against the Department of Defense.
In a ruling that could also impact religious activities in the military, the 4th Circuit has ruled that the government can control the content of prayers offered during its legislative sessions. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sat on the panel as a visiting judge and contributed to the ruling.
Justice O’Connor said that the prayer was “government speech,” not individual speech. Reverend Hashmel Turner, also a local councilman, had sued when he was prevented from offering a sectarian prayer that would include the name of Jesus Christ. The Reverend had been represented by the Rutherford Institute, which plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Religion Clause links to articles that detail the case of David Tenenbaum, a civilian Army employee who was investigated for allegations of spying for Israel. Tenenbaum, an Orthodox Jew, had claimed that he was mistreated because of his religion in the course of the investigation. The Inspector General investigated as a result of a Congressional request.
Spanning back to 1992, the Inspector General’s report noted that while various officials stated that religion was a factor in the security investigation, it was “impossible” to know years after the fact whether it was “the personal practice of his faith or the intelligence community assessment that Israel might attempt to exploit any practitioner of that faith…”
Regardless, the IG stated that Tenenbaum received “unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith…[which] would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination.”
Casey Weinstein, son of MRFF founder Michael Weinstein, was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB with his wife while they were both on active duty. He remains in the area looking for a job as a reservist. Now, a local Jewish paper is carrying an article in which Michael Weinstein has said
Wright-Patterson Air Force base is a “hotbed” of “unconstitutional religious intolerance.”
The younger Weinstein reportedly complained about a “prayer in Jesus’ name” that was a “violation of Air Force regulations” (a conclusion which is actually incorrect). He also “got in [the] face” of his superior over an email about John Gibson’s The War on Christmas. [Casey Weinstein, a 2004 Air Force Academy graduate, was a fairly vocal supporter of his father’s accusations against the military even while the younger Weinstein was on active duty. (He also posted an interestingly accusatory comment here.)] Read more
CNN’s AC360 blog updates yesterday’s story with information on the government’s move to dismiss the suit. In a commentary that unapologetically sides with Specialist Hall, CNN’s Randi Kaye notes that Hall, an atheist,
…isn’t seeking money, just religious freedom…
Kaye then expresses shock that the defendant would have the gall to ask for the suit to be dismissed:
[T]he U.S. Government, the very government Hall agreed to serve and risk his life for, wants his lawsuit tossed out.
The only response included in the commentary is Hall’s admission that much of the premise of the government’s motion to dismiss is correct: he did not use any of the in-place military processes to address his griveances, because “nothing ever gets done.”