As has now been widely reported, US Army SPC Cesilia Valdovinos — who converted to Islam in March 2016 — has claimed discrimination over her wear of the hijab, for which she was granted a religious accommodation just last summer. According to Valdovinos, a senior enlisted leader required her to remove her hijab to prove her hair was being correctly worn underneath it. (While the accommodation was granted, she is still required to maintain certain standards, even under the hijab.) The reason for the “inspection” was the belief her hair was not properly maintained while under her hijab, as was required. When she removed the hijab, her hair was, indeed, down — though Valdovinos says it was because it was held up by the hijab itself. Valdovinos apparently found this exchange inappropriate and filed an EO complaint.
There are aspects to this story on both sides that Read more
Disgraced former Marine LCpl Monifa Sterling’s appeal to the US Supreme Court has been denied.
After being court-martialed on an array of specifications, Sterling had teamed with the First Liberty Institute to appeal a charge related to her posting of Bible verses at her desk. The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces had denied her appeal — with a dissent. Her appeal to the Supreme Court was the final step.
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein was giddy, awkwardly managing to claim this constituted a win for “religious freedom.”
Even more awkwardly, Weinstein was taken to task by his own supporters for announcing that the denial of cert by the Supreme Court had been “unanimous.” The truth is that no one knows how the individual justices decided on that request for cert. Weinstein was Read more
Court-martialed Marine LCpl Monifa Sterling has appealed to the US Supreme Court, alleging her religious liberty was violated when she was convicted for not removing Bible verses posted to her desk.
The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear the case — and there are already significant briefs being filed in her support.
Critics like Michael “Mikey” Weinstein have tried to frame her case as a Christian trying to inappropriately “expose” others to their beliefs — and thus deserving of court-martial.
However, people who actually support religious freedom — rather than advocate discrimination against Christians as Weinstein does — are coming out in support of Sterling.
This includes a substantial number of significant and high profile non-Christians. Those supporting Sterling’s case with amicus briefs include: Read more
Carl Forsling, a retired Marine MV-22 pilot, recently took to Task and Purpose to criticize the current Supreme Court appeal of court-martialed Marine LCpl Monifa Sterling. One part of Sterling’s case, as you’ll recall, centered on her decision to post a paraphrased Bible verse on her desk — which she was ordered to take down. Forsling opines:
Sterling worked in a customer-service job at an ID center, so people conducting their official business had to read the verse. This made effectively made something that was supposedly for her own personal inspiration into proselytization.
To quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word…” How does a posting a verse from Isaiah translate into an attempt to convert other people to a religion? In short, it doesn’t, but claiming that Read more
Just as in the past couple of years, issues of military religious freedom have generally been incorporated in larger societal issues in most groups’ “top ten” civil/religious liberty issues for the year.
For example, Howard Friedman at the Religion Clause noted the “transgender rights” stories at #3 without specifically mentioning the (substantial) military side to that story. That said, at #6 he included the “battle over religious displays” and specifically included “Latin crosses as part of veterans’ memorials”.
The Baptist Joint Committee, a politically left-leaning group, included the controversy over the Russell Amendment to the 2017 NDAA at #6. (The BJC opposed the proposed legislation.)
Some other notable but unmentioned events from the year include lawsuits filed and exemptions granted for Sikhs in the military, the national discussion over Bible verses posted by court-martialed Marine LCpl Monifa Sterling, or the Air Force reconsidering its policies after retired Air Force SMSgt Oscar Rodriguez was thrown out of a ceremony while reciting a religiously-tinged flag-folding script.
With that in mind, the most read articles from 2016 on ChristianFighterPilot.com Read more
Rabbi Hanoch Teller has continued his now long-running series on Jews in the US military whose religious exercise, and their interaction with the military leadership, ultimately set the stage for military religious freedom today.
In Part VIII, Teller expounds on some of the backstory to Rabbi Goldman’s attempt to wear a yarmulke in uniform, highlighting the military’s need to have a “compelling interest” and Read more
The case of former US Marine LCpl Monifa Sterling, who made national news when her court-martial included charges related to posting a Bible verse on her desk, has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Sterling was a substandard Marine, but the straw that broke the camel’s back to get her court-martialed was posting, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” a paraphrase of Isaiah 54:17…
Religious liberty lawyers at First Liberty Institute agreed that Sterling’s posting Bible verses is protected by law…[and] recruit[ed] one of the greatest Supreme Court litigators in recent decades, former Solicitor General Paul Clement, to lead their team…
Sterling’s case has become a fascinating discriminator for Read more
People for the American Way, a politically left-wing/liberal organization, recently criticized a Family Research Council email that cited attacks on military religious freedom. PFAW’s complaint was that the stories FRC’s President Tony Perkins cited were, in their words, “easily debunked.”
As evidence, they linked to other online articles that did not debunk FRC’s stories.
For example, PFAW linked to an Americans United article that claimed Army Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn was not, in fact, sanctioned for discussion of his faith. But he indisputably was given paperwork for mentioning his faith, and the AU article doesn’t actually “debunk” the claim — it only criticizes the claim, without detracting from those facts.
PFAW similarly linked to another left-wing site that criticized Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who was nearly run out of the Navy. The linked article cited the Navy commander’s initial accusations as fact — and neither that site nor PFAW bothered to mention that the Navy ultimately denied the attempt to kick Chaplain Modder out. In oversimplified terms, the complaint was invalidated. The linked article also quoted Read more