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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Christocrats build power in the military

August 2007. Pentagon IG raps appearance by senior Army and Air Force officers in Christian Embassy video

June 2007. Gen. William "my God was bigger than his god" Boykin to retire.

May 2007. Watchdog groups force Army, Air Force to drop sponsorship of right-wing evangelical Christian event

September 30, 2006: Congress rescinds Air Force and Navy chaplain prayer regulations. Click here.
Senate promotes Gen. Weida who was involved in Air Force Academy religious problems. Click here. October 16. Air Force quietly issues new chaplain guidelines.

Background: While religious coercion at the Air Force Academy garners headlines (please see our coverage), right-wing Christian evangelicals are organizing within all the branches of military.

Topics on this page include: The Navy's prayer policy | Air Force General emails fund pitch for "Christian" candidate for Congress | Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt | Sectarian chaplain prayer amendment holds defense bill hostage | Congress rescinds Air Force and Navy prayer regulations | Senate promotes Gen. Weida who was involved in Air Force Academy religious problems | January 2007: Anti-Defamation League and Military Religious Freedom Foundation call for Congress to hold hearings on religious coercion in the military | June 2007. Gen. William "my God was bigger than his god" Boykin to retire | October 2006. Air Force quietly issues new chaplain guidelines | Pentagon resists Wiccan Pentangle | Marines' Toys for Tots distributing talking Jesus dolls | Army and Air Force officers appear in Christian Embassy video | News and commentary

Onward Christian Soldiers
The growing power of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity in the U.S. military

by Haim Dov Beliak and Jane Hunter, JewsOnFirst.org, June 9, 2008.

This article was commissioned and posted by Religion Dispatches, which has generously permitted us to repost it here.
We invite you to use the player below to listen to our interview with Army Specialist Jeremy Hall and Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

In a lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense and his commanding officer, Army Specialist Jeremy Hall alleges that Maj. Freddy J. Welborn broke up an atheists’ meeting organized in Iraq, exclaiming: “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” In an interview last week, Hall said that he and another Army specialist attending the meeting were forced to stand at attention before Welborn and submit to his authority, saying: "'Yes sir, I see where you’re coming from, yes sir I see what you mean, this that and the other." The encounter with Welborn, Hall continued, forced him “to totally lie. My integrity was taken from me. My pride. Everything was stripped from me when I had to say, ‘Yes sir,’ and shake his hand.” Please click here to read our report and listen to our recorded interview with Hall and Mikey Weinstein, whose Military Religious Freedom Foundation is providing his legal representation.

Watchdog groups force Army, Air Force to drop sponsorship of right-wing evangelical Christian event
Mikey Weinstein planning lawsuit over Memorial Day weekend event

by JewsOnFirst.org, May 29, 2007

Last-minute intervention by constitutional watchdog organizations forced the Army and Air Force to drop their sponsorship of a right-wing evangelical Christian event.

The event, "Salute to the Troops," at Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta ran without official government sponsorship. Planned military involvement in the three-day Memorial Day weekend event was also greatly reduced after Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) wrote to the secretaries of the Army and Navy.

Nevertheless, Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said he is planning to sue the Pentagon over the event. Continue.

Senior Army and Air Force officers appear in Christian Embassy video

Christian Embassy promotional video

To view the video in this window, click the start button. It might take 2 clicks. It may also take a few moments to begin playing, a delay necessitated by the high-quality, full-length copy we've put on JewsOnFirst's server. If the video does not start (or it doesn't start "buffering"), click here to open it in Windows Media Player.

DOD Inspector-General finds officers' participation in Christian group's video inappropriate

Background by JewsOnFirst.org, August 8, 2007

For items added after August 8th, please click here.

In a report released last week, the Defense Department's inspector general found that seven military officers, among them four generals, acted inappropriately when they participated in uniform in a promotional video for a conservative Christian evangelical organization, the Christian Embassy.

The Christian Embassy proselytizes to high-ranking military and civilian officials. According to the I.G. report, the organization, which has ties to the right-wing Campus Crusade for Christ, used the video for fundraising.

The report identified a since-retired Pentagon chaplain as having obtained permission for the filming with a misleading description of its duration and purpose.

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, exposed the existence of the video last winter and demanded the investigation. That prompted the Christian Embassy to remove the video from its website. JewsOnFirst then posted the video, which has been viewed by many thousands of people.

Last week's I.G. report also confirmed earlier reports that the Christian Embassy has had free access to the Pentagon since 1978. Many of the officers participating in the video told the Inspector General that they believed it was a quasi-official part of the Pentagon. The I.G. recommended that the organization's officials be issued more restrictive passes.

Yesterday Max Blumenthal reported in the Nation that the Pentagon chaplain was hosting the Jonathan Spinks Evangelistic Association for an in-house performance in advance of its "military crusade" for US troops in Iraq.

The chaplain's website was advertising the Spinks group's appearance for Pentagon audiences. We preserved the page in a PDF document, which you can see here.

Blumenthal also reported that another group, Operation Straight Up, is sending copies of the controversial Left Behind video games to troops in Iraq. (There are links to these operations in the continuation of this topic, here.)

Alleged Misconduct by DOD Officers Concerning Christian Embassy

Department of Defense Inspector General's Report, July 20, 2007

The report details the reasons for each of several officer's appearance in the Christian Embassy's promotional video. But the report's most arresting finding is that the Christian Embassy has had badges to enter the Pentagon since the late 1970s. According to the report the Pentagon's recently retired chaplain was a key organizer of the filming. In obtaining permission for the video crew, he failed to disclose that high officers would take part and that the filming would take place over several months. Please click here to read the report, a PDF document..

For the continuation of this topic, click here.

January 2007. We posted our first update to this topic here with links to: CNN's segment on the video, featuring Mikey Weinstein; Christ Hedges' report on Truthdig; Weinstein's exchange with Rush Limbaugh; and continuing news reports and comment.

Uniformed Senior Army and Air Force Officers Appear in Religious Group's Video
Pentagon allowed video for Christian Embassy to be shot on premises

By JewsOnFirst.org, December 12, 2006

Six uniformed senior offices, Army and Air Force generals and colonels, offer testimonials in a promotional video (see box at left) for the Christian Embassy, a Washington based Christian Right group that evangelizes official Washington. According to the Christian Embassy, the Pentagon permitted the video to be shot on its premises.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) brought the video to public attention and the Washington Post broke the story.

"This video contains some of the most blatant and egregious violations of both the Constitution and military regulations I have ever seen," said Mikey Weinstein, MRFFs president and founder. "It is truly astonishing that senior military officials have the impudence to appear in their official capacity discussing their desire to proselytize Christianity to fellow military personnel during the duty day and in the offices of the Pentagon itself."

In a recorded conversation with JewsOnFirst yesterday, just after news broke about the video, Rabbi Bruce Kahn, who served as an active and reserve Navy chaplain for 32 years, said that most chaplains, including evangelical Christian chaplains, oppose proselytizing in the ranks. Kahn calls such proselytizing demeaning. "It says [those serving in the military] are not adequate to make their own religious decisions without coercion," he said.

The MRFF issued a report calling on the Pentagon's Inspector General to investigate.

One of the officers in the video, Major General Jack Catton, sent an email from his official address last spring seeking campaign contributions for a "Christian" candidate for Congress. (More here.)

Also in the video, a Pentagon chaplain with the rank of colonel, Ralph Benson, says: "Christian Embassy is a blessing to the Washington area, a blessing to our capital; it’s a blessing to our country. They are interceding on behalf of people all over the United States, talking to ambassadors, talking to people in the Congress, in the Senate, talking to people in the Pentagon, and being able to share the message of Jesus Christ in a very very important time in our world is winning a world wide war on terrorism. What more do we need than Christian people leading us and guiding us, so, they’re needed in this hour."

The Christian Embassy promotional video

Several days after news broke about its video, the Christian Embassy removed it from its site. JewsOnFirst posted a full copy (above) and the Daily Kos posted excerpts which you can see here. According to news reports, the video was made in 2001.

Conversation with Rabbi Bruce Kahn, retired Navy chaplain

Recorded conversation with Rabbi Kahn by JewsOnFirst.org, December 11, 2006

Rabbi Bruce Kahn, who served as an active and reserve Navy chaplain for 32 years, talks with Jane Hunter of JewsOnFirst about proselytizing in the military generally (he hadn't yet read the just-breaking reports of the video). He says most military chaplains oppose proselytizing, which "isn't what this country is about." Please use the player or click here to listen to the 10-minute conversation.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation Report and Documents

Website of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, December 2006

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has posted the main documents of the Pentagon video scandal, most notably two compliance reports, one of which focuses on the video scandal; the other includes a number of instances in which the military services have favored a particular religion. Click here and go to the bottom of the page.

Religious Group's Ties to Pentagon Questioned

by Guy Raz, All Things Considered, National Public Radio, December 11, 2006

According to NPR, the Christian Embassy has an office in the Pentagon and access to its executive dining room, where the organization holds prayer breakfasts. In a recording of one, a Rev. James Kennedy (perhaps D. James Kennedy?) says that anyone who won't accept Christ is "insane." Click here for a summary and a link to the audio report.

Inside Christian Embassy

by Jeff Sharlet, The Revealer blog, December 23, 2006

Sharlet's notes on the structure of the Christian Embassy, based on his exclusive interview with the chief of staff of Christian Embassy. He wrote briefly about what he calls the "behind-the-scenes ministry" in the December 2006 issue of Harper's. In this posting he summarizes his notes on the Christian Embassy's activities in organizing in Washington's highest echelons. Click here.

Inquiry Sought Over Evangelical Video
Defense Department Asked to Examine Officers' Acts Supporting Christian Group

By Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, December 11, 2006

A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.

"I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. "And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I'm an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am." Continue.

"These people should be court-martialed"
Former Air Force officer Mikey Weinstein says evangelicals are trying to turn his beloved military into a "frickin' faith-based initiative."

By Alex Koppelman, Salon.com, December 13, 2006

When a Christian group shot a video inside the Pentagon that featured uniformed senior military officers talking about their evangelical faith, Mikey Weinstein went on the attack. Himself a former Air Force lawyer and Air Force Academy grad, Weinstein, who is Jewish, is the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He founded the MRFF earlier this year to oppose the spread of religious intimidation in a military increasingly dominated by evangelical Christians.

On Monday, Weinstein held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to announce that he was asking the Department of Defense's inspector general to look into the video, and determine whether the people who appeared in it -- Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr.; Army Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, the former public affairs director of the Army; and Undersecretary of the Army Pete Geren -- had violated military regulations. He also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the government to find out who, if anyone, had approved the video shoot. Continue.

Jewish Council for Public Affairs Expresses Concern Over Religious Violations By Military Leadership
JCPA Sends Letter to Secretary Gates About Continued Breaches of Separation of Religion and State

News Release, JCPA, December 21, 2006

NEW YORK – The executive director of the community relations arm of the organized American Jewish community, today sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, articulating the organization’s distress over recent reports that military leadership has actively violated the religious freedoms of military personnel. Continue.

JWV Demands Investigation of “Christian Embassy’s” Influence in the Pentagon

News release by Jewish War Veterans of the USA, December 19, 2006

The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) supports the call for an investigation of a video shot within the Pentagon and featuring seven military officers in uniform endorsing an evangelical Christian organization, the “Christian Embassy.” Continue.

Religious bias complaint filed with DoD IG

By Gordon Lubold, Marine Corps Times, December 13, 2006

The Pentagon is looking into a charge by a watchdog group that senior uniformed officers and other Defense Department officials participated in a video promoting a particular religion.

The group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which says it aims to “protect religious freedoms of all U.S. military personnel,” complained to the Defense Department Inspector General that the video violates defense policies. Continue.

Group asks to widen Pentagon probe to see if evangelical group given aid

By Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press, December 14, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. (ABP) -- A watchdog group wants to know if high-ranking Pentagon officials not only allowed uniformed officers to appear in a video promoting an evangelical ministry, but also if they gave the ministry Pentagon office space or any other special accommodations.

The evangelical group, Christian Embassy, has removed a link on its website to the promotional video, which featured uniformed military officials endorsing the evangelism ministry. The video initially prompted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to request an investigation.

The initial Freedom of Information Act request, dated Dec. 11, asked Pentagon officials for any information about how the Christian Embassy was able to gain access to the Pentagon and its employees to film the promo piece. Continue.

Religious Group's Ties to Pentagon Questioned

by Guy Raz, National Public Radio, All Things Considered, December 11, 2006

A military watchdog group is asking the Pentagon whether senior uniformed officers had permission to appear in a video endorsing an evangelical Christian group.

The Christian Embassy is an evangelical missionary group focused on government workers in Washington, DC. The group's recent promotional video features endorsements from several prominent military officers.

In response, another group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is preparing a possible class-action lawsuit against the Pentagon for what lawyer Michael Weinstein calls "the creation of a theocracy, of a particular fundamentalist perspective within our own military branches." Click here.

Group Says Pentagon Approved Its Video

By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, December 11, 2006

An evangelical Christian group, under fire for a promotional video featuring active-duty military officers praising the organization, said Monday it was given permission by the Defense Department.

The video prompted a religious freedom watchdog group to ask the Pentagon to investigate whether the tape violated regulations and possibly the Constitution.

Robert Varney, executive director of the Christian Embassy, which produced the video, said the group was adding a note telling viewers the content does not represent the military or any government agency. Continue.

Smells Like Military Spirit

Jeff Sharlet, The Revealer, December 12, 2006

The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman reports that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is requesting an inquiry over the propriety of flag officers appearing in a video on behalf of Christian Embassy, a deliberately low-key, behind-the-scenes Campus Crusade ministry for government and military elites. Maybe the timing is coinicidence, but my Harper's cover story reporting for the first time on the video has been on the stands for a month, a fact Cooperman didn't find fit to mention. Oh, well. More disturbing was Cooperman's throwaway line noting that one of the video's testimonies comes from Major General Jack Catton, had come under fire earlier this year after raising funds from fellow officers for a congressional candidate. Well, who? Cooperman or his editors didn't seem to think it mattered -- even though the case involved another instance of Catton possibly crossing church/state lines. The Air Force Times didn't shy away from that story. Continue.

Inspector General Looking Into Christian Group's Film Taped at Pentagon

Fox News, December 11, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is looking into how access was granted a year ago to an evangelical Christian group that shot a promotional video inside the Pentagon. It included active duty military officers speaking on the group's behalf while in uniform. Continue.

For the continuation of this topic, click here.

News and commentary

Religion and Its Role Are in Dispute at the Service Academies

Neela Banerjee, The New York Times, June 25, 2008

Three years after a scandal at the Air Force Academy over the evangelizing of cadets by Christian staff and faculty members, students and staff at West Point and the Naval Academy are complaining that their schools, too, have pushed religion on cadets and midshipmen.

The controversy led the Air Force to adopt guidelines that discourage public prayers at official events or meetings. And while those rules do not apply to other branches of the service, critics say the new complaints raise questions about the military’s commitment to policies against imposing religion on its members. Continue.

ACLU calls for USNA to end lunchtime prayer

By Chris Amos, Navy Times, June 27, 2008

A national civil rights organization has asked the Naval Academy to end its tradition of offering an official prayer during daily noontime meals that midshipmen are required to attend.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to academy superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler on May 2 telling Fowler that nine present and former midshipmen had contacted the group to complain about the prayer. The group asked that Fowler end the practice because its lawyers say the prayer violates a precedent set by a 2003 federal appellate court ruling and because it creates an environment where midshipmen feel compelled to pray in order to not stand out from their peers or be seen as nonconformists.

In the court case mentioned in the ACLU letter, a federal appellate court said “supper prayers” at the Virginia Military Institute were unconstitutional because of their coercive nature.

Because of that case, the ACLU letter says it is “long past time” for the academy to end the practice. Continue.

ACLU threatens academy prayer lawsuit

By Kevin Robillard, HometownAnnapolis.com, June 26, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union is pressuring the Naval Academy to end its 163-year tradition of lunchtime prayer.

In a May letter to Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler, the academy's superintendent, ACLU officials asked the institution to end the prayers on behalf of nine unnamed midshipmen who said the prayer made them uncomfortable and violated the Constitution.

The prayer occurs before the midshipmen eat lunch, when one of the academy's eight chaplains leads the brigade in prayer. The anonymous midshipmen and the ACLU said those who don't clasp their hands, bow their heads, and recite the prayer inevitably stand out and feel pressure to participate. Continue.

ACLU Might File Suit To End Lunch Prayer
Some Feel Pressured, Group Says

By Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post, June 26, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue the U.S. Naval Academy unless it abolishes its daily lunchtime prayer, saying that some midshipmen have felt pressured to participate.

In a letter to the Naval Academy, Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said it was "long past time" for the academy to discontinue the tradition. She said the practice violates midshipmen's freedom to practice religion as their conscience leads them. Continue.

Clashing Over Church Ritual and Flag Protocol at the Naval Academy Chapel
The practice of dipping the American flag in a service at the Naval Academy Chapel was restored after a brief suspension.

By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, March 8, 2008

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — On Sundays at the Naval Academy Chapel, at a few minutes past 11 a.m., the choir stops singing and a color guard carrying the academy flag and the American flag strides up the aisle.

Below a cobalt blue stained-glass window of Jesus, one midshipman dips the academy flag before the altar cross, and the other dips the American flag.

The dipping of the flag has begun this nondenominational Protestant service at the Naval Academy for 40 years. But in civilian life, the American flag is never to be dipped, and the Navy says, it is not dipped at any other worship service at the academy or at any other installation.

In October, after the academy’s superintendent, Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, raised questions about the ritual with the academy chaplains, they suspended the flag-dipping because “there was a concern over teaching midshipmen something not practiced anywhere in the fleet,” the academy’s spokesman, Cmdr. Ed Austin, said in an e-mail message. Continue.

The Cancer From Within

by David Antoon, Truthdig, November 7, 2007.

David Antoon is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, a Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Several years ago his son Ryan won an appointment to the Academy, but, as Antoon describes in this article, when they went to cadet orientation, they encountered intense Christian fundamentalist proselytizing. Ryan Antoon reluctantly decided not to attend the Academy.

Antoon went on to learn more about the influence of right-wing evangelical Christians at the Academy and in the military. He also joined the board of directors of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In the conclusion of his article, he expresses his dismay at what he found:

The Christian supremacist fascism first reported at the Air Force Academy is endemic throughout the military. From the top down, there has been a complete repudiation of constitutional values and time-honored codes of ethics and honor codes in favor of religious ideology. And we now have a revolving door between Blackwater USA, which is Bush’s Praetorian Guard, and the U.S. military at every level. The citizen-soldier military dictated by our founding fathers has been replaced with professional and mercenary right-wing Christian crusaders in control of the world’s most powerful military. The risks to our democratic form of government cannot be overstated.

This evangelical Christian supremacist fascism within our military and government is a cancer. Officers, especially commanders, who violate the original code of ethics, must be rooted out of the military. The undermining of the Constitution, especially by senior military officers, must end.

As I look back at my 30 years as an active-duty officer, two combat tours in Vietnam, decorations including air medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross, I realize that not once was my service in support or defense of the Constitution. For the very first time, I am upholding my oath of office.

Click here to read the article..

Are U.S. troops being force-fed Christianity?
A watchdog group alleges that improper evangelizing is occurring within the ranks.

By Jane Lampman, The Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2007

At Speicher base in Iraq, US Army Spec. Jeremy Hall got permission from a chaplain in August to post fliers announcing a meeting for atheists and other nonbelievers. When the group gathered, Specialist Hall alleges, his Army major supervisor disrupted the meeting and threatened to retaliate against him, including blocking his reenlistment in the Army.

Months earlier, Hall charges, he had been publicly berated by a staff sergeant for not agreeing to join in a Thanksgiving Day prayer.

On Sept. 17, the soldier and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed suit against Army Maj. Freddy Welborn and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, charging violations of Hall's constitutional rights, including being forced to submit to a religious test to qualify as a soldier.

The MRFF plans more lawsuits in coming weeks, says Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, who founded the military watchdog group in 2005. The aim is "to show there is a pattern and practice of constitutionally impermissible promotions of religious beliefs within the Department of Defense." Continue.

Swastikas at Hunter Airfield, and a Rabbi on the Run

By Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t, 17 July 2007

A former Army chaplain who has been listed as a deserter by the Department of Defense intends to file a civil rights lawsuit against the United States military for refusing to discipline three Evangelical Christian Army chaplains at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The three allegedly subjected Rabbi Jeffrey Goldman to vulgar displays of anti-Semitism in 2001 and 2002.

Goldman, 35, a native of Toronto, said the Army listed him as a deserter in retaliation for speaking out about other chaplains' anti-Semitic behavior at Fort Stewart. Goldman contends that he legally resigned from his stint as an Army chaplain in January 2002 when his transfer requests were rebuffed.

Mikey Weinstein, head of the watchdog group The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said Goldman approached him last month after reading a story reported by Truthout in which Weinstein exposed a pattern of anti-Semitism displayed in Biblical teachings by chaplains at Fort Leavenworth. Continue.

Blue Angels: Chaplain on the flight deck

By Joni B. Hannigan, Florida Baptist Witness, June 7, 2007

This report is based on an interview with Navy Chaplain Lt. Michael Peyton, a Southern Baptist who speaks openly of evangelizing personnel during pastoral counseling. Peyton says he believes "the fields are truly white to God's harvest" in the military. According to the report:

In his office, Peyton offers counseling as part of his ministry and says he starts out hearing about symptoms of problems but quickly turns the conversation in a spiritual direction—"under the leadership of the Holy Spirit."

"I will start going through the exploratory questions with them and I use the F.A.I.T.H. outline," he said. "They may just give a works answer or they may not have any clue. But one of the best parts of my ministry is just being a spiritual midwife and seeing the young sailors, the young Marines, the young airmen humble themselves and come to faith in Jesus Christ behind the closed counseling door."

Click here.

Proposal on Military Chaplains and Prayer Holds Up Bill

By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, September 19, 2006

A bill that sets the Pentagon’s spending levels is being held up by controversy over a provision that would allow military chaplains to offer sectarian prayers at nondenominational military events.

The provision, which is being pushed by Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, says "chaplains in each of the military services would have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of their own conscience." The Senate version of the spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, has no such language. Continue.

See more on this subject below. Please click here.

Academy graduate: Get rid of ‘Crusaders’ emblem

By Tim Korte, Associated Press, Air Force Times, September 1, 2006

The 523rd Fighter Squadron's unit emblem features a cross, a sword and an armored helmet. The squadron uses the nickname "Crusaders" for its unit. Mikey Weinstein has challenged the unit’s emblem and nickname, claiming blatantly sectarian religious symbolism on the patches they affix to their uniforms. — Cannon Air Force Base

An Air Force Academy graduate from Albuquerque wants Cannon Air Force Base officials to end the 523rd Fighter Squadron’s use of “Crusaders” as the unit’s nickname.

Mikey Weinstein, who has sued the Air Force over allegations that Air Force Academy cadets were unconstitutionally subjected to Christian evangelization, has complained about the 523rd’s unit emblem, which features a cross, a sword and an armored helmet. Continue

Onward, Catholic soldiers

Our Sunday Visitor (www.osv.com), Catholic Online, July 27, 2006

With few Catholic chaplains and sometimes a shaky grasp of their own faith, Catholics in the military are susceptible to pressure from Protestant evangelicals. The Archdiocese for the Military Services USA is taking steps to address this problem, according to the article. Click here.

Not a Burning Issue
The Air Force drops a flag-folding ceremony over religious references, and no one cares.

by Jason Bailey, Christianity Today, posted July 27, 2006

An Air Force decision to create an official flag folding script with no religious references has gone largely unnoticed since its introduction last July. The script replaces a popular but unofficial script that contained biblical references that was removed from the Air Force website because of complaints from atheists.

Army Sgt. Chris Anderson, a member of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), was one of the individuals who argued that the government was endorsing religion by posting the unofficial script.

"In order to ensure this religious flag-folding ceremony is not portrayed as an official government-sponsored flag-folding ceremony, I ask you to remove it," Anderson wrote to an unspecified government website after the Air Force removed the unofficial script. Continue

Amendment mandating chaplains’ sensitivity fails

By Bryant Jordan, Air Force Times, May 5, 2006

A New York congressman’s push to require that military chaplains exhibit greater sensitivity toward various faiths was defeated Thursday.

Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee — with the exception of Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan — voted against the amendment, offered by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., to language inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2007.

The original language, added to the ’07 Defense Authorization Act by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., provides that "each chaplain shall have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience, except as must be limited by military necessity, with any such limitation being imposed in the least restrictive manner feasible."

But Israel asked lawmakers to amend the language, adding "that chaplains shall demonstrate sensitivity, respect and tolerance for all faiths present on each occasion at which prayers are offered." Click here for the report

Public prayer in Jesus’ name debated

By Adelle Banks, Religion News Service, The Baptist Standard (Texas), April 28, 2006

WASHINGTON (RNS)—Retired Army Chaplain David Peterson models how he thinks sensitive Christians should pray in public.

"I pray in Jesus’ name, but I always give a little introduction, just two or three seconds: 'I'm going to pray according to my tradition, and I encourage you to pray according to your tradition,'" said Peterson, a retired colonel who coordinates chaplain ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. Click here for the report.

Rabbi named director of Jewish Chaplains Council

By Diane Haag, The Shreveport Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), March 31, 2006

Retiring from a Shreveport congregation, Rabbi Harold Robinson will head the Jewish Chaplains Council, part of the Jewish Community Center Association. He will be responsible for "supporting and training the 90 Jewish military chaplains and leaders of the 100 Jewish communities at installations without a chaplain. He will also be the liaison between chaplains and the Department of Defense on Jewish affairs." Click here

Chaplains Group Opposes Prayer Order
Guarantee on Using Jesus's Name Not Needed, It Says

By Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, March 30, 2006

A 40-year old association that represents more than 70 percent of the chaplains in the U.S. military, the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, says an executive order guaranteeing chaplains the "right" to pray in Jesus' name is unnecessary. The group, which represents chaplains of all religions, has written a letter saying so to the Senate Armed Services Committee. A new group, the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, led by Rev. Billy Baugham, that represents 800 evangelical chaplains, disagrees. Click here

Chaplains disagree over new religious speech regulations

By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes, March 31, 2006

This report on a March 30th news conference by deposed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and religious right chaplains wanting an executive order allowing them to pray to Jesus on all occasions, also has statements from chaplains in the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, who oppose the order. Click here

What the Military Shouldn't Preach

Op-ed article by Scott Poppleton, The Washington Post, March 13, 2006

"I have often asked myself as I listened to the "official prayers": What essential military need for good order and discipline does this religious program fulfill that outweighs my individual beliefs? What gives the U.S. military the right or the wisdom to preach in uniform?" Read the op-ed.

Military Culture War
Armed services debate prayer 'in Jesus' name.'

by Sarah Pulliam, Christianity Today, March 8, 2006

"As evangelicals increase their share of the military chaplain corps, their intent to evangelize more openly is challenging the pluralism promoted in official ceremonies by some other chaplains and military leadership.

"The controversy extends across U.S. military branches. Military leaders say there is no problem when evangelicals worship during sacred ceremonies, but they assert that official ceremonies require prayers that do not exclude other major religions.

"Billy Baugham, executive director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, told CT that more than 20 chaplains have contacted him claiming discrimination for praying in Jesus' name. Click here for the article.

Seminaries threaten to stop sending chaplains to military

By Bryant Jordan, Army Times, March 6, 2006

"At least two seminaries are signaling they may stop sending chaplains to the military because of what they believe are restrictions placed on their clergy’s rights to pray.

"Bob Jones University Seminary in Greenville, S.C., and Temple Baptists Seminary in Chattanooga, Tenn., have indicated in letters to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that they may quit sending chaplains to the military, according to Rev. Billy Baugham, executive director for the International Conference of Evangelical Christian Endorsers, based in Greenville, S.C." Click here for the report.

Chaplain Rebels at Prayer Censorship, Then Removed From Assignment

By Chad Groening, Agape Press, February 23, 2006

Army chaplain Capt. Jonathan Stertzbach claims that he got in trouble by refusing to stop praying in the name of Jesus and talking about it to the Washington Times. Go to the article..

Creating Christian soldiers
Proselytizing chaplains are coming under fire

By Deborah Potter, Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas), February 4, 2006

"The number of Catholic and mainline Protestant chaplains has dwindled over the past decades as evangelical Christians have flocked to the chaplaincy. Some historians say the trend dates back to the Vietnam era, when Catholic and mainline Protestant churches were active in the peace movement, while evangelical churches supported the war." According to Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, who oversees the military's Catholic chaplains, some of the evangelical chaplains tell troops that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. Click here to read the report.

Prayer in Jesus’ name remains an issue in military chaplaincy

By Ken Walker, Baptist Press, February 10, 2006

"Efforts are ongoing in Washington to guarantee the right of evangelical chaplains in all branches of the military to pray in Jesus’ name in all facets of their work."

“'This is going to be a major thrust to see if we can get this fixed,' said Billy Baugham, director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, based in Greenville, S.C. Baugham also serves as director of Associated Gospel Churches, a chaplaincy-endorsing agency for independent churches.

"Prohibitions against praying in Jesus’ name have been a longstanding complaint lodged by several dozen current and former chaplains in their lawsuits against the Navy. The plaintiffs include 11 Southern Baptists." Click here for the report.

June 2007. Gen. William "my God was bigger than his god" Boykin retires unheralded


Gen. William Boykin, who said "I knew my God was a real god and his was an idol" to retire from military
Gen. Peter Pace, who called homosexuality "immoral" also retiring

Background by JewsOnFirst.org, June 13, 2007

Largely ignored by the media, the Army general who called Islam a false religion and said of his encounter with a Somali warlord that he knew "my god was a real god and his was an idol" has retired.

Lt. Gen. William Boykin, an fundamentalist evangelical Christian, made his bigoted remarks in churches wearing his uniform. He also opened a military facility for a special event for conservative Christian clergy. Continue.

Boykin Released After Four Years in Captivity

William M. Arkin, Early Warning Blog on National and Homeland Security, May 23, 2007

After almost four years in captivity, Lt. Gen. William G. ("Jerry") Boykin, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence for intelligence and warfighting support, is being released from his Pentagon confinement and will retire from the Army.

In October 2003, I wrote about Boykin's evangelical Christian preaching and his personal views on Islam. Speaking to a variety of church groups after 9/11, the general likened Islam to the "principalities of darkness" and stated that "they" hate "us" because we are "a nation of believers." Since then, I have closely followed Boykin's work. Continue.

The Holy Warrior
General Called a Religious Fanatic Finally Speaks Out

CBS News, September 15, 2004

(CBS) Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin is a devout Christian who has probably seen as much combat as anyone in uniform.

Yet he’s been called a national embarrassment, a religious fanatic and a three-star bigot – all because of what he said about the religion of a Muslim warlord.

His words set off a torrent of criticism from Muslims around the world, and demands at home that he be fired from his high-level job as undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Now, this holy warrior speaks about the controversy for the first time with Correspondent David Martin –- but he says he’s not happy about it.

"I’m not here because I want to be. I’m doing this, not because I want to,” says Boykin. “I am doing this because it is the only chance I will get to look at Americans and say I am not what I have been portrayed to be.” Continue.

For more (and earlier) reports on this topic, click here.

Navy's prayer policy

Navy's new chaplain guidelines favor pluralism.

by JewsOnFirst, March 30, 2006

In stark contrast to recently issued Air Force chaplain guidelines, which allow prayers to Jesus at official functions, the Navy's new instructions explicitly require chaplains to be inclusive and nonsectarian. But Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation says there is a catch. And Christocrats are protesting restrictions on praying in Jesus' name. Click here

This topic continues. Please click here

Air Force General emails fund pitch for "Christian" candidate for Congress

In the news: Christianizers in the military
Anti-semitic attack on Air Force Academy graduate

by JewsOnFirst.org, May 11, 2006

May has brought forth new reports about Christianizers in the U.S. military. Most significantly, an Air Force general used his military email account to send 200 of his Air Force Academy classmates a pitch for a Republican congressional candidate that focused on the man's Christian credentials. The Jewish academy graduate who shared his copy of the email with reporters was attacked by an old-style anti-Semite and the candidate.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans rebuffed an effort to call for sensitivity in the Air Force's policy for chaplains. Issued in February, that policy delighted Christocrat because it allows chaplains to offer sectarian prayers at official occasions. Lastly, a zealot Navy chaplain, Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, got his fight for sectarian prayers back into the news. Continue

Air Force to Examine Fundraising E-Mail Sent by a General
Message Praised Candidate's Christianity

By Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, May 6, 2006

The Air Force is investigating whether a two-star general violated military regulations by urging fellow Air Force Academy graduates to make campaign contributions to a Republican candidate for Congress in Colorado, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr., who is on active duty at Langley Air Force Base, sent the fundraising appeal on Thursday from his official e-mail account to more than 200 fellow members of the academy's class of 1976, many of whom are also on active duty. Continue

Reform Jewish Leader Condemns Recent Violations by Air Force Major General

Statement by Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, May 17, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 17, 2006 – We are deeply concerned about a report in the Air Force Times that an Air Force Major General is under investigation for using his military computer to seek donations for a Republican congressional candidate, thereby violating two separate Air Force regulations. Partisan politicking with government resources is bad enough, all the more so in the military which is meant to function free from politics. But we are especially concerned by the religious content of these emails, including a call for more “Christian men with integrity and military experience in Congress.” Continue

E-mail ran afoul of rules, not religion

By Jim Spencer, The Denver Post, May 10, 2006

"I'm quite sure," said retired Air Force Gen. Bentley Rayburn, "that absent one word, no one would ever know anything about this."

The word is "Christian."

Rayburn was talking about a political endorsement sent last week via military e-mail to hundreds of recipients around the country. The e-mail's author was Maj. Gen. Jack Catton of the Air Force's Air Combat Command in Virginia. He asked recipients to support Rayburn to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley in Colorado's 5th Congressional District. Continue

January 2007: Anti-Defamation League and Military Religious Freedom Foundation call for Congress to hold hearings on religious coercion in the military

Military Religious Freedom Foundation calls for congressional hearings

January 26, 2007

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which exposed the Christian Embassy video, has written to the House and Senate armed services committees requesting hearings on the video and on religious coercion in the nation's military. Click here to read the letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

ADL Urges Senate and House Armed Services Committees to Hold Hearings On Religious Coercion In Military

Anti-Defamation League news release, January 22, 2007

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on members of the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees to hold hearings on coercive proselytizing and religious activity in the military, with the aim of creating specific guidelines to ensure that the military remains "accessible and welcoming to servicemen and servicewomen of all faiths, and to those of no faith at all."

In letters to the chair and ranking member of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, the League expressed concern that the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy were directed to rescind their existing guidelines on religious activity as part of the fiscal year 2007 Department of Defense Authorization bill, approved at the end of the last session of Congress.

That decision reversed much of the progress that resulted from a series of meetings between high-ranking Air Force officials and ADL leaders after a pervasive climate of religious intolerance was exposed at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Those meetings, and the conclusions of an independent Pentagon inquiry, led, in August 2005, to the adoption of formal guidelines to protect against religious intolerance and discrimination in the Air Force Academy and the Air Force as a whole. Continue

October 2006. Air Force quietly issues new chaplain guidelines

Subversive Release of New Air Force Guidelines on Religion Troubling
Guidelines Released Two Days After Congress Eliminated Existing Navy and Air Force Guidelines

Breaking news from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, October 16, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE - The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has learned that on October 2, just three days after Congress passed the Defense Authorization Act that eliminated the existing Navy and Air Force guidelines on religion, leadership of the United States Air Force issued new guidelines regarding chaplain service.

The new regulations supersede an Air Force policy directive on religion issued in July 1999.

"The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is troubled by the release of new Air Force guidelines on religion, just days after Congress voted to abolish them," said Mikey Weinstein, MRFF's president and founder. "We are angered that Air Force leadership went about issuing these guidelines in a subversive manner, without engaging in an open dialogue about the proper role of religion and chaplains within the Air Force."

Although I see some positive things to praise in this regulation change, especially the statement that spiritual health is not synonymous with religious health, there are still difficulties that lie within the latest guidelines," added Weinstein. "We now face the questions of how chaplains will accomplish the new roles laid out for them and how they will be appropriately trained. I am also gravely concerned that the concept of pluralism, which existed in the 1999 regulations, has been completed eliminated from these new guidelines."

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation praised Congress for voting to eradicate the existing Navy and Air Force guidelines, which the Foundation deemed to be unconstitutional.

Both the 1999 and the most recent 2006 guidelines are attached (JOF: and posted here, courtesy of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation).

More information on the Foundation's efforts can be found at www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org

Click here for the 2006 guidelines. Click here for the 1999 guidelines. These are PDF files.

Congress rescinds Air Force and Navy prayer regulations

Background, by JewsOnFirst.org

On September 30, 2006 Congress abruptly rescinded regulations that minimally limited Air Force and Navy chaplains' sectarian behavior. Air Force and Navy guidelines for chaplains issued earlier this year were supposed to foster tolerance, but they were regarded by many as insufficient protection against religious coercion by conservative Protestant evangelicals. The Air Force guidelines, revised under pressure from the religious right in Congress, permitted sectarian prayers at official occasions where attendance was mandatory.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said in a statement on his website: "I am distressed that instead of moving forward with unequivocal religious tolerance in the military, we are reopening old loopholes that permitted some acts of coercion and proselytizing. The battle ahead will be to work with the military on a new set of guidelines that reflect America’s mainstream values and ensure good order and discipline on our military bases."

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told JewsOnFirst that "we've now rolled back to what existed in 1999, where there was a broad mandate to evangelize the unChurched." In media interviews Weinstein welcomed the opportunity to reshape the armed services' religion policies. "We will have to mobilize people to address this issue," he told JewsOnFirst.

The Christian right also welcomed the dropping of all remaining strictures. Congress took the action in connection with dropping language permitting sectarian prayer from a defense bill. (Please see the topic below, Sectarian chaplain prayer amendment holds defense bill hostage.) Congressional leaders promised future hearings on the issue.

Rep. Israel addressed his religious right colleagues: "“For those of you who believe in the right of the military chaplain who told cadets willing to die for their country that they would burn in the eternal flames of hell unless they abandoned their religious beliefs, we have a profound and irreconcilable difference. But if you really believe that military chaplains have the right to force their faith on others, let’s at least not decide this issue in three weeks of a House and Senate conference. Let’s put it before the American people with public hearings.”

Chaplains asked to exercise inclusiveness during events

By Jennifer H. Svan, Stars and Stripes, Sunday, March 4, 2007

With the suspension last fall of Air Force and Navy religious guidelines, military chaplains aren’t explicitly prohibited from invoking the name of their god at official events, but in keeping with long-standing tradition, they’re asked to be sensitive to the faith of others, according to Col. Robert Bruno, Joint Staff Chaplain. Continue.

Praying With Fire

Editorial, The Jewish Week (New York), October 6, 2006

In a democracy, religious freedom doesn’t mean the right of one group to impose its practices and beliefs on everybody else. That’s a simple dictum—but apparently many members of Congress don’t get it. For weeks, conservative lawmakers held up a vital defense bill because of their determination to pass legislation overturning Pentagon policy on chaplains that provides a good balance between respecting the rights of religiously observant soldiers and the right of those of minority faiths not to have other religions forced on them. Their campaign was based on a gross exaggeration, and that’s putting it charitably: that Christian chaplains have been denied the right to pray “in the name of Jesus.” Continue.

Invoking God's Blessing -- but Whose God?
Military chaplains are asked to keep secular events religion-neutral to avoid alienating troops of other faiths. Some Christians object.

By Larry Gordon, The Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2006

When Lt. Cmdr. John Dickens, a Navy chaplain at Camp Pendleton, was assigned to offer a prayer at a change of command ceremony last week, he knew the parameters of his invocation.

He asked for God's blessing on the outgoing Marine officer and for God's help in providing guidance to the new battalion commander. But Dickens, a United Methodist chaplain who recently served in Iraq, was careful not to specifically mention Jesus Christ the way he frequently does during his Sunday services for Protestant troops.

His goal, he said, was to lend a spiritual tone to the otherwise secular occasion, without alienating non-Christian Marines and sailors who were required to attend. Continue.

Rep. Israel Responds to Religious Guidelines in National Defense Authorization Bill
“We succeeded in having offensive language stricken but we have some new concerns.”

Statement by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), September 29, 2006

9/29/06 Washington, DC—Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), Member of the House Armed Services Committee and Chairman of the Democratic Caucus Task Force on Defense and the Military, responded to provisions in the National Defense Authorization bill dealing with religious tolerance in the military and the role of military chaplains. The final version of the bill removed House language opposed by Israel that would allow military chaplains to offer denominational prayers at nondenominational military events but also nullified guidelines developed by the Air Force and the Navy on religious tolerance and sensitivity. The bill, which will be voted on before the House adjourns and is expected to be passed, has been stalled in a House-Senate conference for several weeks due to these and other provisions. Continue.

Chaplain Prayer Provision Stricken From Military Bill

By Neela Banerjee, The New York Times, October 1, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 -- Congress removed a controversial provision in a military bill on Friday that would have permitted chaplains to offer sectarian prayer at mandatory nondenominational events. At the same time, lawmakers moved to rescind guidelines issued last year by the Air Force and Navy meant to curtail the risk of religious coercion and proselytizing within the ranks. Continue.

Congress pulls `Jesus’ out of troop prayers

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 1, 2006

Congress rescinded language in Pentagon orders that allowed military chaplains to mention Jesus in official prayers.

Controversy over including similar language in the Defense Authorization Act, a critical spending bill, dogged attempts to pull the bill out of a Senate-House of Representatives conference before Congress suspended for midterm elections. Continue.

Religious freedom issue to move to Capitol Hill

By Anne Plummer Flaherty, Associated Press, Air Force Times, October 03, 2006

Christian conservatives in Congress are expected to renew their fight to allow military chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus at public events, contending that existing practices infringe upon basic religious freedoms.

They lost a battle last week to push through legislation that would have allowed military chaplains to publicly lead groups in sectarian prayers. The language was championed by conservatives who say service policies are so restrictive that chaplains cannot invoke Jesus? name when praying in public, including over a dead soldier on the battlefield. Continue.

Congress gives chaplains partial religious liberty victory

By Tom Strode, Baptist Press, October 6, 2006

WASHINGTON (BP)--Supporters of increased religious freedom for military chaplains gained at least a partial victory before Congress went into recess for the November election.

The Senate and House of Representatives agreed on their last night in session on legislation directing the Air Force and Navy to rescind regulations issued early this year in favor of previous guidelines that are considered less restrictive, particularly on evangelical Christian chaplains. The provision was part of a conference committee report on the National Defense Authorization Act that was approved in a 398-23 vote by the House Sept. 29. The Senate followed several hours late with agreement by unanimous consent. Continue.

Court-martialed chaplain declares victory
Congressional panel directs Navy to rescind policy barring 'sectarian' prayers

WorldNetDaily.com, September 30, 2006

A Navy chaplain court-martialed for wearing his uniform during a public event in which he prayed in Jesus' name is declaring victory after a congressional conference committee agreed on a compromise rescinding a Navy policy that barred "sectarian" prayers.

"This is a tremendous victory for religious liberty," said Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt in an interview with WND. "Chaplains are free again to pray in Jesus name." .Continue

Sectarian chaplain prayer amendment holds defense bill hostage

Prayer debate puts military chaplains on the spot

By Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads, Virginia), September 23, 2006

NORFOLK - Military chaplains usually work outside the public eye - leading worship services, organizing volunteer efforts and offering spiritual guidance. But now, as Congress debates regulations on how they pray, chaplains have been pushed into the political spotlight. Continue.

Congressional conservatives want to lift chaplain limits

By Judy Holland, The Houston Chronicle, September 23, 2006

WASHINGTON Religious conservatives in Congress want to cancel new Air Force and Navy guidelines that limit chaplains from invoking the name of Jesus Christ at public events. Continue.

Proposal on Military Chaplains and Prayer Holds Up Bill

By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, September 19, 2006

A bill that sets the Pentagon’s spending levels is being held up by controversy over a provision that would allow military chaplains to offer sectarian prayers at nondenominational military events.

The provision, which is being pushed by Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, says "chaplains in each of the military services would have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of their own conscience." The Senate version of the spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, has no such language. Continue.

O.U. opposes Jesus in military prayers

Jewish Telegraph Agency, September 21, 2006

The Orthodox Union strongly opposes legislation that would allow military chaplains to mention Jesus in prayers.

“When a prayer is called for in a setting where attendance may not be voluntary,” the O.U. said in a letter Thursday to armed services committees in both houses, “chaplains should pray in a more inclusive manner.” Continue .

Major Newspapers Denounce Military Prayer Amendment

By Susan Jones, CNSNews.com, September 21, 2006

(CNSNews.com) - Two major newspapers are blasting conservatives for holding up passage of a defense appropriations bill by attaching a "mischievous," "pro-evangelical" amendment to it, as the New York Times described it.

According to an editorial in Thursday's New York Times, "hard-right Republicans have held up passage of the defense bill in an attempt to license zealot chaplains to violate policies of religious tolerance at secular ceremonies." Continue.

Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt's ongoing "martyrdom" over insistence on praying to Jesus

Jesus for president?

Gordon James Klingenschmitt, WorldNetDaily.com, May 17, 2007

OK, I admit, Jesus Christ is not running for president this year. He promised to return soon enough, to assume public office, but meanwhile, where do the 2008 presidential candidates stand on a military chaplain's right to pray publicly "in Jesus' name"?

I'm not naming names, but let's start with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the Navy punished me, a chaplain, for quoting the Bible in the chapel during optionally attended Christian worship, I faxed a formal whistleblower complaint to my New York senator, asking for help. Did she protect her evangelical chaplain? No. Continue

"If they don't reinstate me, that's a victory too, because my reward is in heaven."
Ex-chaplain still defiant He was kicked out of the Navy, but Klingenschmitt says he's the winner in his fight over religion

By Bill Geroux, The Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), March 17, 2007

Former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt once preached at a sailor's funeral that if a man did not believe in Jesus, "God's wrath remains on him."

The ship's captain complained that his words could offend sailors of other faiths who had come to pay their respects to the dead man. Klingenschmitt was unrepentant.Continue.

Chaplain in public-worship case removed from Navy

By The Associated Press, First Amendment Center, March 2, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. — A Navy chaplain who was reprimanded last fall for appearing in his military uniform at a White House news conference protesting the Navy's policy requiring nondenominational prayers outside of religious services has been removed from the Navy.

A Feb. 27 federal appeals court ruling paved the way for an order the next day dismissing Gordon Klingenschmitt. He said he signed the final paperwork yesterday morning. Continue.

Chaplain discharged after ruling

By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes, Friday, March 2, 2007

WASHINGTON — A Navy chaplain who claimed he was punished for praying “in Jesus’ name” at public military events was formally discharged from the service Wednesday.

Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who had served as a Navy chaplain for 16 years, said service officials delivered his discharge papers Wednesday, just hours after a federal appeals court lifted its order to delay his separation. Continue.

Embattled chaplain set to pray with Cheney

By Chris Amos, Navy Times, March 1, 2007

A Navy chaplain who is suing Navy Secretary Donald G. Winter for violating his right to religious expression has been invited to deliver a prayer at a conservative political conference that will be keynoted by Vice President Dick Cheney and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

But Lt. Gordon J. Klingenschmitt might not be able to wear his uniform to Thursday night’s conference at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

That’s because a federal appeals court has cleared the way for the Navy to discharge Klingenschmitt immediately — something Klingenschmitt and his lawyer say they hope does not happen. Continue.

Navy Chaplain Discharged After Court-related Delay

By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, BeliefNet, March 1, 2007

WASHINGTON - A military chaplain who publicly protested a Navy policy that urged "nonsectarian" prayers was discharged Thursday (March 1).

Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt signed the final documents after an appeals court determined that his suit against the Navy did not demonstrate the "stringent standards required" to prevent the court from halting his discharge.

Klingenschmitt received orders stating he was to be dismissed by Jan. 31, but the appeals court postponed the discharge until it had reviewed his case. The Navy said Klingenschmitt was discharged after his request to renew his chaplain appointment with a different denomination was denied. Continue.

Faith Under Fire: Navy chaplain being booted from service
Commanders ruled Klingenschmitt's 'in Jesus name' too sectarian

WorldNetDaily.com, March 1, 2007

A federal appeals court in Washington has cleared the way for the U.S. Navy to dismiss Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who earned the ire of his commanders with his prayers "in Jesus' name," from his 16-year career as early as today.

"It's been a bad day," he told WND.

The ruling from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals concluded that Klingenschmitt hadn't met "the stringent standards required for an injunction pending appeal," so the administrative stay was being dissolved.

The result is that the U.S. Navy ordered him immediately to prepare for his dismissal from the service, which would happen by midnight tonight. He told WND to further punish him, his commander informed him that the chief of naval operations had contacted the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Klingenschmitt had been invited to deliver the invocation tonight, and had his invitation rescinded. Continue.

'You're Fired' - Navy Chaplain, Court Martialed for Praying 'In Jesus Name', Fired from Navy, Ordered Dismissed Immediately

News release, Christian Newswire, March 2, 2007

WASHINGTON, Mar. 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- A federal appeals court in Washington cleared the way for the U.S. Navy to dismiss Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who earned the ire of his commanders with his prayers "in Jesus' name". His 16-year career officially ended at midnight on March 1st.

“It's now official and final. Yesterday I was booted from the Navy. As of midnight last night, I became a civilian. Yesterday, I received orders to separate by 1 Mar 07, so I signed the DD 214 ending my 16 year military career,” Continue.

Civil rights issue delays chaplain's dismissal
Navy minister's firing scheduled after he prayed 'in Jesus' name'

WorldNetDaily.com, February 10, 2007

The firing of U.S. Navy chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who says he earned the ire of his commanders by praying "in Jesus' name," has been delayed, according to a law firm, until some civil rights questions can be reviewed by a federal court.

"The Constitution is clear about the fact that the government is prohibited from establishing a religion," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. "Furthermore, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that all citizens have a fundamental right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and that includes military servicepeople." Continue.

For earlier reports on this topic, please click here.

Senate promotes Air Force Gen. Weida, who played role in Air Force Academy religious controversy

Controversial Air Force commander promoted

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 4, 2006

The U.S. Senate promoted a U.S. Air Force commander who promoted evangelical Christianity at the Air Force Academy.

Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida was brought in to reform the Colorado Springs, Colo., academy in 2003, after a sexual harassment scandal.

He soon was embroiled in charges of religious coercion after he told cadets their first duty was to God and encouraged them to observe the national day of prayer. Continue.

Group protests Weida’s promotion

Associated Press, Air Force Times, October 4, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has criticized the Senate’s confirmation of the promotion of Air Force Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida to major general, contending he has openly promoted evangelical Christianity during mandatory military activities.

“There is nothing wrong with Gen. Weida’s service, which was made obvious by the confirmation,” Capt. David Small, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday.

Weida was the No. 3 commander at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs when allegations surfaced that evangelical Christians there were bullying cadets who held other beliefs. The Air Force later cleared Weida of allegations of using his position to proselytize non-Christian cadets. Continue.

Pentagon resists Wiccan Pentangle

Group sues to allow Pagan symbol on gravestones

By Kelly Kennedy, Navy Times, November 13, 2006

Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced they are suing the Veterans Affairs Department on behalf of a Desert Storm veteran killed in Afghanistan one year ago.

Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart died when the helicopter he was flying in was shot down. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, awarded posthumously.

But the symbol that stood for his faith -- a pentagram denoting his belief in the Earth-based Wicca religion – is not on his gravestone because it is not on VA’s official list of 38 markings that may be used .

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., the group said it is suing through the federal circuit court of appeals to make the pentagram part of the official list. Continue.

Americans United Files Litigation Challenging Veterans Administration Bias Against Wiccans
Combat Veterans' Widows, Other Wiccans Join Legal Action Seeking VA Approval Of Faith's Symbol For Military Memorial Markers

News release, Americans Untied for Separation of Church and State, November 13, 2006

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed litigation against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over its refusal to include the Wiccan symbol of faith on its official list of emblems for government headstones and markers.

Americans United is representing Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2005; Karen DePolito, whose husband, Jerome Birnbaum, is a veteran of the Korean War who died last year; Circle Sanctuary, a prominent Wiccan church; and the Isis Invicta Military Mission, a Wiccan and Pagan congregation serving military personnel. Click here to continue and access the legal filings.

Americans United Applauds Action Of Nevada Officials In Granting Memorial Marker To Wiccan Soldier
Action Comes After Federal Government Fails To Approve Religious Symbol

News release, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, September 14, 2006

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today applauded Nevada Gov. Kenny C. Guinn and other state officials for ordering that the symbol of the Wiccan faith be affixed to a memorial plaque of a soldier who died in combat in Afghanistan.

Roberta Stewart, the widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, has petitioned the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to add the Wiccan symbol, the Pentacle, to Stewart’s plaque, but VA officials in Washington have refused to act. The VA has approved 38 other religious and non-religious symbols for use on headstones and memorial plaques but has refused to act on a nine-year-old application to permit the Wiccan symbol. In the interim, it quickly approved six other emblems for faiths with far fewer adherents serving in the armed forces. Continue.

Wiccan widow seeks help from church-state group

By Geralda Miller, The Reno Gazette-Journal, August 4, 2006

Roberta Stewart has chosen a national church-state watchdog group to help her get the Wiccan emblem recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since her husband's death Sept. 25, when his Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, the Fernley resident has sought a memorial plaque that recognizes her husband's religion.

Stewart said her personal experience with the VA and knowing that Wiccans have been requesting approval for an emblem since 1997 has prompted her decision to seek assistance from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The Washington, D.C.-based organization litigates religious freedom cases. Continue

Marines' Toys for Tots giving out talking Jesus dolls

Background. After declining a donation of talking Jesus dolls, the Marine Corps Reserves charity, Toys for Tots, reversed course and said it would accept 4,000 of the dolls. Toys for Tots' solution to the problem of giving Jesus dolls to Muslim and Jewish children was to arrange for Christian organizations distribute the donated dolls to Christian children. That hand-off does not eliminate the government's participation in distributing the dolls.

Toys for Tots to take Jesus dolls

By Jerry Kronenberg, The Boston Herald, November 17, 2006

Toys for Tots has decided to put the Christ doll back into Christmas, after all.

Reversing a move the Herald and other media outlets reported earlier this week, the charity has agreed to accept 4,000 talking Jesus dolls from a California toymaker. Continue.

Toys For Tots Does About Face On Jesus Dolls
Toys for Tots has decided to accept a toymaker's gift of 4,000 bible-quoting Jesus dolls after all.

(CBS4) BOSTON, November 15, 2006

The program run by the Marine Corps Reserves had initially decided not to take the 12-inch tall religious figures from a California company because they didn't want to take a chance that the dolls would end up going to someone who might be offended by them.

Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va., said Toys for Tots doesn't know anything about the religious affiliations of the children who receive its gifts.

"We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family," Grein said Tuesday. "Kids want a gift for the holiday season that is fun." Continue.

Toys for Tots declines talking Jesus dolls; says its recipients come from all backgrounds

USA Today, November 14, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A company that sells Bible-quoting Jesus dolls said it was surprised and disappointed that the Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program turned down its offer to donate 4,000 of the talking dolls.

"I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible," said Michael La Roe, director of business development for Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. and its one2believe division, which makes the line of Bible character dolls.

Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va., said the offer was turned down because Toys for Tots doesn't know anything about the religious affiliations of the children who receive its gifts. Continue.

JWV Commends Toys for Tots Program

News release, Jewish War Veterans, November 21, 2006, posted here.

The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) commends the Toys for Tots program, run by the Marine Corps Reserve, for initially rejecting a gift of 4,000 talking Jesus dolls. The program collects toys annually to be distributed to needy children throughout the country.

The JWV agrees wholeheartedly with the basis for the initial rejection of the gift by the organization and commends Bill Grein, vice-president of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation of Quantico, Virginia, who said of the recipients, “We don’t know anything about their background, their religious affiliations.” He went on to say that Marines “don’t profess one religion over another. We can’t take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family.” The recognition of Church-State relations is vital to non-denominational giving.

The resolution of this issue by which religious groups have agreed to distribute the dolls to Christian kids recognizes the separation of Church and State issues for which the JWV continues to fight.

The JWV, which is currently litigating to have a cross removed from Federal land on Mt. Soledad in San Diego, has always been in the forefront in upholding the separation of Church and State. The JWV commends the Marine Reserve as a government entity from becoming embroiled in an issue in which one religion might be favored over another.

Toys for Tots Rejects Jesus Doll

CBNNews.com, November 14, 2006

CBNNews.com -- LOS ANGELES -- Toys for Tots says it won't accept any talking Jesus dolls.

The company one2believe, based out of Valencia, Calif., offered to donate 4,000 of the foot-tall dolls to the Marine Reserves' annual Christmas program.

According to the company's Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus, dressed in hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals, quotes Bible verses such as John 3:16 and Mark 12:30. It sells for $20. Continue.

About the company that makes the dolls...

The talking Jesus is not the only Christian religious doll the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company makes (see the entire set below). Another line of dolls, marketed under a "Blessed Toys" logo is promoting more typical girl dolls, but with a difference:

Introducing our new, exclusive collection of high-quality dolls, based on Proverbs 31. P31 dolls were specifically designed to provide a Bible-based, Christian alternative to other secular toys on the market, and to encourage young girls to pursue biblical womanhood.

We currently have three different P31 dolls to choose from: Abigail, Elisabeth and Leah. Standing 19.5 inches tall, each doll has beautiful glass eyes, long rooted-hair, a contemporary outfit, and a great P31 box. Each doll also comes with an accessory kit, containing a Bible lesson (Proverbs 31:20), two cookie-cutters, a cookie recipe, and a list of exciting activities. This will provide tons of fun for any young girl!

Please click here for more.