Coalition Meets With Pentagon Officials to Discuss Religious Liberty Violations in Military
By Heather Clark | Christiannews.net
Members of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition (RMRF) recently met with officials at the Pentagon to discuss their concerns about the escalation of religious liberty violations in the U.S. military.
During the meeting, Air Force representatives accepted over 170,000 petitions that appealed to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to protect the religious freedoms of those who who serve in the nation’s Armed Forces, as well as a second petition that contained nearly 50,000 signatures in support of Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, who was reportedly relieved of his duties and reassigned after refusing to agree with this lesbian commander regarding the issue of same-sex “marriage.”
Jerry Boykin of Family Research Council, Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association, and attorney Kellie Fiedorek from Alliance Defending Freedom all participated in the meeting, which they characterized as “productive.”
Boykin said that the group asked the Department of Defense and the Air Force to release a definitive statement on the ability of service members to share their faith publicly and openly, as they believe that past statements have been “confusing and contradictory.”
“Additionally, we asked that the Department of Defense move quickly to implement the religious freedom protections enacted in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Given new incidents of military personnel facing career reprisals for their religious beliefs, it is vital that regulations preventing discrimination be issued by the Secretary of Defense as required by law,” Boykin continued in a news release outlining the meeting. “We intend to remain in contact with the Air Force to ensure that the law’s implementation is consistent with the intent of Congress.”
The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition was formed in July after a number of Christian groups expressed concerns about increasing hostility toward Christianity in the Armed Forces. As previously reported, Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation had asked officials to punish superiors who attempted to proselytize their subordinates.
“Someone needs to be punished for this,” he told reporter Todd Starnes. “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.”
“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” Weinstein asserted.
A number of other incidents, such as the removal of an Air Force video created by a chaplain, the mandate that an Air Force officer remove a Bible from his desk, and the reassigning of Phillip Monk over his Christian beliefs about marriage also raised concern.
“We appreciate [the offer of Pentagon officials] 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,” Boykin said. “After reviewing a series of troubling incidents involving chaplains, the coalition members were assured in the meeting that chaplains would not be forced to do anything that violates the tenets of their faith.”
Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition News Conference
Family Research Council (FRC), a coalition of groups concerned about religious liberty, and Members of Congress, participated in a Capitol Hill news conference urging support for Rep. John Fleming’s (R-LA) military religious freedom amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment protects the right of servicemembers to not only hold religious beliefs but to act on them and speak about them. The House Armed Services Committee adopted the amendment last month to address growing religious hostility within the military. Rep. Fleming’s amendment has found bipartisan support in the House, but the Obama administration issued a statement expressing strong opposition to the amendment. A similar amendment by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) passed the Senate Armed Services Committee with broad bipartisan support.
FRC released a new report at the press conference documenting incidents of hostility toward religious expression in the military.
In April, religious liberty concerns were heightened after anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein met with senior Air Force officials at the Pentagon and pressed for the court-martial of Christian servicemembers who share their faith. More than 170,000 Americans signed petitions calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect the religious liberties of military personnel through policies that guarantee those liberties. Concerns among the American public increased following a Rear Admiral’s speech at a National Day of Prayer event in which he recounted a story of his decision to violate military rules preventing him from giving a Bible to a soldier who had attempted suicide.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of FRC, outlined the purpose of the news conference:
“We will stand with servicemembers who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights of religious liberty. We will encourage legislation to protect the religious liberty of military members, and we will do all we can to inform the American public about the attacks on religious liberty in the military. We must do all we can to ensure that our servicemembers have the right to practice the very freedoms that they risk their lives to defend.”