It’s been in the paperwork for months, but the “exciting” political environment has overshadowed the potential religious liberty fight brewing in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. The House version of the NDAA contains a simple, if seemingly obtuse, statement known as the Russell Amendment (via Rep. Steve Russell, R-OK, who offered the amendment):
Any branch or agency of the Federal Government shall, with respect to any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution, or religious society that is a recipient of or offeror for a Federal Government contract, subcontract, grant, purchase order, or cooperative agreement, provide protections and exemptions consistent with sections 702(a) and 703(e)(2) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a) and 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(e)(2)) and section 103(D) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 USC 12113(D)).
The short version of the story is that in 2014 President Obama issued an Executive Order that required anyone wanting to do business with the Federal government to affirmatively state they hire without regard to “sexual orientation or gender identity.” That could very well affect a large number of contractors who do hire with regard to such issues — because they hire based on the requirements of their religious faith.
The Russell Amendment basically Read more
A stinging rebuke of the American government’s take on religious liberty was recently launched not from self-righteous, supremacist Christians, but from two Rabbis of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group. Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein targeted the recently released, 300-page report (PDF) by the US Commission on Civil Rights, saying [emphasis added]:
[The report says], in part, is that Americans need to be protected from Bible-thumpers, and anyone else whose beliefs run afoul of the administration’s PC police. Religious folk need not apply.
The pair took aim at the report’s citation of President John Adams having said Read more
Chaplain Wes Modder recently retired from the US Navy. Chaplain Modder was famously recommended for discharge from the Navy after he expressed his religious views regarding sexuality — in response to direct questions by a subordinate Sailor. (If you’ll recall, that was a scenario homosexual advocates said would never happen.) In an interview recorded at OneNewsNow, Modder notes that he ultimately realized he had been set up because of his faith:
“I came to find out later that he was a gay activist, and I was targeted,” the retired chaplain shared.
On one hand, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Many in the homosexual movement are relatively militant about their cause for erotic liberty, and they’re uncomfortable around those whose faith 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
After a Navy commander’s attempt to discharge Chaplain Wes Modder was rebuffed by a Navy admiral, the Washington Times interviewed him on the follow-up. It also sought comment from two critics of religious freedom in the military: perpetually-offended atheist Jason Torpy, and frequent critic of military Christians, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.
For his part, Torpy thought Modder should have gotten the boot, and he thinks the Navy’s reaction is “unclear”:
The Navy’s decision, he said, “leaves unclear whether it is acceptable for senior officers to use the Bible to justify belittling gay and women sailors.”
On the contrary, the “acceptability” of Torpy’s statement had nothing Read more
At the behest of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, and as reported by him, a US Air Force squadron declared that a “volunteer opportunity” to support a 10-mile running event was “not eligible for publication by government email” — only because the event was to benefit a wounded warrior program — a program run by a Christian charity.
To be clear, the announcement for the Capitol 10 Miler Run, sponsored by Centerpoint Fellowship in support of Operation Heal our Patriots, was one of many events included in the email. It mentioned nothing about religion, beliefs, or even spirituality. It was only a request for volunteers to help support the running event.
Mikey Weinstein complained only about the religious beliefs of the sponsoring organization and the Bible-based wounded warrior program it benefited. According to Weinstein, the 42nd FSS of the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base responded quickly to his demand, sending out the follow-up email: Read more
While most of the story regarding US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder faded into the background with the news of his victory a few weeks ago, one media story included a quote from the Navy that seemed to indicate a bit of self-righteousness [emphasis added]:
A spokesperson for the Navy said the system in Modder’s case worked as it is supposed to, with an investigation following complaints lodged against Modder.
The Navy takes issues like this very seriously, said Lt. Jessica Anderson, public affairs officer and writer for the Chief of Naval Personnel in Arlington, Va.
“When there are allegations of misconduct like this, we investigate — as we did in this case,” Anderson said.
Part of Lt Anderson’s statement is actually fair: With some Read more
For the past six months, US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder has been fighting for his career after his commander, CAPT Jon Fahs, requested he be “detached for cause” (PDF) and then defend why he should be retained in the Navy. The primary charge was he “failed to show tolerance and respect” when he made certain statements about sexuality.
Last week, the US Navy Personnel Command informed Captain Fahs that his request for Chaplain Modder to be Detached for Cause was denied, as was his request for Modder to “show cause” to remain in the Navy. Rear Admiral David F. Steindl wrote (PDF):
Your request for detachment for cause in the case of LCDR Modder…has been reviewed and is disapproved. I have found the evidence of substandard performance in this case does not meet the standard of gross negligence or complete disregard of duty… LCDR Modder will not be detached for cause.
In other words, the Admiral said CAPT Fahs was wrong.
To be “detached for cause” (DFC) in Read more