Many have grown accustomed to Congress taking the military to task for what it considers breaches of the religious freedom of US troops. Sometimes those congressional reprimands seem to have “fixed” issues. Other times they haven’t — and Congress has decided to pass a law to fix it instead.
It was an interesting turn, then, to see Congress go out of its way not to chide once more, but to laud the Air Force for defending religious liberty:
Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) led a bicameral letter of support to Pease Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in response to a complaint that the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) lodged against the base…
As you’ll recall, the FFRF lodged vague, vicarious complaints about chaplains’ prayers during official events. Pease AFB was so unmoved it didn’t even bother to respond to the FFRF.
Congressman Collins, who is also an Air Force Reserve Chaplain, led Read more
Update: More recent coverage of this “controversy” cites the VA saying “the hospital received complaints from…a former prisoner of war who was not a Christian.” Given that such a claim would have been a coup for Weinstein, and it has appeared in no other report, it is likely an error in reporting.
Update: The ACLJ published a statement contradicting Mikey Weinstein’s machinations and a petition calling for a defense of the Bible in “Veterans’ Displays.” The Army Times covered the removal of a Bible from another display, this one at Tobyhanna Army Depot (which hosts 93 soldiers), where no one apparently knew how the Bible even got there.
US Congressmen and a variety of religious liberty groups have objected to the forced removal of Bibles from POW/MIA remembrance tables at facilities in Ohio and Texas. The removals came at the request of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who called the inclusion of the Bibles an act of “supremacy.”
Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga), also a Reserve AF Chaplain, had previously said he was “appalled” that the VA “caved” to Weinstein’s “antics.”
This organization has devoted itself to attacking Christians and undermining the religious freedoms guaranteed to our men and women in uniform by the Constitution.
In response, the reliably infantile Mikey Weinstein
called Collins an ignoramus and “worthless sack of Read more
A variety of media outlets continue to cover the story of Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder, who was removed from his unit after complaints that he made offensive statements in counseling.
At the Daily Signal, Kelsey Harkness notes there are actually two chaplains facing sanction right now. Besides Modder, Army Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn was also punished for telling personal stories involving his faith; his story has faded somewhat from the press, but it is still ongoing.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the only U.S. congressman to also serve as an Air Force Reserve chaplain, believes the military has gone too far in punishing Modder and others like him.
“It’s First Amendment rights for a reason,” Collins told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview. “Not because you agree with it.”
Rep Collins went further, repeating Read more
Members of Congress have written a letter (PDF) to the Secretary of the Navy asking for details on why US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder is facing adverse action for his religious beliefs [emphasis added]:
Our understanding is that Chaplain Modder’s commanding officer has requested that Chaplain Modder be Detached for Cause after a Sailor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command complained about Chaplain Modder’s views on pre-marital sex and homosexuality…
These beliefs on sexual intimacy do not constitute a legally viable reason to bring action against Chaplain Modder or any member of the military… It is dangerous to fall prey to the fundamentally false proposition that individuals who support natural marriage can only be motivated by animus for others.
Realize that these are the members of Congress who wrote the law they are now explaining to the Navy. They’re telling the Navy Read more
An interview with US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder at Breitbart revealed a few more details about the Navy’s decision to remove him and attempt to discharge him from the military over complaints about his beliefs.
It seems the Lt(JG) complainant, at points described as a “chaplain’s assistant,” was in fact a new officer filling a temporary job while waiting for his next assignment. With apparent time on his hands — and an agenda — it seems the new officer decided he would go out of his way to make his mark on the Navy.
It turns out the young officer seemed to be running his own private investigation into Modder’s Christian beliefs and how they may conflict with his interpretation of proper tolerance for LGBT individuals.
To be clear, there were (reportedly) no complaints in Read more
Update: Chaplain Lawhorn’s initial LOC is now available, and, as reported, it hinges entirely on (subsequently rescinded) violations of two regulations — and this interesting justification:
As a result, an individual in attendance wrote an article about the event on http://militaryatheists.org.
It would be interesting to see the Army cite a regulation that supports action against a Soldier because “a person wrote an accusation on the internet…”
Update: Now covered at the Army Times, the Christian Post, the Gospel Herald, the Daily Caller, and Opposing Views. Atheist Jason Torpy responded to the “evangelical backlash” over his accusations against the Army.
The Liberty Institute is now representing a chaplain who was punished by the US Army for mentioning his faith during a unit training day:
On November 20, 2014, Chaplain Lawhorn conducted suicide prevention training [in which he] discussed his own personal struggles and how he used the Bible to successfully combat his depression. One of the soldiers in attendance complained to an atheist group about Chaplain Lawhorn’s presentation. In response…Colonel David G. Fivecoat, issued Chaplain Lawhorn a Letter of Concern alleging that Chaplain Lawhorn “advocated for…Christianity and used Christian scripture and solutions” and therefore violated Army regulations.
The complaint was shepherded by atheist and former Army Captain Jason Torpy, who published the complaint online 24 hours after the event — meaning it was public even before the Army had a chance to respond. The Army may also have been influenced by the publication of the “scandal.”
In a seeming admission the commander might have gone too far, Col Fivecoat apparently called Army Chaplain (Capt) Joseph Lawhorn back Read more
As previously noted, the House resolution to allow military chaplains to serve their congregations — rather than ban them from chapels during the congressional impasse — was proposed by Rep Doug Collins (R-Ga). It was passed in a 400-1 vote. The lone opponent: Rep William Enyart (D-Il).
Rep Collins is a current Air Force Reserve chaplain with a rank of Major.
Rep Enyart is a retired Major General in the National Guard.
(Coincidentally, Gen Enyart was replaced as Adjutant General of the Illinois ANG by BG Daniel Krumrei — a chaplain.)
Explaining his lone dissenting vote, Rep Enyart said Read more
A variety of news sources noted that the decision to furlough government civilians in the Department of Defense has meant some chaplains couldn’t go to work either — and thus US military chapel services will not be held:
With the government shutdown, [“General Schedule”] and contract priests who are furloughed are not allowed to work, not even to volunteer, according to John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base, and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so,” he said.
This is generally true for all people in equivalent government positions, not just chaplains. Interestingly, a Catholic spokesman noted that there are actually more civilian/contract Catholic chaplains in the US military than active duty ones: Read more