According to a press release, Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has sued the military on behalf of an Army soldier. According to the announcement, an officer harassed Army Specialist Jeremy Hall when he attempted to convene a meeting of atheists. (The text of the suit is not yet available.)
Updated 20 September: The text of the lawsuit is available here. See the new post for latest commentary.
The lawsuit apparently names the Defense Secretary Robert Gates as defendant because the incident is evidence of “a pattern of military practices that discriminate against non-Christians in the military,” which he allegedly permitted in his role as Defense Secretary.
Much like his Academy lawsuit, it appears that Weinstein is attempting to aggrandize a discrete event into a larger opportunity. A niche news article on the suit (which has yet to be seen in the mainstream media) indicated that the assertions meandered from the soldier to other unrelated issues, like alleged military support of civilian Christian organizations as well as the recent Pentagon IG report (previous commentary). Weinstein himself has implied that this goes ‘beyond’ the two men, and said that Read more
President Bush has declared September 7-9 as “National Days of Prayer and Remembrance.” From the press release:
We honor the members of our Armed Forces who died while taking the fight to our adversaries, and we are grateful for those who continue to protect our Nation and our way of life. Their courage, sacrifice, and dedication help preserve our freedom. We pray for their safety, for all those who love them, and for the peace we all seek…
During these days of prayer and remembrance, we reflect on all we have lost and take comfort in each other and in the grace and mercy of our Creator. May God guide us, give us strength and wisdom, and may He continue to bless our great country…
This week’s Airman’s Roll Call, as announced in this article and published as a PDF, summarizes the Air Force religious guidelines as originally published in February of 2006.
The re-publication of the guidelines is interesting because the guidelines were ordered rescinded by act of Congress last year (see the Congressional Conference Committee report, which resulted in the passage of the Defense Authorization Act of 2007).
Addressing the confusion, one Chaplain reported that the Congressional direction was confused to begin with: it directed the rescinsion of the guidelines and the “reinstatement” of AFPD 52-1, which governed the Chaplaincy program. However, the guidelines had nothing to do with AFPD 52-1, and 52-1 had never been superseded or replaced. Finally, the religious guidelines were not a regulation, but a “statement” on the intended atmosphere of the Air Force. Thus, with this latest release, it appears the Air Force is continuing to operate under the revised guidelines, as published in 2006.
High points from the Roll Call (emphasis added):
The religious guidelines…protect the constitutional right of all Airmen to practice their beliefs while respecting the beliefs of others.
Leaders at every level enjoy the same freedom of expression as all Airmen, but must ensure their words and actions are not construed as official, nor endorsing or disapproving of a particular belief.
Airmen are entitled to practice and freely discuss their personal faith beliefs. There is no restriction on voluntary discussions of religion or the exercise of free speech where it is reasonably clear the discussions are personal, not official or coercive.
Joint Ethics Regulation (JER), DOD 5500.7-R 5 C.F.R. section 2635.702
(b) Appearance of governmental sanction.
…an employee shall not use or permit the use of his Government position or title or any authority associated with his public office in a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that his agency or the Government sanctions or endorses his personal activities or those of another…
On 20 July 2007, the Inspector General (IG) of the Pentagon published the report of its investigation of allegations of misconduct by military officers who participated in a “Christian Embassy” promotional video. On or about 4 August the IG released a public version on its website. Shortly thereafter, Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) celebrated its role as the instigator of that investigation nearly 9 months prior. In typical hyperbolic fashion, Weinstein responded by saying
[The report reveals a] long and deep collusion with a fundamentalist, religious missionary organization, the ‘Christian Embassy’. That these senior Pentagon officials control the world’s largest nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal should eviscerate the American public’s trust and confidence in their military and civilian leadership…[The] MRFF intends to file expeditiously a comprehensive Federal lawsuit that will rapaciously pursue legal remedies to the multitude of horrific Constitutional violations this DoD/IG report reveals.
Other organizations were not so convinced. The Family Research Council Read more
An interesting article covers the South Korean response to the homecoming of the 19 remaining hostages held by the Taliban. Notably, there seems to be a backlash to apparent “overzealous proselytizing,” even though
Both Saemmul Presbyterian Church, to which the hostages belong, and the government insisted that the hostages had not been proselytizing, just providing aid. But many religious experts here consider such a distinction meaningless, since South Korean churches provide aid to gain converts.
Why does this matter to the military Christian? There is a growing movement in America that is reflected here by the quoted “many religious experts:” the supposition that Christians can’t separate their “overtly proselytizing ways” from their other actions–whether they be charitable or governmental. That is, Christians can’t help but proselytize, and they must be treated as if they will.
Some people seem to think that if the military forbids proselytizing in its ranks then it must restrict the actions of Christians, because Christians cannot help but proselytize. The cultural view of Christianity bears significant impact on the religious freedom of Christians in the military.
As previously reported on the Religion Clause, TruthOut is reporting that Weinstein’s MRFF is again complaining about an outside Christian organization having access to the Pentagon. This time it was David Kistler’s HOPE ministries.
The article makes it unclear whether it is the theology that is the issue (since much of the article is a mockery of Kistler’s views) or the fact it was a religious organization.
While the writer makes it appear that it is “intuitively obvious” that the Pentagon again violated the ‘Constitutional separation of church and state,’ that is not the case. Chaplains routinely host outside visitors of varied religious persuasions for the spiritual benefit of their servicemen, which is their legal duty.
While Weinstein may disagree, the Constitution and the courts have supported the religious influence of the chaplaincy and its programs in the military.
The Best Intentions…
According to the International Herald Tribune, the US military apologized for offending Afghani Muslims when it gave them soccer balls that had the Saudi flag on it. The Saudi flag has the words Allah and Muhammad on it; those names in any form are considered sacred to Muslims. The thought of kicking those sacred names was apparently offensive.
Soccer (or football, outside the US), is wildly popular in most other parts of the world, and has even been a source of national pride in an otherwise sometimes fractious Iraq.
A local paper covers the perspectives of Chaplain Douglas Etter, a Presbyterian Chaplain in the Army National Guard, and Commander Jon Cutler, a Navy Jewish Chaplain, in Military Chaplains Serve Diverse Roles. (Scroll down if the screen formatting appears blank.) With thanks to Religion Clause for the point out.