The US Senate confirmed Biden appointee — and former Obama Chief of Staff — Denis McDonough as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Monday.
A relatively unnoticed office for most of the US public, the VA Secretary has, like so many positions, become increasingly political and controversial. Robert Wilkie, the previous VA Secretary under President Trump, made waves when the VA decided to put the VA motto on plaques at 142 VA cemeteries last summer. This wouldn’t seem like a big deal, except the VA motto is a quote from a speech made by President Abraham Lincoln: Read more
With politics, COVID-19, and racial tensions enrapturing the US public these past few months, there’s been little to discuss in the realm of military religious freedom. There has been little public movement in the case of the Manchester VA and the POW Bible. The decision to censor US Army chaplains, while significant, has quickly fallen out of the public view. (The conversation continues at higher levels, where there may yet be a coming resolution.)
As a result, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein – with a self-described “laser like” focus on religion in the US military – has had to find something else to talk about.
It started with a Weinstein complaint about headstones in a VA cemetery in San Antonio, TX, where German POWs from World War II are buried. It seems many Read more
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
The year 2020 looks to be a promising one, if the momentum of religious liberty in America can be maintained from 2019. The effect of the Trump Administration has been largely positive on religious liberty in the US military, though it has sometimes taken a bit of time for the “new” policy perspective — that is, the constitutional one — to trickle down to action officers.
Multiple websites noted that one of the highlights of church/state issues this year was the ruling on the Bladensburg Cross — a Supreme Court ruling that defended the right of the cross to continue to stand. While encouraging, particularly in that it wasn’t a “close” decision, it is notable that two Read more
Remember Shields of Strength?
In July, this site highlighted the complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein that caused the US military to tell Shields of Strength to stop putting Bible verses on their military-themed faux dog tags.
As noted at the time, contrary to Weinstein’s claims, the military is free to license its trademarks to anyone it wants — so long as it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs when it does so.
And that’s precisely what it did with the license to SoS.
First Liberty has now taken up the cause of Kenny Vaughan and Shields of Strength, sending a letter to the Army telling them what they already know: They’re guilty of viewpoint discrimination — restricting Shields of Strength only on the basis of the content of their beliefs. Said Mike Berry of First Liberty:
“The government grants licenses to people and entities all the time,” Berry said over the telephone. “What the government can’t do is discriminate when it grants those licenses. … It is basically saying ‘we’re happy to grant licenses to anyone, as long as it’s not religious.’ And that’s clearly what the Army is doing here.”
That’s precisely what the military is doing — and they’re clearly wrong to do so.
In July, Weinstein tried to Read more
As noted at the Religion Clause, a Federal District Court in Arizona found that a plaintiff did not have standing to sue over Flagstaff’s annual “Grand Menorah Lighting” held at the City Hall. It turns out the plaintiff, Jack Taylor, only even knew about it because he’d read about it in the paper. As quoted at the Religion Clause [emphasis added],
Plaintiff did not allege that he has had direct contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall, or any other religious ceremony purportedly held in City Hall. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff’s contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall has, at most, been via newspaper articles Read more
Yesterday, the Federal District Court in New Hampshire allowed the lawsuit against the VA Medical Center POW/MIA display to proceed, and it also permitted the Northwest POW/MIA Network, which erected the display, to intervene. (The POW/MIA Network is represented by First Liberty.) In one of the more interesting arguments, the presiding judge questioned whether the plaintiff had standing because he’s a Christian. Judge Paul Barbadoro [emphasis added]
acknowledged no shortage of case law and legal precedent regarding religious symbols on public property…
But Barrington resident James Chamberlain, the plaintiff in the challenge, is a Christian who attends a Congregational church, and therein lies the rub, according to the judge.
Barbadoro said he knows of no prior case stemming from a Christian challenging a symbol of Christianity.
“If he were an atheist, he would have standing and that would be clear,” the judge said.
There are certainly legal reasons to require “standing” in a judicial proceeding — but Read more
Regarding the speech discussed earlier today by Vice President Pence, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein eventually followed through and did not disappoint, calling Pence
one of the most repulsive and repellent fundamentalist Christian supremacists and bullies…
It’s almost funny to hear the vituperative, loud-mouthed, threat-filled Mikey Weinstein called Mike Pence — one of the most peaceable, humble men in politics today — a “bully.” Project much, Mikey?
President Trump re-tweeted Read more