The Stanford Progressive, a “left-leaning” student paper which boasts a circulation of “members of the Stanford community,…student residences and…community centers,” recently interviewed Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The interview, laced with profanity and transcription errors, is available here.
To the question, “what are the Officer’s Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade?”, Weinstein opined:
They are blights on America and a disgusting example of extremist prejudice and bigotry in this country.
In the interview Weinstein clearly discriminates between “evangelical” Christians and “dominionist” Christians. He says they both have “religious philosophies” that he “[hates],” and they both Read more
Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times has written an article revisiting the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s complaints over religious content in Army suicide prevention material, as previously discussed here.
The article mentions that Michael Weinstein was able to meet with Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz. It is a potential irony that Schwartz, like Weinstein, is Jewish (a fact not missed at his nomination), and that his class of 1973 at the Air Force Academy was replaced by Weinstein’s class of 1977. Schwartz made no secret of his faith as a cadet and has not indicated that he experienced negative repercussions, while Weinstein claims a disturbing religious discrimination event while a cadet is the motivation behind all he does.
Weinstein reportedly said of the meeting with Schwartz
he [took] it very seriously, [and] he also acknowledged that there is a problem
Weinstein previously called Schwartz a “yes man” unable to “stand up” for what was right:
Because there’s a Jew in there, that’s supposed to make everything fine? It’s not fine. It doesn’t make a difference that he’s there. The reason to me is that he’s a yes man. He’s not going to stand up to do what needs to be done. But we’ll see.
Lichtblau notes that groups that oppose the MRFF fear an overreaction in the opposite direction.
Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC, 3rd District) has introduced a bill that would
ensure that every military chaplain has the prerogative to close a prayer outside of a religious service according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.
Similar legislation failed previously, though it caused negotiations that ultimately resulted in the rescinsion of military “guidelines” that had restricted the content of Chaplains’ prayers.
Mitch Lewis, an Army Methodist Chaplain, wrote an interesting commentary in November 2007 (and recently revisited) on this very subject, presenting a reasoned view that prayers at military ceremonies Read more
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation recently “amended” its lawsuit against the Department of Defense. It made one substantive addition, saying Army Specialist Chalker had
sought relief for his claims by invoking an intra-army administrative process. He has exhausted this alternative remedy but has obtained no substantial relief.
The premise of the cryptically vague statement (that Chalker used the Army’s in-place grievance systems) was already included in the lawsuit, so it does not appear that an amendment was judicially required. The announcement of the changes to the lawsuit–which was only filed approximately three months earlier–did highlight the suit in the press for a short time.
The other changes, upon which the MRFF has focused attention, have been additions to the long list of allegations (unrelated to the primary complaint) of Christian endorsement in the US military, which founder Michael Weinstein says is a “national security threat:”
The military command and control of our nation’s nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional and laser-guided weapons has been unconstitutionally compromised by a tsunami of unbridled fundamentalist Christian exceptionalism, triumphalism and proselytizing. Read more
Two Chaplains have recently come under fire from Michael Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. One of Weinstein’s surrogates, Jason Leopold, has distributed a commentary on two Chaplains, one who was in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. Both were videotaped in TV shows, and it is the content of those videos with which Weinstein finds offense. Read more
A recent Armed Forces Press article notes the efforts by military leaders to stave off increases in military divorce rates. According to the article, approximately 58% of military members are married, and there is an approximately 3.5% divorce rate.
While praising the benefits these programs offer families, officials said they recognize that strong marital and family relationships make better Soldiers.
It also has an important impact on a soldier’s decision to re-enlist…The Army recruits Soldiers, but it retains families.
There are a wide variety of programs, many of which are run by the Chaplaincy. The article includes praise for the US Army’s “Strong Bonds.” Strong Bonds is a Chaplain-run program that has come under fire Read more
UPDATED 14 November 2008
When they say ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’ it’s slanderous…
As noted at the Stars and Stripes, the Secular Coalition for America held a news conference demanding new regulations to “protect young military members from…rampant religious discrimination in the services.”
In their press release, the Secular Coalition notes that one atheist military officer was “thwarted” in his attempt to lodge a complaint against a General officer who “opined that there were ‘no atheists in foxholes.'” The officer “contends this statement qualifies as unlawful discrimination under current Army regulations.”
As with some other complaints of religious issues in the military, the Coalition maintains that the perpetrators are Read more
Prior to dropping its previous lawsuit against the Department of Defense, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a new lawsuit on behalf of an Army soldier who was required to attend military formations at which “sectarian Christian” prayers were delivered.
The relief sought by the MRFF is not that the prayers end, but that the soldier not be required to attend those mandatory formations. The unwieldiness of implementing this relief would have the effect of requiring all mandatory formations (whether in fact or perceived) to be free from sectarian prayer (which the 11th Circuit said would be impossible to define), or simply free from any prayer at all.
In its current filing, the MRFF does not attempt to prove that the prayers advanced a religion Read more