Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, recently published a column hailing a victory for religious freedom that has mostly gone unnoticed — but it is not insignificant.
On January 16th — Religious Freedom Day — the media widely covered President Trump’s proposed changes to federal regulations that would protect prayer and religious exercise in schools. Less widely discussed was the change to the discriminatory treatment of religious organizations within the Federal services.
Under President Obama, faith-based organizations that Read more
Curtis Weinstein, third from left, during happier days.
On the Facebook page of the oddly-named Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Curtis Weinstein — a former Air Force officer and heir apparent to his father’s antipathy toward all things Christian — asserted that by not operating their stores on Sundays, the owners of Chick-Fil-A are “pushing their personal religious beliefs on their workers…and even their customers”:
[T]he main issue is that the owners are pushing their personal religious beliefs on their workers by forcing them to close during certain times/days and even their customers. I only seem to want Chick-Gil-A [sic] on a Sunday and can never get them, lol! Why can’t the owners pursue their beliefs without making them systemic within their business, this affecting everyone?
The accusation is inaccurate, of course. Truett Cathy said being closed on Sunday was his way of honoring the Lord; what their employees and customers choose to do is their own business, and outside Chick-Fil-A’s control. The fact the store is closed has no bearing whatsoever on the religious beliefs or exercise of their employees — except, perhaps, to free them up to actually practice their faith on Sunday, if they so choose. It is a “neutral” viewpoint, if you will.
Weinstein’s solution to his self-made problem isn’t clear. Presumably, the government needs to Read more
Last July, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF complained to the US military that Shields of Strength was combining US military trademarks with Bible verses on novelty dog tags. SoS did have authorization to use the military trademarks, but the Army told SoS to stop to prevent the “negative press.” A few weeks ago, the Marines did the same thing. First Liberty has come to their defense.
In an op-ed published at the Military Times earlier this week, First Liberty’s Mike Berry told the story:
Kenny Vaughan started Shields of Strength (“SoS”). SoS is a small, faith-based company from Texas that produces military-themed items inscribed with encouraging Bible verses. For more than two decades, Kenny has been making these inspirational replica dog tags for service members and first responders. To date, SoS has donated hundreds of thousands of its replica dog tags to military units…
Over the years, SoS replica dog tags became so popular and so nearly ubiquitous that, according to author and historian Stephen Mansfield, “aside from the official insignias they wear, [the SoS dog tag] is the emblem most often carried by members of the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Berry and First Liberty sent Read more
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Gen John “Jay” Raymond as the first Chief of Staff of the Space Force. As covered at SpaceNews, the event was notable because the United States has never had a Space Force before; in fact, the US hasn’t had a major Service added to the force since the Air Force became an independent Service in 1947. It was a historic event.
NPR, though, noted the other highlight of the event in a parenthetical aside [emphasis added]:
With one hand placed on a Bible whose “official” blessing on Sunday sparked sharp criticism, Raymond was sworn in by Vice President Pence at the vice president’s ceremonial office.
Clearly, the government was moved by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaint about the Bible yesterday — probably because it was “full-throated” — and completely ignored him.
Contrary to Weinstein’s all-caps claim that military officers are “NOT ever ‘sworn-in’ to their positions”, the narrator of the ceremony noted the oath was required under Article VI of the Constitution (as an “executive officer” of the United States) and is prescribed in Title V of the US Code: Read more
The National Cathedral published a photograph of the “blessing of a Bible” to be used for swearing-in within the new Space Force. The ceremony was featured in the Washington Post. Pictured were Rev. Randolph Hollerith, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Rev. Carl Wright of the Episcopal Church, and US Air Force Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (MajGen) Steven Schaick:
The gift they gave Chaplain Schaick was a King James Bible donated by The Museum of the Bible, which is in Washington, D.C., a few miles from the National Cathedral.
“Accept this Bible which we dedicate here today for the United States Space Force,” intones the Rev. Randolph Hollerith, dean of the National Cathedral, “that all may so diligently search your holy word and find in it the wisdom that leads to peace and salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.”
This was all too much for Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who issued a “full-throated” response: Read more
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), which runs the retail store base exchanges on Army posts and Air Force bases, responded to Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaint about the religious-themed Christmas candy he’d found in the Colorado Springs area Peterson AFB.
Earlier this month, Weinstein’s lawyer Donald Rehkopf had asserted that selling the candy was “illegal” and violated the US Constitution.
As quoted by the MRFF’s Chris Rodda, AAFES said they would not re-stock the candy after their “very small quantity” was exhausted due to “limited historical demand.” (One of the pictures provided by the MRFF even had the red clearance mark-down sticker on Read more
Brandon Trent East of the Alabama National Guard and Dalton Woodward of the Georgia National Guard were recently discharged over their connections to white supremacist groups.
Oddly, they were both supposedly pagans — and white supremacists:
Earlier in 2019, the Atlanta Antifacists group published a report saying East and Woodward were leaders of the Norse pagan group Ravensblood Kindred. The group is part of the Asatru Folk Assembly, which researchers say endorses white supremacy.
East said he had just been looking for an alternative to Christianity: 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