By Sonny Hernandez
On Feb 3, 2017, the Air Force Times reported a “wing commander’s prayer breakfast invite spark[ed] [an] IG complaint,” which was a result of a third party complaint filed by Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to the 42nd Air Base Wing (ABW) inspector general (IG).
The complaint was allegedly filed after several people at Maxwell Air Force Base contacted the MRFF after the 42nd ABW commander used his commander’s box to invite everyone in the wing to a National Prayer Breakfast. Weinstein claims the invite constituted a clear violation of Air Force Instruction (AFI) 1-1, paragraph 2.12 (Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause).
The complaint filed against the 42nd ABW Commander does not Read more
The office of the Air Force Judge Advocate General recently published its annual update to “The Military Commander and the Law,” (PDF) a 1,000-page desk book that isn’t authoritative but is intended to give commanders an overview of legal issues they may experience in their units.
The 2016 edition continues a tradition of including official JAG “Mikey Weinstein Guidance” originally inserted in 2010. Located specifically in the “religious issues” section, it says, in essence, that commanders should be very careful how they handle people and organizations who make complaints against their unit. It was clearly written for Mikey Weinstein, an activist and former JAG who makes threatening phone calls directly to military commanders telling them they’ll be sued or seen on CNN if they don’t comply [emphasis added]: Read more
The Public Affairs officer at the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing had a tough job — explaining the reasoning behind Col Craig “Bluto” Baker’s decision to censor an article by his medical group commander, Col Florencio Marquinez, because Michael “Mikey” Weinstein found it “odious.” Spokesman James Sims told FoxNews’ Todd Starnes this:
It’s very clear what you can and cannot say in an Air Force publication. Once it was brought to our attention and we compared it with the regulation, we found it was in violation of the regulation.
The article violated AFI 1-1, Sections 2.11 and 2.12.1, and the Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force guidance, and finally, ‘The Air Force Military Commander and the Law’ book.
That’s a fascinating — and error-filled — statement by the public affairs officer.
To the easy parts first:
First, the “Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force” do not exist. They were rescinded years ago and Read more
For the third time in a week, the US military released a statement attempting to articulate the DoD’s policy on religious freedom. In response to multiple media questions, LtCmdr Nathan Christensen issued the following statement [emphasis added]:
There is no DOD wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing. Furthermore, there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the UCMJ, including under Article 134.
Service members may exercise their rights under the 1st Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission; even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member. In general, service members may share their faith with other service members, but may not forcibly attempt to convert others of any faith or no faith to their own beliefs.
Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved.
In other words, the prior statement that did try to “directly address religious proselytizing” is…retracted?
The statement essentially reverts the DoD from the “new” (first, “uncomfortable,” then evangelism vs proselytizing) back to the “old” more Read more
As noted previously, the US Air Force’s “The Military Commander and the Law” broke some unique ground in 2010. For example, it appeared to specifically address the coercion tactics of Michael Weinstein when it advised commanders on responding to activists cold-calling them and demanding they accede to their interpretation of religion in the military.
In another newly addressed area, the JAGs broached the “emerging area” of blogs. Like the response to activists, this was only addressed in the “religious issues” section of the manual. This was probably because, like the response to activists, “recent events” had only brought up the issue of blogs and the Air Force as they related to religion, and Michael Weinstein was probably responsible for that, as well. The most relevant portion of the text:
– Military people have a right to use these sites for religious Read more
In its annual “The Military Commander and the Law,” the Air Force Judge Advocate General‘s School publishes guidance for commanders to help them understand some legal complexities related to their jobs.
For example, the nearly 700-page text contains explanations on issuing Articles 15, how to deal with FOIA, personnel issues, and sections on virtually every issue in which the law may impact a commander’s actions.
More interesting, however, was the new addition in 2010 of what could be best described as “Weinstein Guidance.”
The manual gives commanders new guidance on how to handle advocacy lawyers Read more