Each Tuesday morning a group of Marines meets at Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar mess hall to discuss a book chapter applying their faith to their lives. The informal group is an excellent example of military members simply choosing to meet, encourage and challenge each other, and fellowship together with those of like mind.
The group is made up of all ranks, including a Master Gunnery Sgt and a Colonel.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Isaac T. Black…[said] “Wanting to study something with a spiritual aspect is what brought us together.”
Currently the group is studying the book Read more
The US Naval Academy practice of conducting a noon-meal prayer is making its near-annual trek through the media. This time, Talbot Manvel, an “adjunct instructor” at Annapolis, wrote an article in the Baltimore Sun saying the USNA puts “tradition ahead of the Constitution.”
So how is the academy defying the Constitution? It has established a religious practice: prayer at its mandatory noon meal for its midshipmen (students). They are marched into the mess hall, called to attention to listen to announcements, and then to prayer by a chaplain before sitting to eat. They are not permitted to leave, and thus they are forced to listen.
(Manvel becomes the latest Naval Academy instructor to publicly malign his employer.) Manvel’s article is rife with error. He cites Mellen v. Bunting, in which the 4th District Court held mealtime prayers at VMI were unConstitutional — a ruling the Supreme Court declined to review. However, he ignores the ruling’s own qualifier: Read more
The Air Force Times reports that the recent team led by General (ret) Patrick Gamble to assess the religious climate at the Air Force Academy found cadets were actually more fed up with bad press than they were at issue with their religious freedoms:
Air Force Academy cadets are happy overall with their level of religious freedom there but are distressed by the “constant negative press” the academy receives…
The AFTimes cited the MRFF as the source of the report, as it has not been publicly released; however, the AFTimes appears to have come to quite a different conclusion Read more
Pictures of the US military arriving in disaster areas and providing aid and comfort are ubiquitous. They are so prevalent, in fact, some people forget the US military is not a humanitarian or aid organization. While they’ve been known to distribute MREs or other military-style aid in response to crises, the military often simply provides a conduit for other agencies who are better equipped to provide aid.
Such was the case in Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11th. The relief effort notably included C-17s flying into Sendai, Japan, in the first such delivery of emergency aid in the region. The US Air Force aircraft were loaded with nearly 100 tons of emergency aid supplies…from Samaritan’s Purse. As noted in the official release:
A C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson…download[ed] supplies, including four pallets of water and six pallets of blankets and food from Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Japan Mission Center in Osaka and other church partners in Japan.
Members of the US military helped unload the charity’s 747, then load four Read more
Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation has a lengthy but thorough discussion entitled “A Clash of Integrities: Moral and Religious Liberty in the Armed Forces.” The article discusses the controversy over homosexuality in the military, from the initial creation of the policy most commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to its current state. His analysis is thorough, and he doesn’t mince words:
The repeal of the 1993 law prohibiting open homosexuality in the military poses significant risk for military service members and chaplains who, as matters of religious or moral conviction, hold to traditional values regarding marriage and sexual behavior. The [Pentagon] report…[does] not allay concerns that the religious liberty and free speech rights of these service members and chaplains will be compromised to the detriment of their military careers.
Donovan notes the controversy that resulted in Rigdon v Perry (noted here) is precedent for the current repeal plan to cause conflict in the military.
Perhaps out of pragmatism, Read more
US Army Chaplain (Col) Mike Lembke, having returned from his third tour in Iraq, recently spoke to the 19th annual Four Chaplains Prayer Breakfast in York, Pennsylvania. The local article notes Chaplain Lembke has “emphasized religious unity throughout his career.”
Throughout his career he’s found his main emphasis is to create religious acceptance within units. Lembke said he’s work alongside Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist chaplains – each caring for soldiers’ needs and working together for unity. Read more
In late 2009 this site noted the hypocrisy of Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation over its treatment of Chaplain (LtCol) Gary Hensley. Weinstein’s researcher, Chris Rodda, said a sermon given by Hensley in a military chapel was “of course…permissible,” while at the same time the MRFF used video of the sermon as a fundraising prop in a list of “violations.” As has been demonstrated here before, it wasn’t ironic Weinstein was raising money at the expense of the religious freedom he claims to defend.
That article noted Weinstein has reaped heavily from the “non-profit” he founded and runs, allowing him to take home a paycheck of more than $250,000 in 2008 — nearly half of everything his “foundation” received (while Rodda simultaneously begged for donations, claiming Weinstein didn’t “even pay himself a salary”).
Weinstein seemed to take umbrage at the publication of his public financial data and threatened to sue this site for defamation. He apparently thought it was damaging to his reputation for people to know 46% of his “non-profit’s” funds went directly to him — a shocking number when compared to reputable non-profits as documented at Charity Navigator, for example. The legal threat seemed to be a weak attempt at intimidation, as it was obvious Weinstein had no viable case and he never moved on the legal threat (though he did file a frivolous complaint with the military, and he has repeated the open-ended threat). Of course, while he dispenses vitriol with ease, Weinstein apparently wilts in the face of criticism, as he has repeatedly issued legal threats against those who have the gall to point out his hypocrisy.
To the point, Weinstein’s own public documents showed his significant pay, the re-publication of which apparently disturbed him.
It seems Weinstein didn’t learn his lesson.
The very next year, Michael Weinstein, the sole-paid officer of his self-created Read more
As noted previously, Chaplain (Capt) Somya Malasri recently celebrated the Buddhist Vesak at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Chaplain Malasri is reportedly the only active duty Buddhist Chaplain in the US Army. (Buddhist Chaplain (Lt) Thomas Dyer is in the Army National Guard.)
Like Chaplains of other faiths, Malasri’s presence provides a unique support for members in the military of his faith:
Part of [Chaplain’s Malasri’s] service to others includes providing weekly Buddhist services on base. Spc. Lawrence Ross…attends regularly.
“(It gives me) a sense of belonging, where a group can connect without any animosity of judging,” he said.
Ross, who became a Buddhist in 2008, says that it has helped him become a better Soldier and that having a Buddhist presence on base helps people see another side of the Army.
“It’s not all about kicking down doors and killing people,” he said. “It’s all about helping people. Bottom line.”
Malasri has an interesting take on the apparent contradiction of a Buddhist Chaplain/Soldier — a religion stereotypically “peaceful.” Read more