No, the DoD will not court martial Christians (or Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Buddhists or Spaghetti Monster adherents.)

 
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No, the DoD will not court martial Christians (or Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Buddhists or Spaghetti Monster adherents.)

OK, so a few things up front, because I know the comments will end up bashing me on this one. 

1)      I’m friends with Todd Starnes of Fox Radio on Facebook, and I usually very much enjoy his stuff.

2)      I used to write at “Big Peace” over on Breitbart.com

3)      If Mikey Weinstein told me water was wet, I would immediately assume the opposite, and not likely change my opinion unless I had peer-reviewed scientific evidence to the contrary.

4)      I go to church every week and bible study every other week (when not on travel).

Now, with those caveats out of the way, this whole issue with the DoD (specifically the Air Force) getting ready to court martial Christians is hyperbolic and not very accurate. 

First there was the Breitbart piece written by Ken Klukowski titled: “Pentagon May Court Martial Soldiers Who Share Christian Faith

The Pentagon has released a statement confirming that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith: "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense...Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis...”.

This regulation 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. It’s difficult to imagine how a member of the clergy could give spiritual counseling without saying anything that might be perceived in that fashion.

 Notice first the difference between the title (“share Christian Faith”) and what the quote from the DoD actually said (“Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense”).   There is a difference between a simple sharing of your faith, and proselytization.  And within the definition of the actual policy, the proselytization portion is exclusively directed at doing so to subordinates.

Now, I’ll get to the ACTUAL regulation in a minute, but from the Starnes FoxNews article:

Religious liberty groups have grave concerns after they learned the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to “rape” and advocated that military personnel who proselytize should be court martialed.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is calling on the Air Force to enforce a regulation that they believe calls for the court martial of any service member caught proselytizing.

President Mikey Weinstein and others from his organization met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23. He said U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished – by the hundreds if necessary – to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.”

Now, I agree entirely with parts of this.  Mikey Weinstein could charitably be said to be a very vocal Anti-Christian zealot.  (We’ve discussed him here before a few times.)  Like I said, that is being charitable, as this is what Weinstein thinks of Christianity:

If these fundamentalist Christian monsters of human degradation … and tyranny cannot broker or barter your acceptance of their putrid theology, then they crave for your universal silence in the face of their rapacious reign of theocratic terror. Indeed, they ceaselessly lust, ache, and pine for you to do absolutely nothing to thwart their oppression. Comply, my friends, and you become as monstrously savage as are they. I beg you, do not feed these hideous monsters with your stoic lethargy, callousness and neutrality. Do not lubricate the path of their racism, bigotry, and prejudice. Doing so directly threatens the national security of our beautiful nation.

 Nonetheless, before we get too excited about fears about Christian Gulags full of Air Force and other military personnel, let’s look at the ACTUAL POLICY:

Note the highlighted portions.  The first part talks about what leaders cannot do (use position to promote a religion, extend preferential treatment) and the second is a restatement of Constitutional guarantees to free exercise.  Basically this policy just restates the Constitution.  In essence, all the policy is saying is that you can’t use your position of authority to try to convert your subordinates to a specific ideology.  My friend DrewM set the right tone with his piece on this:

It doesn’t say people can’t practice their religion or talk about it with fellow members of the service. It just says leaders can’t use their official positions of authority to promote their religious beliefs to their troops. Military leaders have tremendous power over their subordinates, it’s not irrational to ensure that for the good of the service this authority isn’t abused for private ends.

Put another way, let me ask this hypothetical.  If Major Nidal Hasan (Ft Hood Shooter) had called everyone he worked with under Major (enlisted, NCO’s, Captains, LT’s etc) together and talked to them about why they should become Muslim, I would think everyone would rightly freak out.  Also, if a Battalion Commander were to call everyone in his command together before an election and say “Vote (Democrat/Republican) because only (Democrats/Republicans) really care about the military and veterans” it would be unlawful exertion of authority.  That is all this policy is saying.

Now, as I said before, I don’t see how Weinstein should be the only one meeting with the Pentagon on this.  I know that in the past anti-Religious groups have browbeaten the DoD into cancelling speeches by Christians.  The answer to speech you disagree with isn’t to demand that that speech get cancelled, it is to engage in the “Free Marketplace of Ideas” by including your speech in the topic.

So, by all means, if you want to get upset, do so.  But don’t assume that the DoD is going to start arresting Christians when the policy doesn’t indicate that.  If you are in the service and you want to talk about your faith, you are free to do so.  What you aren’t allowed to do is to try to convert your subordinates to your religion.  The policy never once mentions “Christ”, “Christians” or “Jesus”.  It is absolutely neutral on religion.  What everyone should be focused on is ensuring that the DoD policy is administered properly.  Until such time as it is not administered properly, we should all be voicing our opinions freely on how religious freedoms are an integral part of society, military or civilian.

 

Posted in the burner | 33 comments
 
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Comments

Sounds like you still trust the government to do the right thing...

You say tomato I say tomato but often those hearing us hear something different, so under threat of law all people will fear being jailed for expressing their faith, therefore this Adminsitration has forced a ban on expressing your faith if you are in the military. That was the goal and they reached it, if anyone does not want to hear your faith they are free to not listen. Now if a Officer is using it to push one way or the other that falls under a different part of the UCMJ. Now I am not a Jag Officer but spent many hours with them in 69 about what I did and didn't do.

Sir, this was the law when I was in the military and I retired in 1986. As I recall this administration came into office in 2009. We can't just put all of our fears onto this President, why are we so blind to our history? When I hear this, I just have to think that the individual has a deeper issue with this President and it has nothing to do with policy. Now if you truly believe in a God, ask him to search your heart and clean it of any ill feeling you may hold against the individual and not his policies, of which judging from your response, you have no clue of what they might be.

I was given all the worst details for several months because I admitted to being an agnostic who did not celebrate Thanksgiving. I am stii not a Christian, and I do not want to be. I do not appreciate those who try to convert me. You can "share" you "good word" by putting a notice on the bulletin board for those who are interested, but do not buttonhole me, do not talk to me, and do not try to embarrass me with yours unless you are ready to LISTEN to mine, and take mine as seriously as you want me to take yours.

However at time it seems we live in an all christian society and they'll never let us forget that. I too have had issues with the christ faithers trying to convert me (I'm Indian, as in feather not dot) and have somewhat learned to ignore them, however like you, believe that christians can share their "good word" amongst themselves (I know plenty and most allow me my beliefs, those who didn't aren't associated with me anymore) and if they wish to "convert" me then they can either listen to my beliefs (Native Traditional) or screw. Most take the latter and with good riddance.

The business world has this one solved, and the military has long had the same solution: To be faithful, Christians have no choice but to share their faith. Some other faiths require the same. But doing so in as overt a manner as the door-to-door folks or in a pestering manner or literally advertising (overt proselytizing) has two problems, rendering this method worse than ineffective for most recipients of the message: Many will be irritated by in-your-face handouts of tracts and the equivalent in conversation. Second: We are all sinners and fall short, so one's faith appears false if the proselytizer is know as such, yet is found sinning. The best way is the permitted way in both business and the military: Practice the Faith through good works and kindness & love, and humility. Be open to private conversations, but never pushy or preachy. Example: Teach your soldiers to pray for their enemy before battle and, yet, also teach them that they sin if they fail to be the most effective soldier possible; that their cause is just but they must never revel in the destruction of an enemy nor in the greatness of their skills or resources for war; be a consumate killer who is focused on the objective rather than a thug who revels in the kill. (Anyway, a soldier who is wrathful or who glories in killing will lose control of the situation and falter tactically, risking his fellows as well in emotionality.) In the business world, be not elated that some huge sale was made because of great competence; rather, be competent because it is your duty to your employer, and be genuinely humble, with the attitude that the sale benefitted greatly the buyer. In short, a Christian in a just war must be just (infused with love) in his heart even as he executes his deadly duty. Along the way, others will observe this, respect the true Christian soldier, and ask to know whence comes the light within him; they will emulate the truly Christian soldier.

The AF reg is pretty straight forward. As with all regs, it can ignored, applied inappropriately, abused, yadda, yadda. I can go through every AF reg (because that's my branch of service) and write a hyperbolic treatise as to why that reg will cause the demise of Western Civilization. But it doesn't make it true.

Service members wear a uniform. The default is uniformity. No member shall use their position as a service member to influence subordinates on issues that are apart from the military structure, organization, and mission. If you want to proselytize, take off the uniform, go out into the street and loudly proclaim your God in whatever manner you wish. That is your right, but in uniform, your allegience is to America, the nation, the Constitution and its people. If someone is conflicted regarding that allegience, well it's a voluntary army these days and if you want to stand a pulpit instead of standing a watch then make it so.

In most civilian jobs, while at work, it is inappropriate to share religious, political or sexual views. The focus is on business. The sense of the military regulations is the same. Yet, while off-duty in both the civilian and military worlds people can have private discussions on these matters. It is does not matter whether one is in authority or not, while working focus on the job. To use the label "Christian Soldiers" for the US military is against the sense of the regulations and plays into the anti-US mindset.

I am quite surprised at what is going on in the military these days. Things have changed to much after retirement in 1973. We had no problem with Religion back then. There are to many using their own beliefs to change the way people think and believe. Someone decides they wish to change the way an organization operates and believes. To many demands are being made by small groups and it appears they get their way. The government needs to take a firm stand and put a stop to these groups. Start abiding by the constitution instaed of changing on a whim. I am a Christian and I do not try to convert anyone unless they ask. As far as chaplains are concerned, welfare of the troops and service in a chapel for those that come are and always have been. God Bless America. We definitely needs his blessings.

I want to quote a bit from a statement made by "Christine" in a recent publication. She was a practicing nurse earlier in her life Christine says "The World War II veterans I took care of did not have the mental health issues that the Vietnam veterans had." She further states there was more of a sense of pride obvious and no regrets. She then beautifully says "True soldiers would rather die doing the right than live with themselves not having done so." Not long ago a more learned man than myself spoke of being a Christian...If ever accused of being a Christian, I only hope there is enough evidence to convict me. I honestly echo this man's statement.
"

Sherman,

I wish you were correct but in my family I had at least two family members come back from WW2 with mental health issues. I doubt your comment about Vietnam Vets compared to WW2 folks would hold much water.

I want to quote a bit from a statement made by "Christine" in a recent publication. She was a practicing nurse earlier in her life Christine says "The World War II veterans I took care of did not have the mental health issues that the Vietnam veterans had." She further states there was more of a sense of pride obvious and no regrets. She then beautifully says "True soldiers would rather die doing the right than live with themselves not having done so." Not long ago a more learned man than myself spoke of being a Christian...If ever accused of being a Christian, I only hope there is enough evidence to convict me. I honestly echo this man's statement.
"

I've been around long enough to know that for every individual who, when asked, will say, "This is what I believe, and why I believe it...", there are at least two who are willing to go straight to their Unit Commander and say, "I just was proselytized by so and so..." Moreover, I think you've been around the block enough times to know that this is is not a hyperbolic portrayal. Finally, I was certainly in the Air force long enough to know that they are also aware of this phenomenon, and in the end, will ere on the side of caution, and will thus ultimately deem any discussion of any faith, public or private setting, superior or subordinate, to be unacceptable behavior subject to UCMJ prosecution, just so they will have the simplest possible way have to deal with the problem, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. Black and white, open and shut. Or at least it will be if the public isn't willing to get involved with the discussion, perhaps with their Congressional representatives....

Your comments are wrong from the start.

First, the Pentagon has released a statement contrary to what you write in your article.

Secondly, you use the example given as an exclusive act that warrants punishment. Read the whole policy. It states "Airmen of all levels, especially commanders and supervisors", this would include non-supervisors and non-leaders; in other words, all Airmen.

Third, you are using an Air Force policy to explain something that is taking place at the DoD level.

You are also neglecting the accusations that while a known anti-Christian zealot is consulting with members of the DoD head shed, pro-religious groups that have requested to have a presence at these meetings have been denied.
.

If you're stopped from using the name of Jesus, how can you say freedom of religion?

Upon serving the military for 20+ years, I could and cannot say at any time religion was ever forced on me. The morality of the whole US of A has gone down hill fast due to people not believing. I cannot figure the reasoning behind this unless the reason may be that the powers that are, are afraid of the repercussions that there may be.

Weinstein appears to be a very naive person with out knowledge of which he speaks.

The military has always been clear from the enlistment contract one signs that their priority is defense and to that end, behaviors that contribute to good order and discipline.

In the previous administration, not so much in this one, commanders were given the authority under the pretense of "spiritual fitness," to compel their subordinates to attend Evangelizing functions and Christian rock concerts or spend that time doing details in the barracks. That is what the Air Force regulation is addressing and what the issue is. The kind of command pressure a number of service members experienced, to involuntarily engagte in religious activities against their personal philosophies should rightly be condemned. And it's not even effective toward its desired end. After all, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

Since Christians are the dominant religion in this country, statistically, they are more likely to engage in that behavior in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink sort of way.

I served a few years in the U. S. Army during the VN War. The company I was in during my last two years had a total of approximately 500 members. Of those 500 members only 3 attended religious services--2 Catholics and 1 Jew. Maybe life in the military has changed a lot since I was serving, but the guys I was with were much more interested in sleeping in with Mommasong (sp) on Sunday mornings versus attending a chaplain led religious service. Is this truly a problem in todays military? If so, shame on somebody.

On the other hand, it is considered completely appropriate to march members of the Armed Services into brainwashing sessions and pressure them to repudiate their Christian belief concerning homosexual acts.

The premise of your argument is that religious beliefs are purely personal matters. To you, it does not matter whether an individual soldier's imaginary friend is Jesus or Mohammed or Buddah or, as you say, the Spaghetti Monster. Your true God is the State, the political incarnation of collective Man. It is the confession of Jesus as Lord of All, including the State, that is the problem, just as it was for the Romans and is today for the Chinese or North Koreans. The collision between Christ and Caesar is inevitable in history, as is the ultimate triumph of Christ. Today, as this conflict works out in American history, you don't want to end up on the wrong side as an enemy of Christ. Mickey Weinstein seems to see this more clearly than most Christians.

What is your point?

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON
MARCH 6 1941
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE ARMY
AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF I TAKE PLEASURE IN
COMMENDING THE READING OF THE BIBLE TO ALL
WHO SERVE IN THE ARMED SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES.
THROUGH OUT THE CENTURIES MEN OF MANY FAITHS AND
DIVERSE ORIGINS HAVE FOUND IN THE SACRED BOOK,WORDS
OF WISDOM, CONDEL AND INSPIRATION. IT IS A FOUNTAIN
OF STRENGTH AND NOW,AS ALWAYS AN AID IN ATTAINING
THE HIGHEST ASPIRATIONS OF THE HUMAN SOUL.
VERY TRULY YOURS
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT

Tim Morris: Christians don’t murder Muslims, Sikh or other religious people because they are Muslims or Sikh. However, there is plenty of proof that Muslims and Sikh do murder Christians because they are Christian.

On the statement that Muslims often make that Christian Crusaders came into “their” land and stayed – be damn clear that Crusaders were there because Muslims were invading and murdering Christians by the thousands. That all started about the mid 600 and has been going on ever since.

Hundreds of Christian churches have been burnt in Muslin countries, and in some countries, a Christian church cannot be built nor can a Christian even bring a Christian bible into some Muslim countries. Muslims raise cain if a Koran is “mishandled”, yet have and do burn Christian bibles at every opportunity.

You can be which religion you want to be but your concerning your trash talk about Christians – shove it up your butt.

Man, you have got a short memory.
wikipedia dot org /wiki/Wisconsin_Sikh_temple_shooting

After 9/11 as well, there were Christians who, in some twisted idea of misplaced revenge, killed people they believed were Muslims.

I suspect religiously inspired hatred and murder have been done to and done by virtually every religious group.

Man, you have got a short memory.
wikipedia dot org /wiki/Wisconsin_Sikh_temple_shooting

After 9/11 as well, there were Christians who, in some twisted idea of misplaced revenge, killed people they believed were Muslims.

I suspect religiously inspired hatred and murder have been done to and done by virtually every religious group.

I WOULD NO MORE FORCE MY RELIGION ON ANYONE, JUST LIKE JESUS DID NOT WHEN HE WALKED THE EARTH. REMEMBER, WE WERE CREATED WITH A FREE WILL. THESE REGULATIONS ARE JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF RULES FOR THE PEOPLE DO NOT APPLY TO GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, WHICH IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

This is a fine article.... Mikey Weinstein is a secular loon who's lightweight military career gives some authority needed by DOD political appointees who would love to push anti-religious regulations....

BUT THIS AIN'T IT. so turn off the sirens.

This is similar to the "command influence" problem the services already have to deal with for a century in which commanders have preferences that should NOT influence the conduct of their subordinates.

You don't want to feel pressured to go to some superior's prayer breakfast so you get a good efficiency report. Or have your unit members support the funds drive their spouse is in charge of on your base, or cast your vote as a member of his courtmartial panel in a way you know would please them.

Don't anticipate the problem. There are plenty you need to deal with NOW.

MAKES SENSE TO ME.

I think the TexanSarge said it best when he posted "dosnt happen", as I cannot believe any officer in this day and age would be so reckless with his career to engage in any such controversial behavior.
(he DID then repeat that McDonnell woman from Maryland's contention that separation of church and state appears nowhere in the constitution), somewhere on a par with mentioning ''Fox News" as a source (or at ALL) in an intelligent conversation.

Just want to clear up some of the misconceptions that permeat this thread. First, Christians do not harass or force their beliefs on others. Anyone claiming to be a Christian while doing so is a hypocrite and definitely not what he or she claims to be (see 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Having said that, there is nothing in the term proselytizing that necessarily infers coercion. I spent over 20 years as a leader in the Marine Corps and know many fellow Christians who proselytized every day and there is nothing wrong with it. They did it without saying a word; it's called leadership by example. Finally, as a Marine Officer, as a Christian, and as a man, I retain the ability, and the right, to speak my mind when I see fit. Just because someone disagrees with my views doesn't mean that they've been harassed. People need to stop behaving like spoiled children, claiming offense simply because they hear something they don't like.

Just LOVE all the (non verified) comments.

A long habit of thinking a wrong thing to be right gives it s superficial appearance of being right, and results n building confidence to a point of conviction that the belief is true. Consequently, when the belief is first called into question, it causes a tremendous outcry in defense of the custom.
However, if the challenge is unmistakably clear, employs irrefutable argument (evidence and logic), and reason prevails, then the tumult soon subsides, the erroneous belief is removed, and mankind further enabled to achieve our full potential.
The above ais an elaboration of the first lines of the preface of COMMON SENSE written by Thomas Paine in 1776 to persuade the English colonists that the long habit of thinking that Hereditary Monarchy is ordained by God and even at its worst (as under king George III) was still essential, was clearly false; and that a Declaration of Independence should be declared, a Constituation based on natural rights generated, and whatever Revolutionary war that would almost certainly occur should be supported and fought until independence was achieved.
You mentioned your Christian belief and regular study of the Bible. Had you or I been raised a Muslim we would probably be doing the same with the Koran. Thomas Paine also set down his views concerning the Bible and all revealed religions in 1794-5 in a book entiled The Age of Reason, being an investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, Parts 1 and 2. I recommend everyone read that book carefully. If they would, I think the wars and other sufferings of other intelligent people based on false religions would be over.
Thomas Edison said: This nation never had a sounder intelligence than Thomas Paine. His writings are a crystallization of acute human reasoning. His books should be school books for all children.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.