- Ada, Oklahoma

June 3, 2013

Pentagon isn't clamping down on religious freedom

Gary D. Childers

Ada —

Please allow me to take exception to your recent column which attempts to demonize Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation as well as the Pentagon and our armed forces. Perhaps your readers aren’t familiar with Mr. Weinstein and his foundation, so I hope you’ll let me enlighten your readers a little. 

Mikey Weinstein is a Jew. He is a Republican. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He served 10 years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. For more than three years he was on the West Wing White House staff of Pres. Ronald Reagan, where he served as legal counsel. He is a devoted and tireless fighter for the separation of church and state and he is a strong believer in the U.S. Constitution. 

The Pentagon is not going to “clamp down on religious freedom,” as your headline states. The MRFF has followed and researched the activities of fundamentalist Christians in the ranks of the U.S. armed forces. Those who have been so monitored have used obscenities, vicious and embarrassing hatred and proselytization to browbeat subordinates in the military who are different faiths or even those who are Christian but have different beliefs (e.g., Roman Catholics, Lutherans, etc.). The MRFF has more than 32,000 clients who are troops in uniform or civilian workers for the military. Ninety-six percent of those clients are Protestant or Roman Catholic. A few are Jewish, some are Muslim and others include non-believers and those of unique religious beliefs. 

Some were ordered to attend prayer breakfasts, constantly derided for being non-Christian or Christians of differing persuasions or told they must “get right with Jesus,” no matter their religious ideals. Most notably, these infractions are brought about by fundamentalist, right wingers from within the normal chain of command. 

This is an infraction of the U.S. Military Code of Justice and, until recently, it had not been enforced, hence the need for the MRFF. In the military it is not illegal to share one’s religious beliefs; it is, however, illegal to coerce others to share one’s beliefs. This is what has been going on and this is what the MRFF and Mr. Weinstein have been fighting.

Were those browbeaters fundamentalist Muslims or Church of Scientology adherents, I bet you would join the MRFF in its battle to protect the religious freedoms of our men and women in uniform. Your reliance on the Family Research Council for your information is sufficient to call into question the validity of any of their quotes in your column. The Family Research Council is known to have problems with reporting the truth and has a tendency for using lies for sensationalism. If you’d rely on news sources besides Fox News, you’d find totally different stories about the MRFF and Mr. Weinstein.

By the way, the MRFF has been nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor that neither the Family Research Council nor Fox News can claim.