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“Revolt” at the Academy?

USAFA ChapelMikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), is again attacking religious freedom. This time the attack has been provoked at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Many of the cadets there are outraged by the attack, and the response has led Weinstein to characterize their actions as a “revolt.” He is threatening the Academy with a lawsuit unless his demands are met.

The controversy began when a cadet posted a verse from the New Testament (Galatians 2:20) on a whiteboard. Weinstein claims that 33 individuals at the Academy, 29 cadets and 4 faculty and staff, reported the verse to MRFF but did not feel comfortable reporting it to the Academy’s leadership. He claims the verse was posted for “two hours and nine minutes” before it was removed after his call. The Academy admitted this past Wednesday that a cadet leader removed the verse that was displayed outside of his dorm room because it offended non-Christians and could “cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality.” Several of the cadets informed Todd Starnes that the verse had been posted several months ago, and that many considered it a “source of inspiration.” After the cadet removed the verse, several other cadets posted verses from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Quran on their whiteboards – which Weinstein considers a “revolt” that needs to be suppressed.

Weinstein maintains that if the verse had been posted in the cadet’s room, it would not have been an issue. Rather, he claims it is “about the time, the place, and the manner” of the posting. He argues that posting the verse outside of a dormitory door is unacceptable and illegal because the hallway is part of the “working squadron area,” a public location where cadets assemble. He believes the verse on the personal whiteboard “created a hostile environment at the Academy.”

A spokesperson for the Academy, Lt Col Brus Vidal, stated, “The whiteboards are for both official and personal use, but when a concern was raised we addressed it and the comment was taken down.” He remarked that there is a “gray area” when it comes to a cadet’s personal room and the hallway, where the verse was posted. He also stated the whiteboards are utilized for both personal and official use. Lt Col Vidal further stated there was no misconduct on the part of the cadet in question, and that the cadet will not be punished. However, Weinstein disagreed with that assessment. He believes the incident displayed “absolute misconduct” and that the cadet should be punished. He remarked, “It clearly elevated one religious faith [fundamentalist Christianity] over all others at an already virulently hyper-fundamentalist Christian institution. It massively poured fundamentalist Christian gasoline on an already raging out-of-control conflagration of fundamentalist Christian tyranny, exceptionalism and supremacy at USAFA.”

Major General Jerry Boykin (USA, ret.), inquired, “What about the rights of the Christian cadets who have a constitutional right to express their individual faith?” He then stated, “If a scripture scares the faculty this much, then it is unlikely that they will be very effective when confronted by a committed enemy who is willing to die for his or her beliefs.” Boykin accused the Academy of violating the Constitutional rights of the cadets.

Several cadets contacted Starnes, requesting anonymity to discuss the matter. According to him, these cadets believe Christians are being treated unfairly. One of the unnamed cadets stated, “It’s been suggested that we keep our faith to ourselves. It’s even too risky to go out into the hallway and talk to a Christian friend about your faith. It’s because there are people here who are so easily offended. If someone overheard us talking about Christianity, they could file a complaint. They could say we were having that discussion in a public space.” Another cadet stated, “It’s gotten to the point where you can’t walk to class without stepping on somebody’s toes.” Other cadets noted they are fed up with the “uber-sensitivity” at the Academy. One cadet said, “People are so apt to be offended by something that is totally respectful. If you read the verse the guy put on his door – it’s a personal expression of faith. There’s nothing disrespectful about that at all.”

Weinstein vows to take the Academy to court unless every cadet who wrote a religious verse on their whiteboards is punished. The head of MRFF told Starnes, “This is an absolutely horrible, shameful disgrace. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an open rebellion like this happening at any military academy. It’s like they’re sticking their middle finger up at what the academy did.” He likened the posting of the verses to racism.

The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, which includes the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, Liberty Institute and Thomas More Law Center, announced its readiness to represent any cadet brought up on charges. Gary McCaleb, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, declared, “Suppressing religion is wrong whether it is done behind an Iron Curtain or in a dorm hallway. Certainly such raw anti-religious discrimination has no place in America’s Air Force.” Michael Berry, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute declared that the removal of the verse and any punishment that could be handed out for its publication is a violation of the Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17, a provision that protects the religious liberty of military members.

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SOURCES:

Billy Hallowell, The Blaze, “‘Revolt’ Over Bible Verse Removal Leads to Air Force Academy Explanation” (13 MAR 2014)

Heather Clark, Christian News (Christian News Network), “Air Force Cadets ‘Revolt’ Against Removal of Scripture from Academy Dorm White Board” (13 MAR 2014)

Military Religious Freedom Foundation, “MRFF Win Provokes Uprising by Fundamentalist Christian Cadets at USAFA”

Pam Zubeck, Colorado Springs Independent, “UPDATE: Bible verse gets Mikey going, again” (12 MAR 2014)

Todd Starnes, Fox News, “What’s going on at Air Force Academy? God’s word vs. Pentagon’s word” (13 MAR 2014)

House Panel Investigates Discrimination Against Military Chaplains

congressToday (30 Jan 14) Adelle M. Banks of the Religion News Service reported, “Discrimination Against Military Chaplains Subject of a House Panel, Pentagon Unaware of Bias.”  Lawmakers grilled Pentagon officials yesterday regarding claims that military chaplains have faced religious discrimination.  The Army, Navy, and Air Force Deputy Chiefs of Chaplains stated repeatedly they were unaware of any such claims.  The deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, Virginia Penrod, informed the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel she was unable to cite specific instances in which chaplains were forced to preach a sermon or conduct a ceremony that conflicted with their beliefs.  She added, “There’s absolutely nothing in policy or code that prohibits a chaplain from praying according to the dictates of their faith.”  The hearing followed on the heels of the Pentagon releasing an updated “instruction” on religious accommodation.  Updates to the instruction, including specific policies regarding chaplains, will be completed this summer according to Penrod.

Though not dealing directly with a military chaplain, nothing was stated during the hearing, to my knowledge, which pointed to the recent episode regarding Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) Philip Monk.  SMSgt Monk was serving as a first sergeant at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, when his commander, an openly homosexual Air Force officer, relieved him of duty because he refused to agree to disciplinary action against an instructor over comments the instructor made regarding same-sex marriage.  SMSgt Monk stated that during one of their initial meetings, the commander “objected to one particular chaplain that she called a ‘bigot’ because he preached that homosexuality is a sin. She then said, ‘I don’t know what kind of people actually believe that kind of crap.’”

Panel members questioned whether commanders are permitted to proselytize.  Chaplain, Brigadier General Charles R. Bailey, the Army  Deputy Chief of Chaplains, stated it would be “wrong” for commanders to declare their faith was superior to others, but that private conversations related to matters of faith are permissible.  He said, “They’re never told they cannot share their own personal faith of any sort.”  In 2012, however, Lieutenant General Ronnie Hawkins, who took command of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) held a commander’s call to introduce himself.  He provided a PowerPoint presentation that included 18 of his personal rules for life.  The first was, “Always put God first, and stay within His will.”  The last was, “Always remember that God is good — all the time!”  Hawkins’ public faith was disturbing to some DISA members.  The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) claimed to have been contacted by 21 members about the presentation, and lodged a protest.

Banks reported that several members of Congress have a different impression from the military’s top chaplains about the state of religious accommodation in the military, according to Bishop James B. Magness of the Episcopal Church’s armed services office.  Magness rightly noted, “There’s a real disconnect if things are being said to members of Congress that are not getting to the chiefs of chaplains. I don’t have a reason for why.”

New Religious Accommodation Policy

pentagonThis past week, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced it would be loosening certain restrictions related to religious apparel (e.g., yarmulkes, turbans) and religiously-based appearance (e.g., beards, tattoos) in order to accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs.” The DoD also announced that unless such accommodation has an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, health and safety, or any other military requirement, commanders are able to grant military members permission to display their religious articles while in uniform. In addition to apparel and appearance, the policy also opens the door for military members asking for specific times to pray. The new policy also points out the fact that military members have the right to observe no religion whatsoever. Though the new policy is being hailed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as expanding the rights of non-Christian religions, Sikhs do not believe the restrictions have been loosened enough. Across the entire U.S. military (about 1.4 million members), there are approximately three Sikhs, 1,500 Wiccans, 3,700 Muslims, 4,677 Jews, and 6,300 Buddhists.

The Chaplain Corps & the Constitution

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill“The best defense of the chaplaincy,
and of any religious program in the military,
is that it preserves a soldier’s right
to freely exercise his religion.
In the absence of government funded chaplains,
soldiers would be stymied from practicing religion
in situations made necessary by military service.”
- Col. Michael J. Benjamin, Staff Judge Advocate,
Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (TCJA),
U.S. Transportation Command

The Chaplain Corps actually predates the U.S. Constitution. On 29 July 1775, General George Washington petitioned the Second Continental Congress to institute the military chaplaincy for the fledgling United States Army. Gen. Washington introduced the chaplaincy as follows:

The Hon. Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-three Dollars and one third pr month–The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives–To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger–The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.

In September of that year, Gen. Washington instructed Gen. Arnold to ensure religious liberty within military ranks. He wrote, “As far as lays in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of the Religion of the Country and the undisturbed Enjoyment of the rights of Conscience in religious Matters, with your utmost Influence and Authority.” The Navy Chaplain Corps was instituted by the Second Continental Congress on 13 October 1775. It was administered by a Marine Committee, and Navy Regulations were adopted a month later by that committee (28 November). The second article of those regulations state, “The Commanders of the ships of the thirteen United Colonies, are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent.” On 16 May 1775, a General Order given by Washington called for a day of rest followed by a day of chapel attendance for the troops with “their respective chaplains.” The Continental Congress furthered the Chaplain Corps with an act on 27 May 1777, providing for the assignment of a chaplain to each Army brigade (with colonel’s pay).

The first Congress established the Chaplain Corps under the U.S. Constitution in 1789, along with civilian chaplains who served in the House of Representatives and Senate. The “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison, voted in favor of authorizing the chaplaincy in 1791, 1794, and 1797 while a member of Congress, and signed such an authorization in 1814 while serving as our nation’s President. Congress made provision for 30 Army chaplains, 24 Navy chaplains, two Congressional chaplains, and chaplains at military educational institutions and frontier forts by 1838. The matter of religious liberty, undergirded by a military chaplaincy, was essential from the beginning in our nation’s history.

Not all citizens have been happy with the existence of the Chaplain Corps, however. In 1818, the Kehukee Primitive Baptist Association petitioned Congress to repeal the appointment of chaplains not only to the military, but also to Congress and other public stations. Congress ignored the petition. Similar petitions were received by Congress between 1850 and 1854, resulting in the House Judiciary Committee issuing three separate reports providing the constitutional basis for chaplains. All of the reports noted that Congress was within its discretion to appoint non-combatant positions, including both chaplains and surgeons. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case of two Harvard Law School students in 1985. The pair alleged the Army Chaplain Corps was unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court ruled that the creation of an army obligates Congress to make the free exercise of religion available to soldiers who have been deployed to regions of the world where their own religions are unavailable to them. This principle is reflected in U.S. Army Regulation 165-1, which states, “In striking a balance between the ‘establishment’ and ‘free exercise’ clauses, the Army chaplaincy, in providing religious services and ministries to the command, is an instrument of the U.S. Government to ensure that soldiers’ ‘free exercise’ rights are protected. At the same time, chaplains are trained to avoid even the appearance of any establishment of religion.” This regulation justifies the role of chaplains in ceremonies outside of the chapel because “such occasions are not considered to be religious services.”

Despite the contention that the existence of military chaplains undermines the Establishment Clause, the fact is that their existence actually ensures religious liberty. This fact was understood by the Founding Fathers, reemphasized by Congress during the 19th century, and defended in court in recent years. Attacks against the Chaplain Corps are assaults against freedom.

Chaplains: Courage Under Fire

DSC“I glanced up and there was Father John Maloney, holding a small cross in his hands and walking down the center of the road, administering last rites to our dying. Never seen anything like it, a priest administering last rites with bullets bouncing around his feet. Takes a hell of a lot of conviction, and faith, for a man to do that.”
– Technical Sergeant Donald Malarkey, 101st Airborne Division

The Battle of Carentan occurred in France during World War II between 10-15 June 1944.  U.S. Army Airborne forces engaged the German Wehrmacht.  The objective of the U.S. forces was to consolidate the U.S. beachheads (Utah Beach and Omaha Beach) and to establish a continuous line of defense against German counterattacks.  The defending German forces attempted to hold Carentan long enough to permit reinforcements from the south to arrive and prevent the 1st Army from launching an attack towards Lessay-Périers that would effectively cut off the Cotentin Peninsula.  During the battle, the 101st Airborne forced passage across the causeway into Carentan in order to take the city.  During the battle, Chaplain, Captain, John Maloney, the regimental chaplain with the 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, who had parachuted into occupied France on June 6, 1944, administered last rites to the dead and dying soldiers and provided comfort to the wounded despite the heavy fire and carnage taking place all around the area.  Maloney received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the second highest military award that may be given to an armed forces member, for his extraordinary heroism.  His citation reads as follows:

Captain Maloney, completely disregarding his own personal safety, assisted medical-aid men in administering first aid to the wounded in intense enemy machine gun fire. He further assisted in their evacuation under continuous mortar fire. Captain Maloney’s fortitude, initiative and courage reflects great credit to himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.

Since the War for Independence, chaplains have served during every American war and conflict.  While the duties of chaplains are focused primarily on matters of religious accommodation and morale, many chaplains have also demonstrated tremendous bravery on the battlefield. Stories abound of chaplains administering last rites to fallen soldiers, oblivious to the fire around them, or dashing out into the open to rescue the wounded without regard to their own lives.  Five chaplains have earned the Medal of Honor for such courage.  The clip below, taken from Band of Brothers, demonstrates not only the courageous action of the soldiers of the 101st, but also of Chaplain Maloney (see beginning at 8:19; WARNING: graphic war violence and language).

Chaplains Corps Established in 1775

revolutionary-soldiers-chaplainWhile some within contemporary American culture argue that the existence of military chaplains violates the “separation of church and state” clause, the historical fact is that the Chaplain Corps is older than the nation itself and was never viewed by the Founding Fathers (or any others, until recently) as such a violation.  On 29 July 1775, General George Washington petitioned the Second Continental Congress to institute the military chaplaincy for the fledgling United States Army.  Gen. Washington introduced the chaplaincy as follows:

The Hon. Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-three Dollars and one third pr month–The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives–To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger–The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.

Uncle Scrooge?

ImageRep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is concerned that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showed disrespect for Christians and censored Christmas in its facilities.  He contends that the VA medical facility in Augusta, Georgia, banned carolers from singing Christmas songs containing religious references in public areas of the hospital (and carolers declined the offer to sing songs on a list of government-approved songs); VA officials in Iowa City, Iowa, informed volunteers from the American Legion they were unable to give gifts to veterans if they were wrapped with decorative paper containing the words “Merry Christmas”; VA personnel in Montgomery, Alabama, prevented a woman from delivering gift bags to veterans because they contained the words “Merry Christmas”; and the Dallas, Texas, VA medical facility refused the delivery of handwritten Christmas cards from local school children because phrases such as “Merry Christmas” and “God Bless You” were written in them.

Daniel Dellinger, National Commander of the American Legion, stated in regard to the incident in Texas, “First of all, VA’s decision to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that mention Christmas is ludicrous.  Second of all, VA has been down this road before, and recently. VA has been warned through a federal court decree to stop denying freedom of religious expression at its facilities. It’s pretty obvious the Dallas VA did not get that memo.”  Dellinger added, “Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and restriction at VA facilities.”

In a letter sent to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rep. Miller declared, “In taking it upon themselves to restrict Christmas cards, carols and gifts in certain locations, VA officials clearly ignored longstanding federal government traditions, basic common sense and possibly a 2011 federal consent decree that ordered VA not to ban religious speech.”  He demanded that Shinseki hold personnel responsible for possible constitutional and civil rights violations.  Rep. Miller set up an e-mail address in order for VA staff, patients, and volunteers to report acts of religious prohibition.  It is: varoi@mail.house.gov

Atheists Attack Chaplain Corps

A commentary written by U.S. Air Force Chaplain, Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, was removed from the base website at the order of the commander, Col. Brian Duffy.  The column, entitled, “No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave all in World War II,” allegedly offended atheists serving on the base.  Col. Duffy stated “The 673d Air Base Wing does not advocate any particular religion or belief set over another and upon learning of the complaints from some readers, the article was promptly removed.  We regret any undue attention this article may have brought to any particular group or individuals.”

The article related the origin of the phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole,” which was credited to Father William Cummings while serving in Bataan during World War II.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the phrase during a speech to the American Legion in 1954, declaring, “I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth that there are no atheists in the foxholes.”  Chaplain Reyes concluded the article with a reflection on faith.

In no way did his article attack or insult atheists or secularists.  Nonetheless, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation accused the chaplain of producing an “anti-secular diatribe” and denigrating “those without religion.”  Blake Page of the MRFF sent a letter to the commander, allegedly on behalf of 42 anonymous complainants.  In it he stated, “In the civilian world, such anti-secular diatribe is protected free speech.  Beyond his most obvious failure in upholding regulations through redundant use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, ‘no atheists in foxholes,’ he defiles the dignity of service members by telling them that regardless of their personally held philosophical beliefs they must have faith.”  Duffy agreed, apparently, and ordered the essay to be eliminated from the base’s website.  The commander remarked in an e-mail to the MRFF, “While certainly not intended to offend, the article has been removed from our website.  We remain mindful of the governing instructions on this matter and will work to avoid recurrence.”  Despite the removal of the article, the MRFF is calling for Chaplain Reyes to be punished.  “Faith based hate, is hate all the same,” Page wrote. “Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately reprimanded.”

It is ironic that Blake acknowledged within his letter that Chaplain Reyes’ essay is “protected free speech” in the civilian world.  There is no reason it should be left unprotected in the military realm, especially since there was nothing “hateful” in the material.

****

“Chaplain’s Corner: No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II”
by Chaplain, Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes

Many have heard the familiar phrase, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”  Where did this come from?  Research I verified in an interview with former World War II prisoner of war Roy Bodine (my friend) indicates the phrase has been credited to Father William Cummings.  As the story goes, Father Cummings was a civilian missionary Catholic priest in the Philippines.  The phrase was coined during the Japanese attack at Corregidor.  During the siege, Cummings had noticed non-Catholics were attending his services.  Some he knew were not Catholic, some were not religious and some were even known atheists.  Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check.  Even the strongest of beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways – people can be drawn to or away from “faith.”  With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, Cummings uttered the famous phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

In one of my many discussions with Roy, he distinctly remembered a period on the “Hell Ships” – these were ships the Japanese used to bring POWs from the Philippines back to Japan.  They were unmarked and thus ‘fair game’ for attacks from the allies from the air and sea.  Of the 3,000-plus POWs listed on the ships, only 180 survived the journey.  “When our own planes were attacking us,” Roy said, “I remember Father Cummings calming us down by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and offering up prayers on our behalf.  For a brief moment I did not hear the yells and screams of dying men as our boat was attacked by our own men.”  He went on to say, “There was a peaceful quiet during the attack that I cannot explain nor have experienced since.”

Later on during the trip to Japan, Cummings, after giving his food to others who needed it more, succumbed to his own need and died of starvation.  Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.  Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.  The real question is, “Is it important to have faith in ‘faith’ itself or is it more important to ask, ‘What is the object of my faith?’”  Roy never affirmed or expressed whether his faith was rooted in religion or not, but for a moment in time on the “Hell Ships,” he believed in Cummings’ faith.

What is the root or object of your faith?  Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?  Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?  What is ‘faith’ to you?

Congress Votes to Prevent Atheistic Chaplains

Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers, is among those who have pushed recently to create a “chaplain” position for atheists and secular humanists.  While this is an inherent contradiction, supporters argue atheists in the military need individuals to “pro-actively reach out to them and facilitate meetings.”  Torpy claims chaplains do not provide enough “positive outreach and support” in the way “they do for all of those beliefs that aren’t their own.”  Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, stated, “Chaplains for nontheistic military service members are absolutely crucial for so many men and women who are serving our country.  Religious chaplains are ill equipped to handle the problems of nontheistic service members and unfortunately, seeking psychiatric help can stigmatize a service member for the rest of their career.”

Last month, lawmakers rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment that would have created the position.  Yesterday, lawmakers approved a Republican-sponsored amendment to a defense budget bill that requires military chaplains to be affiliated with a particular faith.  The sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), stated, “When it comes to the idea of an atheist chaplain, which is an oxymoron – it’s self-contradictory – what you’re really doing is now saying that we’re going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains.  It’s just total nonsense, the idea of having a chaplain who is an atheist.”

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), who also serves as an Air Force chaplain, said he has often dealt with atheists who were simply asking for help with their problems.  He remarked, “What I have found is so many times people in our world today just need someone to listen.”  Collins disagreed with the idea of creating a new atheist-specific position, noting other counseling services are available.  He added, “They need to come at it differently instead of just saying we want an atheist chaplain.  I think there’s plenty of opportunities for them to talk.”

The military has all types of counselors available for its members, including psychologists and psychiatrists.  Nonetheless, Torpy and his cohorts want a specific non-faith chaplain role established.  The MAAFT head noted that the Humanist Society is recognized as a religious organization by the Internal Revenue Agency, “Basically, the standard is to be recognized as a church by the Internal Revenue Service.”  The Pentagon could still determine to permit atheistic/humanistic chaplains, but members of Congress just voted 253-173 to prohibit the post.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) to allow atheistic chaplains was defeated.  The pair declared erroneously that it was unfair for non-religious service members to only be appointed mental health professionals, while religious service members benefitted from a chaplain representing their faith.  Chaplains, regardless of religious affiliation, serve all members of the military.  Just as atheistic members sought help from Rep. Collins in his role as an Air Force chaplain, current military members may seek counseling from chaplains.  Nothing whatsoever prohibits them from receiving help.

Chaplain Corps Can’t Speak About God?

An Air Force video saluting first sergeants — produced by an Air Force Chaplain — was removed by order of the Pentagon because it mentions the word “God,” even though it was never intended as required viewing.  The top brass fears the video may be offensive to atheists or Muslims, but they are unconcerned about whether or not Christians are offended by the censorship of exercising free speech and freedom of religion.  The video, based on the “So God Made a Farmer” commentary written and narrated by the late Paul Harvey, was recently updated and used in a Dodge Ram Super Bowl ad.  The first sergeant tribute was created by a Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst chaplain as a poem, and later turned into a video, “So God Created a First Sergeant.”  Chaplain Corps leadership at the Army-Navy-Air Force installation approved the video prior to its publication.  Shortly after it was posted on YouTube it was brought to the attention of the Pentagon.

The Chief of the Air Force News Service Division stated incorrectly in an email, “Proliferation of religion is not allowed in the Air Force or military.  How would an Agnostic, Atheist or Muslim serving in the military take this video?”  The chief added, “I would not recommend using this video at all.”  In addition to the objection against the video’s repeated use of the name “God,” the chief found the opening lines objectionable because they referenced the “eighth day.”  He remarked, “The choice of ‘On the Eighth day’ verbiage to begin this video is highly suggestive from the book of Genesis in the Bible and has Christian overtones.”  Of course, the chief failed to grasp the fact that Genesis is also a sacred text in Judaism and Islam.

Both the Pentagon and the Air Force News Service Division have gone beyond the Constitution, restricting both free speech and the right to the free exercise of religion.  While proselytization is prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there is no prohibition in discussing religion freely.  Because the video was not mandated as part of any required program, the Air Force was not endorsing religion.  The fact that it was produced by a chaplain, and approved by Chaplain Corps leadership, demonstrates that the Pentagon is restricting the rights of both chaplains and airmen.  The decision to censor the video comes less than a week following an incident at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, where the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, led by Mikey Weinstein, demanded the removal of a picture it deemed “offensive.”

An Airman, who asked not to be identified because he feared being disciplined, spoke with Fox News about the removal of the video.  He stated, “It’s extremely frustrating.  The Air Force is living in fear of Mikey Weinstein.  If our chaplains cannot speak the name of God, let alone Christ, why have them?”  I’ve towed the company line for years but this has pushed me too far to sit quietly while personal liberties are trampled upon.”  The Airman said in recent months they have been reminded that they cannot proselytize (which is true) and they cannot share their faith on the installation (which is false, but is being pushed as “true” by many within the Air Force structure).

The Air Force is facing a severe crisis.  Americans need to defend the rights of Airmen who live to defend the rights of others since the brass apparently has no brass.

VIDEO:
God Created the First Sergeant

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