national-day-of-prayer-presidioNews broke that the Pentagon confirmed that it will prosecute Christian soldiers, sailors and Marines who share their faith with fellow members in arms.  A statement from the U.S. Department of Defense released to Fox News said, “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense.  Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases.”

Todd Starnes of Fox News reports that Pentagon officials have met with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (read freedom from religion, not freedom of religion):

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.”

“Someone needs to be punished for this,” Weinstein told Fox News. “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.”

The topic of discussion, Starnes reports, was the policy published on August 7, 2012 entitled, “Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards”:

“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 regulation states.

Military leaders were admonished not to use their position to “promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”

Weinstein said it’s time for the Air Force to enforce the regulation – with zeal.

“If a member of the military is proselytizing in a manner that violates the law, well then of course they can be prosecuted,” he said. “We would love to see hundreds of prosecutions to stop this outrage of fundamentalist religious persecution.”

He compared the act of proselytizing to rape.

“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” he told Fox News.

The fact that the Pentagon is giving this anti-religious zealot a hearing is of concern.  We can see Weinstein’s hatred of Christianity in a recent Huffington Post piece he wrote:

I founded the civil rights fighting organization the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to do one thing: fight those monsters who would tear down the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal entity ever created by humankind, the U.S. military.

Today, 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.

At issue here is a redefinition of what “proselytizing” means.  Lt. General Jerry Boykin (U.S. Army – Ret.) of the Family Research Council said on Fox & Friends:

It’s a matter of what do they mean by “proselytizing.” I think they’ve got their definitions a little confused. If you’re talking about coercion that’s one thing, but if you’re talking about the free exercise of our faith as individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, especially for the chaplains, they I think the worst thing we can do is stop the ability for a soldier to be able to exercise his faith.

These are the very soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who fight for our freedoms.  They should not be asked to check their faith at the door when they enlist.  Freedom of religion means the free exercise of it.  It goes beyond the act of worship.  Christians are called to share the good news, and the Pentagon has basically said the Great Commission is banned in the military.  Like Lt. Gen. Boykin said – we can’t coerce which is an entirely different thing, but to say they can not share their faith entirely is unconstitutional.  This regulation would restrict personal evangelism in one-to-one settings among friends – in homes and even when military members are off duty.  I don’t know how a chaplain is supposed to function in an environment like this.

Lt. Gen. Boykin warned this will drastically impact enlistment, and I believe he is right.

The Family Research Council has started a petition which has exceeded over 60,000 signatures imploring Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to scrub the plan to court martial Christians.  I encourage you to sign it.

Photo credit: Presidio of Monterey: DLIFLC & USAG via Flickr (CC-By-NC 2.0)

4 comments
  1. Hi Shane,

    This furor hinges on how “prosyletize” is defined, and that meaning is not changing. Neither has military code (below). So this is premature/needs more research before blasting it far and wide. That’s just a charitable and truth-seeking thing to do, imho.

    FYI, here are the military regs at issue (Section 2.11). Again, they’re fairly balanced in treatment of individual free exercise and defining it vs. coercion (“establishment”). For example, code prohibits, for commonsense reasons of morale and effectiveness of the unit, “actual or apparent USE OF THEIR POSITION to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment.”
    http://www.180fw.ang.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120820-005.pdf

    For balance, it is good to hear other perspectives:
    http://americanlivewire.com/why-nobody-is-going-to-court-martial-over-christianity/
    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=26987

    1. This should clear things up as well — via Air Force JAG’s Law Review.
      http://www.afjag.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-081009-008.pdf

      “Particularly among willing peers, voluntary private discussions about religion, including proselytizing, are permissible offduty and on-duty (e.g., during breaks) to the extent that non-religious private speech is permitted. Military superiors certainly have the authority to issue a content-neutral prohibition on all on-duty speech that does not pertain to official business. As a practical matter, however, many military leaders permit some non-duty-related conversations while on duty, so long as those conversations do not unduly interfere with the performance of the mission. Such conversations often contribute to unit effectiveness by fostering interpersonal relationships leading to increased teamwork and cohesiveness.

      Unwanted proselytizing of another military member, even when it occurs among peers, can create delicate issues when it continues after the listener has expressed the desire not to hear any more invitations to adopt the speaker’s religion. As a general principle, of course, the Free Speech Clause does not require a speaker to cease speaking a message just because others do not like hearing it. A military member complaining to the chain of command about another member’s off-duty proselytizing might be advised to avoid, if possible, spending off-duty time with the proselytizer. When the listener realistically cannot avoid the proselytizer, however, the situation is different. Examples include if the two are assigned as roommates or must work closely together or if the proselytizer is “stalking” the listener. Because of the repeated, unwanted nature of the proselytizing and the listener’s inability to avoid it, the proselytizing can affect the listener’s morale and ability to do his job and thus interfere with mission accomplishment and unit effectiveness…

      Some religious speech by military members could also be limited under the Free Speech Clause not because of its content but because it violates some valid content-neutral law or order. For example, a regulation prohibiting the routine use of slogans and quotes on official e-mails would also prohibit religious quotations. Similarly, a lawful order to maintain ‘radio silence’ during a mission would also prohibit religious speech. These limitations are certainly permissible, despite their incidental impact on religious speech, because they are not aimed at any particular message and directly further important military interests.

      Finally, the Joint Ethics Regulation’s provision on ‘misuse of position’ prohibits governmental employees, including military members, from using their official position for ‘endorsement of any . . . enterprise’ or ‘in a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that . . . the Government sanctions or endorses [their] personal activities.’”

  2. AMERICA, Home Of The Brave, Land Of The Socialist, Facet, Pigs. I Can’t Believe The Government Is Taking Away Rights From The Very People Who Put Their Lives On The Line To Keep Us Free!!!

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