Thursday, 02 May 2013

Pentagon Confirms That Soldiers Could Be Court-Martialed for Sharing Faith

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A fight is heating up between conservative Christians and Obama's Department of Defense over the Pentagon's admission that U.S. military personnel could face court-martial for sharing their Christian faith with others. In a statement provided to Fox News, the Pentagon confirmed: “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense.... Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis.”

The statement follows on the heels of a column by the Family Research Council's Ken Klukowski, appearing on, in which Klukowski noted that the Pentagon has turned to atheist activist Mikey Weinstein (shown), founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), to help the Defense Department “develop new policies on religious tolerance, including a policy for court-martialing military chaplains who share the Christian Gospel during spiritual counseling of American troops.”

According to Fox News, Weinstein and other MRFF operatives met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23 to insist that the Air Force enforce a policy that supposedly bans proselytizing by Air Force personnel. The policy, included in the “Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards” published in August 2012, supposedly mandates religious neutrality among military personnel, particularly officers. Section 2.11 of the standards states: “Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.” The policy forbids officers to “promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”

Weinstein and his MRFF agents insist that the policy means military personnel are forbidden from offering any expression of Christian faith, and he is pushing for the Pentagon to get tough on all military persons — including chaplains — from freely talking about their faith. “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,” Weinstein told Fox News. He added that his group “would love to see hundreds of prosecutions to stop this outrage of fundamentalist religious persecution.”

In an editorial published April 16 by the Huffington Post, Weinstein revealed the level of his passion against the Christian faith in the military, writing that “we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation's armed forces.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, charged that the Air Force policy in question has the MRFF's and Weinstein's anti-Christian “fingerprints all over it,” adding that the standard “threatens to treat service members caught witnessing as enemies of the state.”

The FRC's Klukowski warned that the regulations, if enforced as Weinstein hopes, “would severely limit expressions of faith in the military, even on a one-to-one basis between close friends. It could also effectively abolish the position of chaplain in the military, as it would not allow chaplains (or any service members, for that matter), to say anything about their faith that others say led them to think they were being encouraged to make faith part of their life.” Klukowski wrote that it is “difficult to imagine how a member of the clergy could give spiritual counseling without saying anything that might be perceived in that fashion.”

Ron Crews, a retired U.S. military chaplain and head of the group Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told The New American that the Pentagon's threat of court-martial over a military member's constitutionally guaranteed right of religious expression is “blatantly wrong.” He said that insisting “a service member cannot speak of his faith is like telling a service member he cannot talk about his spouse or children. I do not think the Air Force wants to ban personnel from protected religious speech, and I certainly hope that it is willing to listen to the numerous individuals and groups who protect military religious liberty without demonizing service members.”

Crew questioned the wisdom of Pentagon and Air Force officials in getting their sole counsel on the issue of religious freedom from someone “who calls religious service members ‘spiritual rapists’ or ‘human monsters.’ To understand real religious freedom, the Air Force should speak with the men and women in the trenches, making the sacrifices for our country, and ministering to the families and survivors of those that pay the ultimate price for religious freedom.”

In an interview with a Washington Post reporter, Weinstein called proselytizing by military personnel a “national security threat,” and “sedition and treason,” insisting: “It should be punished.” Tony Perkins responded by voicing his concern that the nation's military “is on a forced march away from the very freedoms they are sworn to protect. This language from Weinstein that Christians who share their faith or offer comfort to others from their faith in Jesus Christ is 'sedition and treason' is a treasonous statement in and of itself.”

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, a vice president with the Family Research Council, agreed with Perkins' concern. “Mickey Weinstein has a very visceral hatred of Christianity and those who are Christians,” Boykin said. “He’d like to see it eliminated from the military entirely.” He warned that the atheist activist's anti-Christian agenda “has the potential to destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military.”

Added the retired military general: “Our brave troops deserve better. If chaplains and other personnel are censored from offering the full solace of the gospel, there is no religious freedom in the military.”

Photo of Mikey Weinstein: AP Images

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