According to the Associated Press, the Army has given non-judicial punishment to a soldier who assaulted a fellow trainee (previous discussions). The assault has been widely reported in concert with the victim’s complaints of discrimination because of his Jewish faith; however, the Army indicates there was no evidence the incidents were related. Michael Weinstein disagreed, saying
Michael Handman was turned into a punching bag for the Army because of his religious faith.
The incidents were also reported at the blog Jews in Green, where CAPT Neil Block, USN (Ret), has commented. He was the retired Jewish officer and local leader brought in to provide an assessment of the situation, and his comments are enlightening.
Also noted at the Religion Clause.
According to a variety of press reports, Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has withdrawn its lawsuit filed on behalf of Jeremy Hall against the Department of Defense. The decision comes after months of delays in the MRFF’s deadline (and days prior to the current one) to file a response to the military’s motion to dismiss.
Some reports have implied that the decision was based on Hall’s plan to leave the Army next year; however, since the lawsuit was announced last year Hall has widely reported that he planned to leave the Army. The decision to abandon the case now is inconsistent with Weinstein’s frequent comments in support of it, including a recent assertion that a post-lawsuit IG visit would bolster the case.
The more likely cause Read more
As noted at Fox News, a US Army trainee complained of religious discrimination after superiors used remarks denigrating to the Jewish faith and required him to remove his yarmulke. (As previously noted, some religious attire is authorized in uniform; in fact, the yarmulke is the only such attire specifically mentioned.)
The soldier also was the victim of assault. According to Fox News, the Army does not believe the events are connected. Michael Weinstein, however, not only believes they are, but believes that those responsible must be Christians.
[T]hese ever more frequent, tragic matters [are the result] of unbridled, military-sponsored Christian religious oppression…
Like every allegation, Weinstein said he intends to include this in his lawsuit(s).
Also noted at the Religion Clause.
Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has asked for two delays in the required timeline to file a response to the DoJ’s motion to dismiss the MRFF’s ongoing lawsuit. Reasons for the requests included the “number of pages” of supporting material in the DoJ motion, and the requests have been unopposed by the DoJ.
It appears, though, that the law firm representing the MRFF actually had other work keeping them busy: they have now filed a second lawsuit (text). Like the first, it takes a single “issue” (in this case, the requirement that soldiers attend events in which sectarian prayers are delivered) and lumps in every possible accusation against religion in the military. Much of the lawsuit is verbatim from other filings.
For example, it once again includes unspecified accusations against Officers’ Christian Fellowship. It also includes references to the Ft Wood “Free Day Away,” which, as noted, has already been investigated by the Inspector General and found to be in compliance with regulations. It also still includes complaints about the 523rd Fighter Squadron, which no longer exists, and hasn’t for some time.
Unlike the first lawsuit, it does say that the primary plaintiff, Specialist Dustin Chalker, sought permission Read more
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.