Last week, the US Air Force quietly published an update to its uniform regulation, AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, which governs how Airmen are required to wear their uniforms. The new regulation included attachments that specifically covered turbans, hijabs, and beards for the first time. While AFI 36-2903 previously discussed “religious apparel,” this is the first time it was covered in such depth.
In addition, it prioritized accommodation Air Force wide. For example, previous versions often restricted accommodation — if it was even granted — to a single military installation.
The new regulation also lowers the level of approval required for some accommodations. For example, Wing Commanders (generally, the commander of the Air Force base) are authorized to approve
hijab, beard, turban or under-turban/patka, unshorn beards, unshorn hair, and indoor/outdoor head coverings.
Importantly, however, if the commander desires to disapprove that accommodation, the request has to be disapproved at AF Headquarters at Read more
Last Friday the MRFF made a rather shocking accusation, accusing a Navy installation of violating the US Constitution — for doing exactly what its founder, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, said they should do.
According to the press release picked up by the AP, US Navy Chaplain (Cmdr) Richard Clay Smothers sent an email out Naval Station Newport advertising an upcoming leadership series entitled “Lead Like Jesus.”
Marty France — a retired USAF BG who joined the MRFF board — decried the “violations” to
the base commander, [US Navy] Capt. Ian L. Johnson, urging him to “move quickly on this blatant violation of the Constitution (that we both swore to uphold) as well as DoD regulations.”
Remember, the email came from the chaplains, not any commander. Here’s the kicker: This is the quote from Mikey Weinstein just a couple of years ago:
“There’s no problem with this [religious campaign] if it’s done through the chaplain’s office,” Weinstein said.
That was a reference to Operation Christmas Child, but it Read more
The Air Force recently announced the commissioning of Saleha Jabeen as a chaplain candidate — which will make her the first female Muslim Chaplain when she completes her program. Jabeen was formerly an enlisted health care specialist in the US Army. Interestingly, Jabeen’s academic credentials come from North Park University (a private Christian school in Chicago), the Catholic Theological Union and Trinity Christian College. Air Force Chief of Chaplains Steven Schaick, who commissioned her in Chicago at the Catholic Theological Union, said
“Any time we advance religious freedoms, it’s a win for all persons of faith. The fact is America is a place where the Constitution guarantees your freedom to embrace or abstain from religious ideals, and the Chaplain Corps, which Jabeen just entered, exists to ensure every Airman has a religious freedom advocate. This is a big day not just for Muslims, but for persons of all faiths. I could not be more proud of our Air Force for being willing to commission and embrace the first female Imam in the Department of Defense.”
It’s an interesting thought. First, biased critics of the military chaplaincy are quick to Read more
Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, recently published a column hailing a victory for religious freedom that has mostly gone unnoticed — but it is not insignificant.
On January 16th — Religious Freedom Day — the media widely covered President Trump’s proposed changes to federal regulations that would protect prayer and religious exercise in schools. Less widely discussed was the change to the discriminatory treatment of religious organizations within the Federal services.
Under President Obama, faith-based organizations that Read more
Curtis Weinstein, third from left, during happier days.
On the Facebook page of the oddly-named Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Curtis Weinstein — a former Air Force officer and heir apparent to his father’s antipathy toward all things Christian — asserted that by not operating their stores on Sundays, the owners of Chick-Fil-A are “pushing their personal religious beliefs on their workers…and even their customers”:
[T]he main issue is that the owners are pushing their personal religious beliefs on their workers by forcing them to close during certain times/days and even their customers. I only seem to want Chick-Gil-A [sic] on a Sunday and can never get them, lol! Why can’t the owners pursue their beliefs without making them systemic within their business, this affecting everyone?
The accusation is inaccurate, of course. Truett Cathy said being closed on Sunday was his way of honoring the Lord; what their employees and customers choose to do is their own business, and outside Chick-Fil-A’s control. The fact the store is closed has no bearing whatsoever on the religious beliefs or exercise of their employees — except, perhaps, to free them up to actually practice their faith on Sunday, if they so choose. It is a “neutral” viewpoint, if you will.
Weinstein’s solution to his self-made problem isn’t clear. Presumably, the government needs to Read more
In an old US Army photograph from May of 1943, locals stack crosses on the edge of a field to mark the graves of US servicemen killed in action in New Guinea. In the background, you can see crosses apparently hastily assembled from sticks marking more graves.
It was not an attempt to Christianize the US military, nor was Read more
Last July, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF complained to the US military that Shields of Strength was combining US military trademarks with Bible verses on novelty dog tags. SoS did have authorization to use the military trademarks, but the Army told SoS to stop to prevent the “negative press.” A few weeks ago, the Marines did the same thing. First Liberty has come to their defense.
In an op-ed published at the Military Times earlier this week, First Liberty’s Mike Berry told the story:
Kenny Vaughan started Shields of Strength (“SoS”). SoS is a small, faith-based company from Texas that produces military-themed items inscribed with encouraging Bible verses. For more than two decades, Kenny has been making these inspirational replica dog tags for service members and first responders. To date, SoS has donated hundreds of thousands of its replica dog tags to military units…
Over the years, SoS replica dog tags became so popular and so nearly ubiquitous that, according to author and historian Stephen Mansfield, “aside from the official insignias they wear, [the SoS dog tag] is the emblem most often carried by members of the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Berry and First Liberty sent Read more
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Gen John “Jay” Raymond as the first Chief of Staff of the Space Force. As covered at SpaceNews, the event was notable because the United States has never had a Space Force before; in fact, the US hasn’t had a major Service added to the force since the Air Force became an independent Service in 1947. It was a historic event.
NPR, though, noted the other highlight of the event in a parenthetical aside [emphasis added]:
With one hand placed on a Bible whose “official” blessing on Sunday sparked sharp criticism, Raymond was sworn in by Vice President Pence at the vice president’s ceremonial office.
Clearly, the government was moved by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaint about the Bible yesterday — probably because it was “full-throated” — and completely ignored him.
Contrary to Weinstein’s all-caps claim that military officers are “NOT ever ‘sworn-in’ to their positions”, the narrator of the ceremony noted the oath was required under Article VI of the Constitution (as an “executive officer” of the United States) and is prescribed in Title V of the US Code: Read more