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
Chaplain (Capt) Michael Bram made the news as the first Jewish chaplain to serve at Elmendorf since the 1970s:
According to Bram, there are only six Jewish chaplains on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. The first Jewish chaplain at JBER in the last 25 years, Bram said he is used to the curiosity that can surround a man in a uniform and a yarmulke.
“The question I am asked, more than any other question, is, ‘How does it stay on your head?'”
Chaplain Bram has a fascinating story, told at Read more
After weeks of stewing, Michael Weinstein finally responded to Col Brian Duffy’s decision to re-post Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes’ once-banned article on the base website, over Weinstein’s objections.
Michael Weinstein’s response was predictable, though it went counter to his public face of supporting “religious freedom.”
Weinstein blamed bad Christians for the Air Force reversal. Weinstein said:
This was the Air Force caving in to pernicious, fundamentalist Christian pressure…
So much for supporting “military religious freedom,” eh?
Update: Now covered at the Christian Post, Christian News, WND, The Blaze, the ACLJ, OneNewsNow, and Charisma News.
In what will certainly be a blow to Michael Weinstein’s ego, the Air Force has re-published the article his “religious freedom” organization had convinced the Air Force to censor because they said it was “bigoted” and “defiles the dignity of service members.”
With noticeably no publicity, the article was quietly reinstated last week. (The article by Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes can now be read here [updated link]) Col Brian Duffy, with “higher headquarters consultation,” issued the following statement:
Arctic Warriors, our “Chaplain’s Corner” will return and be accessible from our JBER Official Web Page…. Commentaries presented are designed to enhance the spiritual resilience and wellness of our community of Active Duty, DoD civilians, family members and retirees as part of the Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.
We believe this new approach, taken in Read more
Update: An Army Chaplain weighed in with a response to Col Duffy’s decision to pull Chaplain Reyes’ article, and a comment on the Commander’s statement from a recently retired Air Force Colonel takes Col Duffy to task:
Sir…Can you understand how your actions in kowtowing to [MRFF] threats now opens you and your fellow Blue Suiters up to even more insidious actions? Do you think this group will just roll over after having demanded that you take administrative actions against Lt Col Reyes for having had the audacity to write and publish this article? After they labeled his use of “no atheists in foxholes,” as a “… bigoted, religious supremacist” phrase? I believe we both know the answer to that question.
Sir, you hit the nail right on the head when you stated that you must protect the constitutional right of free speech and the free practice of religion…Where you go wrong is when you decide that this article, regarding faith and one’s perception of it in their own life, somehow is “governmental establishment of religion.”
The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Facebook page was inundated with criticisms of Col Brian Duffy’s decision to pull Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes’ column and issue an apology to Michael Weinstein. Those criticisms appear to have been completely deleted and replaced with a statement from the Colonel.
In short, the Colonel admits the article was removed out of concern for “those who may have been offended,” and called his decision a
“balance…between constitutional protections for free exercise of religion and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.”
A few commenters called that out, given that not even the MRFF claimed the Air Force was violating the First Amendment with the article. Besides, the Constitution says nothing about “offense,” which is the stated reason the article was pulled (which caused a spate of responses claiming various things were offensive, and demanding Col Duffy remove more content from his website). Several atheists chimed in and criticized the censorship as well — noting it wasn’t an “atheist vs Christian thing” — but a Weinstein vs Christian thing.
Then, though, the Colonel turned stern and took the unusual step of commenting on potential punishment — something normally rebutted with a “we make no comment on personnel matters.” In short, this time Col Duffy flatly refused Michael Weinstein’s demands and says he has “not and will not reprimand anyone.” The entire statement follows: Read more
Update: The Air Force has restored the censored article. Read more here, or the chaplain’s original article here [updated link].
Update: The Air Force has reportedly declined to explain what regulations prohibit the chaplain’s column, which Liberty University School of Law fellow Ken Klukowski says “looks like expression protected by the free speech and religious freedom provisions of the First Amendment.”
A chaplain has been censored for expressing his beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of service members. There has to be a recognition that this is discrimination against Christians… When anti-Christian activists like Mikey Weinstein are dictating the rules for what chaplains are allowed to do, then we must ask the question why we [even] have chaplains.
– LtGen Jerry Boykin, USA, Ret
The US Air Force reportedly pulled down an official article written by a Chaplain because someone claimed to be offended by the title.
A chaplain at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska was ordered to remove a religious column he had written titled, “No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave all in World War II,” because it allegedly offended atheists serving on the Air Force base.
Col. Brian Duffy, the base commander told Fox News the column was removed “out of respect for those who considered its title offensive.”
The article notes that the column, written by Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes, did not “attack or insult” anyone — it simply began with the question of the origin of the phrase. It seems a few critics didn’t read beyond the title, and criticized a caricature of what Chaplain Reyes wrote, such as atheist Jason Torpy, who makes a point of addressing the “no atheist” cliché wherever he finds it on the internet: Read more