A few years ago, it seemed issues of religion in the military – scandals, some might say – dominated the news cycle for weeks out of the year. Every December the “top ten” religion media stories of the year included several regarding the US military. More recently, however, such “scandals” have fallen out of the news. To be sure, issues of religion in the military still pop up every now and then, but now those stories tend to involve actual issues of religion in the military, not manufactured outrage. Media stories are now far more likely to be about the changes that allow a Sikh to wear a turban or beard than about some random member of the military saying “have a blessed day” or having a Bible on their desk.
Part of the reason for this change has been the rise of religious liberty organizations who have defended the religious rights of US troops. The Becket Fund, First Liberty Institute, the ACLJ and others like them have become prominent and public defenders of religious freedom in the US military. While they were available to troops as a resource for many years, these organizations have gradually become more proactive, to the point that recent changes in US law and military policy have been proposed – and successfully passed – because of these groups. These laws and policies have dampened some of the prior years’ flail because they unified and standardized the military’s response to faith and free exercise. Rather than a cycle of military bases having repeats of the same kerfuffle, overarching policies govern the reaction of the entire DoD. (Sometimes.)
The end result is Read more
To think Michael “Mikey” Weinstein thinks he is the one who gets to dictate whether or not a Bible is appropriate for a POW/MIA table.
It seems these Fort Carson Gold Star Spouses — they’ve had a spouse killed in the military — weren’t flustered by Weinstein’s blustering from behind his keyboard.
Photo by Scott Prater
The ACLJ’s Skip Ash recently took on the issue of POW/MIA Bibles, noting Read more
The ACLJ is once again standing as the voice of reason against attacks on military religious freedom by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF. Last week the ACLJ wrote to Secretary of Defense James Mattis — the same recipient of the MRFF’s letter — defending BGen John Teichert. The letter began with what is probably the most astute and clear statement on dealing with accusations from the MRFF:
We must admit it is difficult to know exactly where to start to refute the many false allegations and legal misstatements contained in Mr. Rehkopf’s letter. As we will show below, Mr. Rehkopf imputes impure motives to General Teichert and alleges harm based on his and MRFF’s hypersensitivity to religious expression by persons in uniform.
When Mr. Rehkopf encounters a religious view expressed Read more
The ACLJ has recently begun to more firmly establish itself as one of the most articulate and assertive defenders of military religious freedom, specifically as it pertains to the attacks on religious liberty by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.
Two weeks ago, Skip Ash (who has already written some lengthy and well-cited rebuttals to Weinstein and his acolyte John Compere) wrote an article detailing how the ACLJ had stood in opposition to Weinstein’s attacks on Bibles in POW/MIA displays. Noting Weinstein’s MRFF had sent yet another letter demanding an investigation (after their first demand was denied), Ash notes the ACLJ also wrote another letter to the DoD, saying
Our purpose, as always, is to educate DOD IG personnel on what the Constitution actually requires and permits vis-à-vis such displays and to refute the broad (though, admittedly, consistent) Constitutional misinterpretations of the MRFF and its supporters. The MRFF and its supporters grossly misunderstand what the Establishment Clause requires, and they too frequently interpret freedom of religion to actually mean freedom from religion.
As has been noted in the past, such Read more
John Compere is a bit of an oddity at Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF. Like many in Weinstein’s circle, he flaunts his credentials, choosing to anoint himself with this byline:
Brigadier General John Compere, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, US Army (Retired), former Chief Judge, US Army Court of Military Review, disabled American veteran (Vietnam), MRFF Advisory Board Member & Texas rancher
(Run by a man whose ego knows no bounds, humility seems to run deep at Mikey Weinstein’s MRFF. In another example, Weinstein disciple Greg Petrequin frequently, and humbly, introduces himself as a “retired senior military officer.”)
Compere — who is otherwise unknown to anyone — never really gives anyone a reason to understand why they should listen to him, and his writings certainly don’t help. While Compere beats out compatriot Chris Rodda’s writings by actually having a point, he appears to borrow from both Rodda and Weinstein as he lets obtuse wording, word count, and pithy quotations pass for supporting a thesis.
And, of course, Compere believes he cannot be wrong.
Thus, when the ACLJ’s Skip Ash wrote a lengthy and thorough rebuttal to a Compere piece in 2016, Compere responded by saying the very fact anyone would dare to critique his position confirmed the piece’s “accuracy”: Read more
Officers’ Christian Fellowship and First Liberty Institute recently participated in an episode of OCF’s fledgling Crosspoint podcast in which retired Navy JAG CAPT Chris Blake and First Liberty lawyer (and Reserve Marine JAG) Mike Berry discussed the “religious rights of those in uniform.”
At one point, CAPT Blake asks “what has changed” over the past few decades that makes it seem the support for religious freedom has waned since the unashamed exercise of faith years ago. To that, Mike Berry had a witty reply:
The opponents of religious freedom have become louder…but that doesn’t make them more correct.
That was an observation Read more
In response to the recent demand letter to the Air Force by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF (a letter probably written by Chris Rodda), Skip Ash and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice wrote their own letter (PDF)to Wright-Patt encouraging the Air Force to do the right thing — and continue ignoring Mikey Weinstein. Weinstein had written to demand “punishment” over a base chapel’s wing-wide email announcement of an upcoming leadership conference.
The letter was a well-written takedown the attack by “outlandish atheist” Mikey Weinstein — not Read more
Retired US Air Force Chaplain Norris Burkes first came to the attention of this site in 2009, when the syndicated chaplain wrote a column about the burning of Afghan-language Bibles by American troops in Afghanistan (a controversy discussed here). In essence, Burkes approved, and noted:
The possession of such religious material violates something the military calls General Order No. 1.
Though he was dismissive of most input, he did finally concede that he was wrong — General Order Number One says no such thing.
Despite the admission, Burkes declined to change the article, and it can still be found on his website, with the unchanged statement that even Burkes admitted was wrong.
Chaplain Burkes recently popped up again, and for some reason he Read more