Friday, 07 June 2013

Soldier Reprimanded Over Promotion Party Featuring Chick-fil-A Sandwiches

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A U.S. Army soldier was disciplined after he hosted a party for his promotion to the rank of master sergeant and served Chick-fil-A sandwiches in honor of traditional marriage. The unidentified serviceman's promotion coincided with the controversy that erupted last year over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's comments in favor of traditional marriage. Homosexual activist groups launched a high-profile boycott of the fast-food chain, which backfired when tens of thousands of Christians nationwide countered with a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” that brought record sales for the company.

According to Ron Crews of the group Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, the serviceman was investigated, reprimanded, threatened with judicial action, and given a bad efficiency report after he sent invitations that read, “In honor of my promotion and in honor of the Defense of Marriage Act, I’m serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at my promotion party.”

Crews told Fox News that Army officials said the soldier was “no longer a team player and was not performing up to standards. This is just one little example of a case of a soldier just wanting to express his views and now he’s been jumped on by the military.”

Shortly after the serviceman's promotion party in the summer of 2012, he was sent a letter of reprimand, which took exception to his serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his party, along with his support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — which continues to be the law of the land.

Following the action against him the soldier contacted Crews and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, which put him in touch with an attorney to defend him. Crews said that a year after what should have been a non-issue, the dedicated service member continues to be targeted by the Army. “There was initially some talk of bringing judicial punishment against him,” Crews told Todd Starnes of Fox News. “He had a letter put in his file and an investigation was initiated to see if he had violated any policy.”

Crews added that the man had served his country faithfully and “was at the pinnacle of his career. To make that rank means you’ve done very well throughout your career. He wants to finish serving his time honorably.” noted that Crews included the soldier's story in a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in which he addressed numerous concerns about religious freedom issues that have popped up within the military, particularly since the repeal of the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” prohibition of homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces.

“Last month at the National Religious Freedom Conference, Crews recounted an exchange in 2010 between Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a military chaplain,” reported LifeSite. “While Adm. Mullen was briefing the troops on what the repeal of DADT might look like, the chaplain asked if those with 'Biblical views that homosexuality is a sin [would] still be protected to express those views?' Adm. Mullen reportedly responded, 'Chaplain, if you can’t get in line with this policy, resign your commission.'”

Crews noted that following the unpleasant exchange, the promotion of one military chaplain was rescinded after he forwarded an e-mail (originally sent by another chaplain) that was critical of the DADT repeal. The chaplain was also informed that he would need to be “more closely supervised” because of his opinion. Similarly, recalled LifeSite, “when another chaplain refused to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the chapel he commanded, he was told that despite his religious objections, his chapel would be 'sexual neutral territory.' He was later relieved of his command.”

In related news, on June 5 U.S. Representative John Fleming (R-La.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that he said is necessary to battle the increasing animosity toward religious expression among the troops.

“The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms should not have their own religious freedom jeopardized during their military service,” said Fleming. He said the amendment would help “ensure that men and women of faith will not be discriminated against in the Armed Forces and will be free to exercise their religious beliefs.”

Fleming noted that some military personnel, “particularly chaplains, feel like their ability to execute their duties are being greatly limited by some of the policies and actions in the Pentagon.” He recalled that “steps to protect the religious liberties of our Armed Forces were taken in last year’s NDAA, but troubling reports indicate that the military may be focused only on protecting beliefs of service members and not the exercise or expression of those beliefs.”

Among the many examples of such reports were the following:

• Training material used by the U.S. Army Reserve categorized Christians, Catholics, and Orthodox Jews as “religious extremists,” lumping them with the Ku Klux Klan, al-Qaeda, and Hamas.

• In April the U.S. Army blocked military personnel from accessing the website of the Southern Baptist Convention, citing unnamed “hostile content” on the site. Military officials later claimed the action was a mistake that occurred because of security software used by the Army.

• In early May the Defense Department released a statement confirming that military personnel could face disciplinary action — including court-martial — for sharing their faith with others. The statement occurred in conjunction with the revelation that the Defense Department was consulting with Mikey Weinstein of the atheist Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) on policy concerning religious expression in the armed forces. The Defense Department quickly backed down on its statement, stipulating that only “proselytizing” and not “evangelizing” would be subject to discipline, but conservative and Christian leaders remained alarmed.

• An Air Force officer was forced to remove a Bible from his desk because, he was told, other personnel might might find it offensive. The Bible had been a fixture on the officer's desk throughout his military career.

• For a time in 2011 Christian prayers were prohibited during funeral services for veterans at Houston’s National Cemetery.

• In 2011 Bibles were banned at Walter Reed Army Medical Center — a policy that was rescinded only after it was challenged by lawmakers and conservative groups.

• Christian crosses and a steeple were removed from a chapel in Afghanistan after military officials determined they were antagonistic to other religions.

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in early May, Rear Admiral William Lee warned that religious liberty is under increasing attack from the Pentagon and secular legal groups. “Leaders like myself are feeling the constraints of rules and regulations and guidance issued by lawyers that put us in a tighter and tighter box regarding our constitutional right to express our religious faith,” he said.

Congressman Fleming told Fox News that his amendment is meant to clear up misunderstandings and ambiguities in Pentagon policy concerning religious expression. “The bottom line is that the military is bending over backwards to remove — even in the case of chaplains — expressions of faith and conscience.” He added that Christian chaplains are increasingly afraid “to do anything that could lead to the end of their careers. They want to be able to do their duties … without fearing that someone will come along and reprimand them.”

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