A Memorial Day tribute to veterans is under fire from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State because one of its sponsors is a religiously oriented organization. In their article, the AU says the “U.S. military participation in a three-day evangelical Christian gathering in Georgia violates the U.S. Constitution.” The Air Force also officially made an announcement (which, notably, makes no reference to religion) of the event. The Stone Mountain announcement also mentions religious organizations only as sponsors of the event along with a local TV station, General Motors, and an auto parts store. The Task Force Patriot site, which is the organizer of the event, goes out of its way to say that:
Task Force Patriot does not attempt to draw members from their present church or fellowship. Task Force Patriot is not a political advocacy group, or combat club. All military veterans, who served this country in a time of peace or conflict, are welcome.
Mr. Michael Weinstein delivers his standard lines in a recent interview with the LoneStar Iconoclast. (Article contains vulgar language.) Interestingly, he asks the question:
…when Jerry Faldwell [sic] or Pat Robertson come out with eight million bumper stickers saying, “Vote Christian,” you tell me how that isn’t insubordination, sedition, or treason?
Multiple press releases announced the settlement of the lawsuit against the Veterans’ Administration that sought to add the pentacle to the list of “approved” symbols of faith. Under the terms of the settlement, the VA will add the symbol to the list. The VA must also replace headstones previously provided to Wiccans with no marker. Ironically, the AU has claimed ‘victory,’ though this agreement did not meet the AU’s previous request that the “unconstitutional” list of emblems be abandoned.
According to his website, Mr. Weinstein is scheduled to debate Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the ACLJ, at the Air Force Academy on 24 April. The Academy website says that the debate is to answer the question, “What is the appropriate balance between religious freedom and official neutrality in the military?” Sekulow’s announcement is here.
President Bush announces the annual National Day of Prayer here. The day will be celebrated on May 3rd this year. An interesting history of the tradition is contained in former President George H. W. Bush’s 1989 proclamation:
Since the approval of the joint resolution of the Congress on April 17, 1952, calling for the designation of a specific day to be set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer, recognition of such a day has become a cherished annual event. Each President since then has proclaimed a National Day of Prayer annually under the authority of that resolution, continuing a tradition that actually dates back to the Continental Congress, which issued the first official proclamation for a National Day of Prayer on July 12, 1775. By Public Law 100-307, the first Thursday in May of each year has been set aside as a National Day of Prayer.
See President Bush’s Easter message here.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State posted a scathing article on former Navy Chaplain Klingenschmitt. They included quotes from a letter written by his former commander asserting Klingenschmitt’s “dishonesty.” The AU hailed the former chaplain as a vaunted martyr of the religious right. More interesting, in the public comments on the article, both Klingenschmitt and his former commander have faced off with scathing rebuttals.