With the airwaves and mainstream media clogged with politics and other drama, issues of religious freedom in the US military largely fell to the wayside these past few months. The reason is that most (not all, but certainly most) military religious freedom issues begin as attacks from outside the military. With an inattentive public, those who would attack the religious liberty of US troops for their personal benefit haven’t been able to gain public traction – or have simply chosen not to, given the low monetary return they would see for their efforts.
Thus, organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have been either silent or largely ignored these past few months. (Mikey Weinstein’s Facebook page has been entertaining, as he’s been paying to promote otherwise ignored posts only to have the comments filled with “Who is this guy?” and “Why is this #$%$ on my feed!?!”)
With a new administration, there will certainly be changes that Read more
Most people know by now that the US now has a “Space Force” along with its Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Much ado has been made about many very serious issues in that force, like what to call the Servicemembers in that force (Space men? Space cadets?) and whether their new seal looks too much like Star Trek and not enough like Battlestar Gallactica.
Another issue in the background has been the Space Force hymn. The Force doesn’t have one yet, but officials have noted that a song is a Service tradition, much like its uniform and rank structure.
Apparently, one song has already been offered – and it immediately stirred controversy with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The song was written by a former Air Force officer named James Linzey, who was an Air Force and Army chaplain. (Linzey has an interesting history as well, as he was Read more
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has kept a running tally since his group was founded of how many “clients” he has. The goal was obvious: He had to make it seem it wasn’t just one man’s vendetta against Christianity.
Last month, Weinstein hailed the “milestone” that he now “represents” 65,000 people.
On any level, the claim is farcical.
As has been noted here for years, Weinstein’s organization doesn’t even define what a “client” is. Only one time in recorded history — way back in 2009 — has Weinstein publicly described a client, and that was when Matthew LoFiego of the Military Officers Association of America had to “press” him on the topic (because Weinstein wasn’t forthcoming):
Callers are only asked to provide their service and rank, but from this data, MRFF claims to support 13,000 clients. I pressed Mikey to define what he considered a client, which he stated represented anyone in current service to the military that has lodged a complaint or asked for advice.
That definition doesn’t match Weinstein’s own current claims. Weinstein now says Read more
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein announced that his MRFF — which is currently suing to have a Bible removed from a POW/MIA display at the Manchester VA — had staged a stunt in which a “client” placed a stack of texts on the POW/MIA table of varying faith traditions.
The VA said it would not “tolerate” organizations messing with the displays and would remove the other books, which mirrored their other forceful statement protecting the display.
Importantly, having other faith texts placed on the display is not the “relief sought” in the current lawsuit. The suit seeks only the removal of the Bible.
James L. Chamberlain, the token plaintiff and Read more
VA spokesman Curtis Cashour’s statement was quoted in the last article, but it turns out it had been slightly edited. This was the full sentence that spoke to the VA’s feelings on the lawsuit — and Mikey Weinstein [emphasis added]:
“This lawsuit – backed by a group known for questionable practices and unsuccessful lawsuits – is nothing more than an attempt to force VA into censoring a show of respect for America’s POW/MIA community.”
or, as paraphrased at Read more
As previously noted, both the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation claimed they contacted the VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, to demand a Bible be removed from the POW/MIA display in the foyer. The Bible was removed “out of an abundance of caution,” but the backlash — and a subsequent legal review — led the VA to apologize and return the Bible, which was donated by World War II POW and Army Air Corps TSgt Herman “Herk” Streitburger [emphasis added]:
“Manchester VAMC officials temporarily removed the Bible from the display out of an abundance of caution,” VA spokeswoman Kristin Pressly said in a statement provided to USA TODAY. “Following that removal, Manchester VAMC received an outpouring of complaints from Veterans and other stakeholders – many of whom dropped off Bibles at the facility – in protest of this action.”
Pressly said that after consulting with lawyers, the facility determined the Bible will stay and “remain indefinitely as part of the missing man display, a secular tribute to America’s POW/MIA community.”
“We apologize to the Veterans, families and other stakeholders who were offended by our incorrect removal of this Bible,” she said.
Note that this apology came from Kristin Pressly, speaking for the VA, not the Manchester medical facility.
Now, James Chamberlain, described as a “devout Christian” and “Air Force veteran,” has filed a lawsuit (PDF) to force the Manchester VA to remove Read more
The US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit ruled last week that the US House of Representatives was not required to permit an atheist to “pray”. Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued Patrick Conroy, the former House Chaplain, for denying him the opportunity to “pray” at the opening of the legislative day.
Importantly, the court made a point of saying the House’s exercise was a religious exercise — and since Barker wasn’t offering a religious exercise, he had no claim: Read more
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein continues to scour the country in search of POW/MIA remembrance tables about which he can complain — if they should have the gall to have the traditional Bible on them.
Weinstein has had some (though not total) success over the years wielding his “ignoramus’ veto” over the Bibles in the displays. It has tended to be the gift that keeps on giving, because no matter how the targeted organization responds, Weinstein will try to vaunt the story in the press and use it as fundraising material. Either it is a great victory for his anti-Christian cause, or it is an indicator of Christians trying to take over the world. Either way, he tells his followers, send more money.
Many of the groups that have responded by removing Bibles from POW/MIA tables have done so simply because it seems like the “easier” course of action — to make the loudest critic go away. As a result, when the opposing viewpoint raises cries later, the organizations shrug.
However, the First Liberty Institute recently weighed in Read more