The US Army extended its religious accommodation of Capt Simratpal Singh, a Soldier who had decided to return to his Sikh practices and had sued after the Army tried to subject him to additional testing not required of other Soldiers.
The response from the Army (PDF) is intended to moot the suit. The accommodation allowing Singh to wear his religious accoutrements is open-ended, but it is heavily qualified with the Army’s caveats that it might remove the accommodation at any time. Perhaps more importantly: Read more
Buried deep in the proposed Defense Department Budget for 2017 (PDF, 5MB) was a little noticed comment on discrimination in the US Army [emphasis added]:
The Army remains committed to ensuring the dignity and respect of Soldiers, civilians, and their families…The Army will provide every Soldier and civilian equal opportunities to rise to the level of their merit regardless of their gender, their race, or their self-identity.
Just what is a “self-identity”? Good question, since it isn’t defined in the budget nor apparently in a Defense Department policy, and it hasn’t appeared in any prior DoD budget. It’s also not a Federally-protected class. Given the context of current events, it seems likely it is intended as a reference to the Army’s foregone plan to repeal the ban on transgender troops, though the Army seemed to dispute anything unique about this year’s new budget wording: Read more
US Army Capt Simratpal Singh sued the US Army last week in an attempt to gain permission to wear a turban and long hair, in keeping with his Sikh faith.
Capt Singh had previously shaved and adhered to standards — he is a West Point and Ranger School graduate with 10 years of service — but given recent changes in military policy that placed a priority on religious accommodation, and his own reevaluation of his dedication to his faith, he sought and obtained a temporary waiver.
According to the lawsuit (PDF), the Army was about to Read more
In what is becoming an annual tradition, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and his self-founded “charity,” the oddly-named Military Religious Freedom Foundation, have been nominated for or have won recurring Christmas-villain awards for his attacks on military religious freedom.
Weinstein “won” the Liberty Institute’s Scrooge Award in 2014, after he was nominated for his infamous “cadet whiteboard” attack, in which he aimed his invective at a US Air Force Academy cadet who had the gall to write a Bible verse on a dry erase board. Weinstein has been nominated again this year for his attack on, again, US Air Force Academy cadets — this time, members of the football team who choose to take a knee prior to their games.
MRFF supporters are aware of the voting for Liberty Institute’s award and are trying to shoot the moon, apparently thinking that being viewed as a rich, crass, stone-hearted cynic is a good thing.
After missing out last year, Mikey Weinstein’s MRFF has been nominated for Read more
As reported in the New York Times, the US Army has granted Capt. Simratpal Singh a religious accommodation to wear the beard, unshorn hair, and turban as the outward expression of his Sikh faith — even while wearing the military uniform:
It is the first time in decades that the military has granted a religious accommodation for a beard to an active-duty combat soldier…But it is only temporary, lasting for a month while the Army decides whether to give permanent status to Captain Singh’s exception.
If it decides not to, the captain could be confronted with the decision of whether to cut his hair or leave the Army. He has said he is prepared to sue if the accommodation is not made permanent.
(This occurred not long after Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va) sent yet another letter to the DoD, as he has for several years, asking that the US military reconsider its policies prohibiting Sikhs from serving.) Singh, a West Point graduate, had previously sacrificed those religious Read more
A coalition of 27 retired General officers signed a letter (PDF) urging the US Department of Defense to allow Sikhs to serve in the US military. Currently, Sikhs must abandon the articles of their faith — including uncut hair, beards, and turbans — before they can join the military:
Although Sikhs have served honorably in the U.S. military since World War I, restrictive appearance regulations adopted in 1981 created barriers to their service. Revisions earlier this year to DOD Instruction 1300.17 make it possible for service members to request religious accommodations; however, the new guidelines presumptively exclude Sikh articles of faith, forcing Sikhs to repeatedly apply for waivers and even violate their religion while an accommodation request is pending.
One of the notable signatures on the letter is Read more
Update: As of November 2015, the full Ninth Circuit refused to re-hear the FFRF appeal, effectively ending the case.
The Montana ski resort statue known as “Big Mountain Jesus” has survived the most recent challenge to have it torn down (from the appeal argued in July). The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a small atheist group that scours the country for signs of religion over which to be offended, sued because the statue is technically on federal land, though the land is perpetually leased to a ski resort. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty defended the statue.
The statue was built in the style of European shrines by the Knights of Columbus to honor the 10th Mountain Division. The Division’s soldiers fondly recalled the many shrines they saw during their combat in World War II. In that regard, it was not raised as a religious shrine itself, as the FFRF claims, but as a memorial that invokes those shrines as an homage to the 10th Mountain Division.
The Appeals Court panel found, in a 2-1 ruling, the statue was essentially secular in purpose — including as justification its “irreverent” use: Read more
Update: Chaplain Crews reports Mikey Weinstein plans to send “clients” into military chapel services to “monitor sermons.” Crews also reports that groups are ready to defend chaplains subject to Weinstein’s attacks.
Last week TheBlaze posted a podcast from The Church Boys that included what they called a “heated” debate between Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and retired US Army Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews. The nearly 45-minute broadcast is largely Weinstein monologuing with his normal talking points to, or over, the hosts and Crews. (The audio is available below.)
For those that want the Bottom Line Up Front, the “debate” made clear that Mikey Weinstein doesn’t have a clear position, but he holds it very strongly and with great animus toward Christians.
“Perverts” and Marching Orders
For nearly half the show Weinstein railed against chaplains who would issue “anti-LGBT marching orders” and scream “perverts!” from the pulpit. No one seemed to really understand what he was talking about, and he never explained himself. It would seem he was attempting to set up a straw man that never really got going.
Strong Bonds and Marriage Retreats
Weinstein said it would be a “declaration of war” if a chaplain Read more