The US military has just updated its regulations with the intent of improving the protection of military religious freedom.
Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1300.17 was previously known as “Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services,” but is now re-titled simply “Religious Liberty in the Military Services” (PDF). The new DoDI title sets the tone for a policy that presupposes religious liberty, rather than treats it as an outlier that may sometimes be “accommodated.”
That change in tone mimics the tone change in religious liberty policies in the Air Force – which may not be a coincidence. The new DoDI was approved by Undersecretary of Defense Matthew Donovan – a former Air Force fighter pilot who has been both an Undersecretary of the Air Force and even the Acting Secretary of the Air Force in the past few years, during which the tenor (if not always the actions) of Air Force policy leaned toward religious freedom.
It seems President Trump’s selection of Undersecretary Donovan may have set the stage for improving religious liberty in the US military.
As to the DoDI itself, it notably Read more
Chris Rodda has long been a “creative” writer, despite her sometimes claim to be an apparent amateur historian. While she has been quick to call out the errors of others with whom she disagrees, she ignores the errors of those who are on her side. She has also published a bevy of, to put it nicely, misleading writings. For someone so quick to call others “liars,” she has a very unique view of the truth.
With that in mind, Rodda published a blog yesterday with an attention-grabbing title:
National Defense Authorization Act to Include Military Training on How to Force Religion on Others.
Like much of what she writes, though, her title wasn’t true. (Most obviously, the NDAA hasn’t left either side of Congress yet, much less gone through conference committee or to the President. In other words, the NDAA doesn’t “include” anything yet.)
The short version of a long, meandering blog (Rodda has never been one for being succinct), is that Rodda is upset about Senate bill 4049, which was introduced in the Senate only a couple of weeks ago. Within it, the Senate requires the US military to conduct training on “Religious Accommodation” that must include:
- Federal statutes, DoD Instructions, Service regulations regarding religious liberty and accommodation for members of the Armed Forces
- The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993
- Section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013
- Section 528 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016
Of that content, Rodda takes issue only with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA is fairly short, and it says the government cannot “substantially burden” exercise of religion, with some Read more
The case of former US Marine LCpl Monifa Sterling, who made national news when her court-martial included charges related to posting a Bible verse on her desk, has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Sterling was a substandard Marine, but the straw that broke the camel’s back to get her court-martialed was posting, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” a paraphrase of Isaiah 54:17…
Religious liberty lawyers at First Liberty Institute agreed that Sterling’s posting Bible verses is protected by law…[and] recruit[ed] one of the greatest Supreme Court litigators in recent decades, former Solicitor General Paul Clement, to lead their team…
Sterling’s case has become a fascinating discriminator for Read more
Kelly Shackelford of the First Liberty Institute wrote at the National Review that the US Supreme Court needs to review the case of court-martialed former US Marine Monifa Sterling:
Americans serving in the military lost some of their rights earlier this month when the military’s highest court ruled that a Marine has no rights under an important religious freedom law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
Shackelford explained where he believed the appeals court improperly diverged from the appropriate application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Read more
It’s been long established that Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s awkwardly-named Military “Religious Freedom” Foundation actually fights against the religious freedom of Christians in the US military. Examples abound of cases in which a reasonable, principled religious liberty group should have stood up in defense of an Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor, but Weinstein either refused to defend the troop because they were Christian or outright attacked their religious liberty instead.
Fortunately, genuine religious liberty groups have stood in the gap for such Christians — and have defended them even from Weinstein himself. One of the more notable groups is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has a long history of, unlike Weinstein, consistent, principled defense of religious freedom regardless of a person’s particular religious belief.
(To wit, the Becket Fund has been fighting for the right of Sikhs to serve in the US military while still being able to practice their religious faith; Weinstein has so far refused to do so, tacitly acknowledging that a “win” for the Sikhs would ultimately be a win for other faiths — including Christians.)
More recently, Mikey Weinstein tried to attack the religious liberty of Read more
UPDATE: Various media outlets published coverage of the hearing, which generally appeared to go well for Sterling. Noted at the Religion Clause, FoxNews, Washington Post, Stars and Stripes, ChristianPost, Bretibart, the Daily Caller, and NC Register, among others. The ACLJ discussed it here.
The Family Research Council announced retired US Army LtGen Jerry Boykin would attend the oral arguments today for the appeal of US v Sterling, in which former Marine Monifa Sterling is attempting to defend the public display of Bible verses on her desk.
In this case, the court will decide whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects a Marine…lance corporal [who] desired to post the verses to give her inspiration and strength, but military superiors ordered her to remove the verses she posted.
A lower court refused to protect her religious expression, interpreting RFRA in a constrained manner to protect only certain types of religious exercise. FRC and numerous other religious freedom advocates are urging the court to overturn this harmful decision.
In point of fact, a lot of people — including 10 US states — filed briefs in support Read more
The Alliance Defending Freedom and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty have filed an amicus brief on behalf of court-martialed Marine Monifa Sterling. Among other things, Sterling was convicted of disobeying orders for refusing to remove references to a Bible verse from her desk.
In short, the brief (PDF) calls on the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to overturn the lower court ruling that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply, which essentially negated Sterling’s defense on that point. The effect, said the ADF’s Daniel Briggs, could be a chilling of religious Read more
The recent dismissal of the lawsuit filed by US Air Force TSgt Layne Wilson against the Air Force revealed some interesting details about how and why he was disciplined for expressing opposition to same-sex marriage.
As noted previously, the ruling (PDF) indicated the controversy started with an email:
On December 2, 2012, Plaintiff Layne Wilson…sent an email, using his military email account, to an official at the United States Military Academy at West Point objecting to a same-sex wedding held at the military academy’s chapel…
As quoted in the ruling, the email said: Read more