In a fascinating story that was apparently overwhelmed by other news events, US Rep Trent Franks (R-Az) had proposed an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would have required the US military to perform a “strategic assessment” on “violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine.”
The amendement was recently defeated 208-217.
Fellow Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) had an unusual take on the proposal:
“If…we’re going to study one religion and only one, we’re going to look at their leaders and put them on a list — only them — and you are going to talk about what’s orthodox practice and what’s unorthodox, then you are putting extra scrutiny on that religion,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is Muslim…
“Nobody is saying you can’t study terrorism,” Ellison said during floor debate. “You can study what motivates people to commit acts of terrorism. And we should. But we don’t — not equally. The fact is that this amendment singled out and stigmatizes one religious group.”
Having an arm of the US government perform a study and assessment on religion is Read more
As the Trump Department of Defense reconsiders the decision by the Obama Administration to allow “transgender” individuals to serve in the US military, indications of growing opposition even within the Armed Services are undercutting claims that transgenders in the military would be a “non-event.”
US Rep Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 that would have prohibited the military from accepting those who describe themselves as transgender. Representative Hunter agreed with her:
“This (policy) doesn’t make (troops) more effective or efficient or deadly. What it does is distract everybody,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who served with the Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I couldn’t imagine having to share showers with somebody that was a girl and didn’t have a surgery to become a man but kept the girl stuff and now she’s with a bunch of guys.”
Hunter’s comments were criticized by his political opponents: Read more
In 2012, then-US Army Major Ray Bradley complained that he was a humanist but was unable to put “humanist” in his military records as his “religion” in his military records (and reflected on his dog tags).
In 2014, the US Army added “humanist” to the list of faith codes.
In a new memo dated 27 March 2017 (PDF), the DoD Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs published a change that established standardized DoD-wide faith codes across the force — including “Humanist.”
For his part, Bradley had originally envisioned the recognition as the first step to achieving “lay leader” status as a humanist (with humanist “chaplain” to follow). That’s the same conclusion for which Jason Torpy pined when his MAAF reported on this new memo.
Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service — sitting 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
The Russell Amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act was removed in the congressional conference committee. The conference version of the bill has since been passed by the House.
A few LGBT activist organizations celebrated this as a “victory” — though Republicans in Congress essentially said they could avoid the Read more
The US Department of Defense Inspector General recently revealed it had ordered the Air Force to investigate the content of a chaplain’s prayer.
The context was the now well-known complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein against US Air Force Chief of Chaplains (MajGen) Dondi Costin. In response to Weinstein’s complaint, the DoD IG said [emphasis added]:
We asked the Air Force IG to examine both the act of giving the benediction and its content. After conducting interviews and gathering additional facts, the Air Force IG found that Maj Gen Costin’s benediction was a generic, non-sectarian prayer seeking God’s blessing on the event’s honoree…
This is a shocking revelation, particularly in light of who did it. What business does the DoD Inspector General have analyzing the content of a chaplain’s prayer? Under what authority Read more
A variety of religious and liberty groups have called on Congress to reverse the military’s decision to allow transgender service, saying:
This [policy] is an affront to the American people and is certain to undermine readiness, recruitment, and retention in the military. Thus, we urge you to halt the implementation…
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell took an act of Congress because the ban on homosexual service was part of US law. (Many forget that DADT was the policy used to avoid enforcing the law banning homosexuals from the US military.) The military could not change its policy without Congress changing the law.
But the ban on transgenderism was more basic. It was simply Read more
It’s been in the paperwork for months, but the “exciting” political environment has overshadowed the potential religious liberty fight brewing in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. The House version of the NDAA contains a simple, if seemingly obtuse, statement known as the Russell Amendment (via Rep. Steve Russell, R-OK, who offered the amendment):
Any branch or agency of the Federal Government shall, with respect to any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution, or religious society that is a recipient of or offeror for a Federal Government contract, subcontract, grant, purchase order, or cooperative agreement, provide protections and exemptions consistent with sections 702(a) and 703(e)(2) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a) and 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(e)(2)) and section 103(D) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 USC 12113(D)).
The short version of the story is that in 2014 President Obama issued an Executive Order that required anyone wanting to do business with the Federal government to affirmatively state they hire without regard to “sexual orientation or gender identity.” That could very well affect a large number of contractors who do hire with regard to such issues — because they hire based on the requirements of their religious faith.
The Russell Amendment basically Read more