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
In an official Air Force article, a US Air Force Wing Commander and Colonel encouraged his fellow Airmen to “lead fearlessly” and speak boldly and “honest[ly]” about their faith [emphasis added]:
Lead fearlessly and…take advantage of your right to be honest with your fellow airmen. I know this may still be difficult for some, but I can tell you first hand [this] is truly a liberating and enriching experience—one that makes you a better leader and the Air Force a better place to serve.
That was Col Scott McLaughlin, 446th Airlift Wing commander, a reserve airlift wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
In actuality, though, he wasn’t talking Read more
In 2013, United States Air Force Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes published an article that cogently chronicled the historical and aphoristic phrase ‘No atheists in foxholes.’. Immediately, the article was lambasted with an incendiary campaign that demanded the extraction of Chaplain Reyes’s post. Michael (Mikey) Weinstein from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) was expeditious in reviling the article by demanding its removal which subsequently led to the Air Force removing its publication. Weinstein called the article a “bigoted and religious supremacist phrase” and lauded himself with victory once the Air Force removed the article.
Weinstein’s vitriol was not surprising since he does not win in litigation; he is forced to rely on coercion. However, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) interposed by persuading the Air Force to consider the transparent constitutionality and recurrent legal threats from the MRFF, which eventually caused the Air Force to reinstate the article. Victory for religious freedom and a loss for Weinstein!
Chaplain Scott Reyes’s article is a wonderful military depiction of perseverance that every member of the Armed Forces can relate to, especially if they have served during times of conventional, asymmetric or globalizing warfare. If a member of the Armed Forces is held captive during wartime operations as a prisoner of war (POW), apart from strategic interdictions and a battalion of ground forces, what else is a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine left with? Faith! According to George MacDonald: Read more
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein recently demanded that Marine Corps Base Hawaii remove a sign that said “God bless our military, their families, and the civilians that work with them.” A few years ago, Weinstein’s shrill voice would have been the loudest in the room, and some military commanders would have bowed to him if only to try to make him go away — even if his demands might result in US troops’ religious liberties being restricted.
Now, however, many groups have banded together to defend military religious freedom against those, like Weinstein, who attack it. The Restore Military Religious Freedom coalition is made up of an astounding 26 different organizations dedicated to defending military religious freedom. Members of the group have had some significant successes — as when the Air Force re-published an article by Chaplain Kenneth Reyes that it had censored at Mikey Weinstein’s request. (Weinstein subsequently blamed the reversal on “pernicious…Christian[s].”)
When Weinstein’s group demanded the Marine sign come down, Daniel Briggs of the Alliance Defending Freedom quietly emailed (PDF) the same Marine commander to Read more
The Liberty Institute recently published a 2014 edition of a 400-page report entitled “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America” (PDF). Sections I, II, and III are “attacks” in the public arena, schoolhouse, and against churches and other religious ministries, respectively.
For the first time, the report now includes a dedicated Section IV: “Attacks in the Military.”
Similar in theme to the “Clear and Present Danger” published by the Family Research Council, the Liberty Institute report includes a list of 46 incidents representative of the hostility toward religion within the US military [emphasis added]:
Hostility once unthinkable, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs telling grieving families as they arrive at their loved one’s funeral site that they may not have a religious funeral service, is becoming increasingly routine. Another line of hostility is a new wave of lawsuits attempting to eliminate all symbolism that touches on the numinous from our nation’s veterans memorials…
Religious freedom in the military is protected by the U.S. Constitution, Department Read more
US Rep Sam Johnson (R-Tx), a Vietnam era Air Force fighter pilot, wrote at the Christian Post that attacks on religious liberty in the United States “resemble my time in the Hanoi Hilton.”
You see, I endured painful torture at the hands of communists. I brutally experienced what it’s like to truly lose the privilege to worship as you see fit. As a prisoner of war in Vietnam for almost seven years, more than half of that time in solitary confinement, I withered away in a cellblock so isolating it could only be called Alcatraz.
Referring to a report by Senator Ted Cruz, Johnson says Read more
Update: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council released the following statement in response to General Welsh’s testimony [italics original]:
“The perception is that Mikey Weinstein is setting the policy for religious expression in the U.S. Air Force, as evidenced by the growing number of incidents of religious hostility toward Christians. Instead of denying reality, General Welsh should have taken the opportunity in Friday’s hearing to discuss how he would bring the Air Force into compliance with the new DOD instructions protecting religious expression…
“Family Research Council and the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition will not stand by while the Air Force Chief tries to evade the reality of these attacks on religious expression. We will continue to do all we can to protect the rights of the men and women serving in the Air Force and in all the uniformed services.”
A visibly frustrated General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, fielded questions about religious liberty during what was supposed to be a congressional committee meeting on the Fiscal Year 2015 Air Force budget:
The single biggest frustration I’ve had in this job is the perception that somehow there is religious persecution inside the United States Air Force. It is not true.
Interestingly, the words “religious persecution” were General Welsh’s characterization, not the Congressman’s.
To be fair, that statement may be technically accurate in Read more
As previously noted, the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel heard testimony from several witnesses on religious freedom in the military after the DoD’s recent changes to accommodation policy.
The Stars and Stripes noted that while many have focused on ‘turbans and beards,’ Congress didn’t:
Accommodation for minority religions was not the main concern of the primarily Republican House members present Wednesday, however. Many of their questions centered around allegations that free expression of faith by Christian believers was being suppressed…
Instances of Christians being told Read more