September 22, 2023

Why Are 170,000 Calling on the Pentagon to Protect a Right That’s Guaranteed Under the Constitution?

Advocates for religious freedom, including a retired general and retired colonel, met with Defense Department officials at the Pentagon, delivering a petition with 170,00 signatures to prevent the military from preventing religious expression.

Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the Family Research Council, retired Col. Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association and Kellie Fiedorek of Alliance Defending Freedom met with the Pentagon officials on Thursday.

Air Force officials accepted more than 170,000 signatures calling for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect religious liberties for members of the armed service.

170,000 Call for Protecting Religious Freedom in Military

ARLINGTON, VA – SEPTEMBER 11: 11: (L to R) U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey stand during a ceremony in observance of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 at the Pentagon September 11, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. Credit: Getty Images

A second petition with about 50,000 signatures called for the Air Force to stop the legal action against Senior Master Sgt. Philip Monk at Lackland Air Force Base. Monk is a 19-year Air Force veteran relieved of his duties because he disagreed with an openly gay commander over gay marriage and is now facing an investigation, as first reported by Fox News.

They also presented a report to the Pentagon from the Family Research Council titled “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military,” listing examples of suppression of religious expression.

Boykin said the Defense Department officials would review decisions made at bases that did not reflect Air Force policy.

“After reviewing a series of troubling incidents involving chaplains, the coalition members were assured in the meeting that chaplains would not be forced to do anything that violates the tenets of their faith,” Boykin said in a statement released Friday. “We also requested that the Department of Defense and the Air Force issue a definitive statement regarding the ability of service members to share their faith publicly. Previous statements on the subject have been confusing and contradictory.”

On the other side, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a church-state separation group, met with Pentagon officials in April, The Washington Post reported, and talked about court-martialing superior officers who proselytize to subordinates.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) President Mikey Weinstein has said “proselytizing” in the military is a national security threat on a par with terrorism and the sexual assault problem.

“This is a national security threat internally to this country every bit as much as we’re facing externally by Taliban, Al Qaeda and the jihadists,” Weinstein told in June.

“If a military superior of any rank tells a subordinate that you lack integrity, character, trust, intelligence, honor and honorability because of your chosen religious faith or lack thereof, why is there no difference between that and telling someone they’re stupid for the color of their skin or because they were born a female?” Weinstein said. “That’s why we use the term spiritual rape. They’re being denigrated. They are being oppressed.”