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
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the 11th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that found a Georgia commission’s practice of opening their sessions with prayer was Constitutional. According to the article, the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State claimed that
overtly Christian prayers [with respect to the government] are an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Instead, the court indicated (in its ruling here) that it was not appropriate for the judicial branch to “parse” prayers; and if they did, no one would be able to agree on what was or was not appropriate.
Whether invocations of ‘Lord of Lords’ or ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Mohammed’ are ‘sectarian’ is best left to theologians, not courts of law….We would not know where to begin to demarcate the boundary between sectarian and nonsectarian expressions….Even the [plaintiffs] cannot agree on which expressions are “sectarian.”
The ruling reflects the Supreme Court precendent Read more
As previously noted, CAPT (USN) Neil Block is a Jewish lay leader who was personally involved in the investigation of alleged anti-Semitism in the Fort Benning community.
Now, Block himself is the target of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In an article written by Jason Leopold, Michael Weinstein has called for his “immediate dismissal by Fort Benning” for his comments “trivializing” the incident, which Weinstein calls an “Army hate crime”:
Mr. Block displays a truly alarming and willful reckless disregard for the truth of this tragic Army hate crime and subsequent cover-up…Mr. Block is apparently the current reigning Poster Child for Army religious predator apologists.
[In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Leopold is a frequent advocate for the MRFF, and has received an award from them.]
The vitriol directed toward CAPT Block inspired an open letter [updated link] at Jews in Green.
Also noted at the Religion Clause.
According to the Associated Press, the Army has given non-judicial punishment to a soldier who assaulted a fellow trainee (previous discussions). The assault has been widely reported in concert with the victim’s complaints of discrimination because of his Jewish faith; however, the Army indicates there was no evidence the incidents were related. Michael Weinstein disagreed, saying
Michael Handman was turned into a punching bag for the Army because of his religious faith.
The incidents were also reported at the blog Jews in Green, where CAPT Neil Block, USN (Ret), has commented. He was the retired Jewish officer and local leader brought in to provide an assessment of the situation, and his comments are enlightening.
Also noted at the Religion Clause.