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
First Liberty’s Mike Berry wrote at the Washington Examiner calling on the Pentagon to be “more vigilant in protecting the religious liberty of men and women in uniform.” It’s an appropriate admonition based on two significant recent events.
In the first, Col Leland Bohannon was fired and removed from a promotion list after a retiring homosexual subordinate complained. As Berry notes:
A formal complaint was filed and the Air Force Inspector General ruled that Bohannon had violated Air Force policy. It took none other than the secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, to Read more
Mike Berry, deputy general counsel and director of military affairs for First Liberty Institute, writes at the Daily Caller in defense of the ability of members of the Air Force to volunteer with the Salvation Army. Michael “Mikey” Weinstein had previously tried to lodge a complaint about the practice at Grand Forks AFB, ND.
Berry makes the point often made here: To single out a group, organization, or opportunity because of religion is to discriminate on the basis of religion, something the military cannot do [emphasis added]:
The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause requires government neutrality towards religion. Neutrality not only means the government cannot favor a particular religion, but the government likewise may not demonstrate hostility against religion either. Read more
Update: From First Liberty’s Mike Berry:
At the end of the day, if anyone has been the victim of discrimination here, it’s been Chaplain Squires and Staff Sergeant Griffin. I’m thankful that a two-star general stepped in and corrected things, but it should never have come to that in the first place.
Fox News’ Todd Starnes reports on the First Liberty press release that the Army has rejected the recommendation to punish Chaplain (Maj) Scott Squires for how he handled a Strong Bonds marriage retreat when a homosexual couple said they wanted to come.
From First Liberty Institute: Read more
In an unusual step, the Army officer appointed to investigate a complaint against Chaplain (Major) Scott Squires and his assistant SSgt Kacie Griffin wrote a second, revised report released just last week (the original was reportedly issued months ago). The pair were accused of discriminating against a homosexual couple regarding a Strong Bonds marriage retreat to be led by Chaplain Squires.
It appears the new “do over” report was the result of First Liberty’s rebuttal in April, in which attorney and former US Marine JAG Mike Berry tore into the investigator’s reasoning and conclusions. It seems the new report was intended to defend against First Liberty’s legitimate concerns, including, for example, this admission from the investigator quietly placed in the new report [emphasis added]:
In my prior findings and recommendations memorandum, I stated that when CH Squires informed [redacted] of his restriction that this was a violation of EO policy. This was a misstatement of fact and law. It is not a violation of EO policy to state a fact and CH Squires is protected in doing so…
It wasn’t just a “misstatement” — it was a wholly Read more
US Army SSgt Kacie Griffin has reportedly lost her opportunity to go to college and become an officer due to a recent controversy over homosexuals and a Strong Bonds marriage retreat.
SSgt Griffin was the chaplain assistant to Chaplain (Maj) Scott Squires at Fort Bragg, which was planning the Strong Bonds event earlier this year. A homosexual couple apparently expressed interest in the event; Chaplain Squires was unable to lead a marriage event with homosexuals attending, so he rescheduled the retreat — so the homosexuals filed a complaint. The investigating officer recommended Chaplain Squires be reprimanded.
For her part, SSgt Griffin was handling the administrative part of the retreat:
“Griffin informed Chaplain Squires of the application and informed the applicant that Chaplain Squires would speak with her. For this purely administrative act, an Army investigator determined she ‘gave the impression she was not eligible for the event’ and should be reprimanded for failing to ‘timely answer’ her question,” First Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry said.
Though the “investigation” was reportedly finished months ago — and despite Read more
Chris Rodda — Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s sometime research assistant — wrote a column yesterday at the Washington Examiner saying “Bibles don’t belong on POW remembrance tables.” (Two years ago Rodda said the same thing, though it was only self-published on the Huffington Post. The Examiner opportunity was apparently created by Mike Berry’s article on the same website.)
It’s possible an editor chose her title (and also word-limited the normally very verbose Rodda), but it’s worth noting Rodda never gets around to saying why Bibles ‘don’t belong on POW tables.’
First, she says that, historically, early POW/MIA remembrance tables didn’t have Bibles. She revisits her previous strawman by saying the American Legion doesn’t include Bibles in its remembrance ceremony, as if that is remotely relevant. Her point was long ago rebutted: The issue isn’t what the Legion — or any other group — chooses to do; it’s what they prohibit others from doing.
No one is traipsing around the country demanding Bibles be included on POW/MIA tables — at the American Legion or anywhere else. What some Americans are doing is Read more
Update: In an interesting take, Patrick Hornbeck, a department chair of theology at Fordham University and an open homosexual, admitted that Chaplain Squires was “mistreated,” but attributed it to the natural consequences of “bureacracy” and a “well-meaning if somewhat confused investigator.”
The world waited with bated breath for Michael “Mikey” Weinstein — self-declared savior of military religious freedom — to speak on the case of Chaplain (Maj) Scott Squires. Chaplain Squires had been investigated and recommended for reprimand after he re-scheduled a Strong Bonds event just so a homosexual could attend, hosted by a different chaplain whose endorsing agency apparently is not morally opposed to homosexual “marriage.” Given the affront to his faith, and his efforts to accommodate the homosexual couple in an a different affirming event, naturally a defender of religious freedom would rally to Chaplain Squires’ side.
Noting that Chaplain Squires was following his endorsing agency’s guidance, as both the agency and the US Army requires, this was Weinstein’s response:
Our argument is [Defense Secretary Jim Mattis] ought to disqualify that particular entity as a chaplain endorsing agency.
Weinstein Read more