Update: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council released the following statement in response to General Welsh’s testimony [italics original]:
“The perception is that Mikey Weinstein is setting the policy for religious expression in the U.S. Air Force, as evidenced by the growing number of incidents of religious hostility toward Christians. Instead of denying reality, General Welsh should have taken the opportunity in Friday’s hearing to discuss how he would bring the Air Force into compliance with the new DOD instructions protecting religious expression…
“Family Research Council and the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition will not stand by while the Air Force Chief tries to evade the reality of these attacks on religious expression. We will continue to do all we can to protect the rights of the men and women serving in the Air Force and in all the uniformed services.”
A visibly frustrated General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, fielded questions about religious liberty during what was supposed to be a congressional committee meeting on the Fiscal Year 2015 Air Force budget:
The single biggest frustration I’ve had in this job is the perception that somehow there is religious persecution inside the United States Air Force. It is not true.
Interestingly, the words “religious persecution” were General Welsh’s characterization, not the Congressman’s.
To be fair, that statement may be technically accurate in Read more
The Liberty Institute, which has represented SMSgt Philip Monk in his allegation of religious discrimination against the US Air Force, announced that SMSgt Monk had been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for the time period covering his last assignment:
Monk’s attorney, Mike Berry of Liberty Institute, says the Air Force has recognized the outstanding job Monk did as first sergeant…
Berry sees the award as a testament to Monk’s courage and conviction…
“For a long time his future and even his military retirement and pension were kind of up in the air and we weren’t really sure what was going to happen to him,” Berry continues. “And yet now we have the Air Force coming out and awarding him this prestigious Read more
Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.
The Christian Post, like many sites, focused on the apparent ability to wear religious accoutrements:
The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.
While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.
The US Navy appeared to try to quell Read more
US Air Force SMSgt Philip Monk was the unit First Sergeant whose commander allegedly “agreed” that he should step away from his duties earlier than planned because he was unable to say that opposition to homosexuality was de facto discrimination in the military.
The Air Force found his allegations of religious discrimination “unsubstantiated” because “religion was never discussed between the two.” The Air Force released portions of an investigation alleging he made false, but not punishable, statements, though it has not yet released anything about his commander’s statements, including the allegation she called a fellow Air Force officer — and chaplain — a “bigot” because he did not affirm homosexuality.
“The right thing to do is often the most difficult thing to do…
We weren’t called to do what’s easiest for our career. [We’re] called to do the right thing.”
In a commentary entitled “Every Airman Counts: Treating each other with dignity and respect,” General Larry Spencer, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, nobly attempted to laud the virtue of respect. He recounts the story of a fellow Airman using the “N word” during a flag football game many years ago:
I was certainly no stranger to harsh language or “trash talk.” However, this was different—and it literally hurt…I was an American Airman and I didn’t expect that kind of verbal attack from a fellow Airman…
Several Airmen, on both sides of the ball, spoke up — forcefully. They chastised the offender and made it clear they did not approve of his outbursts or attitude. The referee, who was an NCO, also stepped forward and not only ejected him from the game, but directed him to report to his first sergeant the following day. The next day, not only did my teammates (on both teams) go out of their way to apologize for this single Airman’s behavior, but the Airman who committed the act also personally apologized.
Gen Spencer later said Read more
An Air Force investigation was initiated after SMSgt Philip Monk filed a complaint of religious discrimination, claiming he was relieved and reassigned earlier than planned after a conversation with his commanding officer, Maj Elisa Valenzuela. The Air Force issued a press release about the investigation, saying the charges of religious discrimination were not substantiated:
The investigation, initiated Aug. 15 by Col. Mark Camerer, 37th Training Wing commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, found the claim unsubstantiated…
“The weight of the evidence shows that religion was never discussed between the two,” Camerer said in an Air Education and Training Command release.
“In the end, this is a case about command authority, good order and discipline, and civil rights — not religious freedoms,” he said.
Interestingly, no one ever publicly claimed “religion was…discussed between the two,” but it raises the question as to whether one must explicitly voice a religious belief for it to be actionable. The investigation also made an interesting comment about the statements at the heart of the controversy [emphasis added]: Read more
A coalition of Christian leaders met with Air Force leadership and received assurances that they would investigate issues of religious liberty which do not “reflect Air Force policy:”
We appreciate [the Pentagon’s] offer to review decisions that do not reflect Air Force policy made by commanders at various bases. At their request, we will report future events and concerns directly to Air Force leadership.
Retired LtGen Jerry Boykin, retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews, Kellie Fiedorek of the ADF, and talk radio host Sandy Rios met with LtGen Richard Harding, Read more
Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Philip Monk, who had filed a complaint of religious discrimination, had apparently inspired an Air Force investigation into his claims. Now it seems he is being investigated for making a “false official statement.”
The Air Force has taken the first steps to criminally investigate Monk for talking to the media about his situation…
On Aug. 27, an Air Force investigator met with Monk and his attorney, Mike Berry from Liberty Institute. Berry expected it to be a routine meeting to take a statement from his client, but during the meeting the investigator said that he would read Monk his Miranda rights.
Monk was advised that he is being investigated Read more