During the unique trials of the pandemic, US military chaplains are coming under fire for trying to provide support for their troops.
A few years ago, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein regularly made a ruckus over something frequently called “Chaplain’s Corner”. The pieces were generally short articles written by military chaplains and published in a military base’s local paper. Weinstein and his research assistant, Chris Rodda, were apparently unable to prove military Christians were actually doing anything wrong, so they took to finding articles with Christians saying something they didn’t like. Just about every week, it seemed, the MRFF would hit the press with another “the world is ending” claim about a Christian chaplain trying to subvert democracy by publishing an article in a small-circulation base paper. (Notably, they ignored those by other faiths.)
There were plenty of targets, of course, because these columns existed at pretty much every military base. (Routine public productions like that are good fodder for performance reviews.) In other words, Weinstein was able to keep himself in the press just by making a new complaint about old news every week. In many, if not most, cases, military bases responded by pulling the columns to mitigate the supposed offense. With the “victories” and coverage, Weinstein had found a new cash cow.
That is, until religious liberty advocates stepped in to defend the rights of US troops against the attacks by Weinstein and Rodda.
One of the most significant Read more
As reported at the Religion Clause, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has permitted the optional inclusion of “So Help Me God” in the oath of naturalization. Referring to the test used by the Supreme Court regarding the Bladensburg Peace Cross, the Court said:
We follow the Supreme Court’s most recent framework and apply American Legion’s presumption of constitutionality to the phrase “so help me God” in the naturalization oath because we consider the inclusion of similar words to be a ceremonial, longstanding practice as an optional means of completing an oath. And because the record does not demonstrate a discriminatory intent in maintaining those words in the oath or “deliberate disrespect” by the inclusion of the words, Perrier-Bilbo cannot overcome the presumption.
That amount of legal defense almost seems ridiculous, given that the plaintiff was complaining about an optional phrase. She wasn’t trying to avoid saying something she didn’t want to; she wanted to prevent others the option of saying it. She’d already been given more than one option to omit the phrase: Read more
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
In an effort to provide encouragement in the current environment of stress and concern, the Air Force Reserve posted a video on their Facebook page from their Public Affairs that highlighted spiritual resilience, or what provides someone “meaning and purpose.” The video was from the perspective of the Air Force chaplaincy and featured an interview with Air Force Reserve Command Chaplain (Col) Randy Marshall. It also featured a variety of Airman talking about what ‘gave [them] purpose every day.’ For some, but not all, it was their faith in Jesus Christ.
That did not make Michael “Mikey” Weinstein happy:
Weinstein fired off a letter to everyone in the Air Force chain of command claiming the video was [formatting original]
WRETCHEDLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND TOTALLY ILLICIT CHRISTIAN SUPREMACY PROSELYTIZING
Naturally, seeing a Read more
The US military often gets accused of promoting or endorsing religion — particularly when it has the gall to associate religion with the uniform. The vast majority of the time, such complaints are baseless, as the mere presence of religious content and the military context does not constitute anything impermissible. In fact, it is often virtually required.
One religious practice that gets a pass is yoga. A product of eastern religions — which military articles on the topic sometimes, but not always, avoid — the military proudly publishes articles on Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines endorsing the practice.
And the same people who complain about associations between Christians and the military seem to have no problem associating Buddha and the military.
A recent article documents US Air Force Master Sergeant Kathleen Myhre’s 30-day journey to India to become a certified yoga instructor. Now, MSgt Myhre occupies a space in the Airman and Family Readiness Center, where she evangelizes those who enter on the value of her ‘spiritual’ endeavors: 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
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
Did you know that last Thursday, 16 January 2020, was Religious Freedom Day in the United States?
The Day commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom — written before the US Constitution — which says, among other things:
All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities…
The rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind…
President Trump’s proclamation repeated the quote above and began with: Read more