CAN MILITARY MEMBERS “PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME?”
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 2, 2013) — On May 1, 2013, The Post & Email published an article regarding the apparent persecution and demonization of evangelical Christians and other Christian denominations within the U.S. military and by other government agencies.
An attorney and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), Mikey Weinstein, who has referred to Christians as “monsters,” has been hired as a consultant to the Pentagon on religious matters. Weinstein brought a lawsuit against Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt for allegedly reciting an “imprecatory prayer” against the MRFF.
Klingenschmitt launched the “Pray in Jesus’ Name Project” to defend religious freedom and filed a lawsuit in December against Weinstein for defamation. Klingenschmitt has a daily television show and was dismissed from the U.S. Navy after refusing to stop praying openly “in Jesus’ name” and being court-martialed.
Klingenschmitt stated at the time that he had forfeited a $1,000,000 pension, home for his family, and his career after achieving his desired result of overturning a military policy of allowing only “non-sectarian prayer” following an 18-day hunger strike in front of the White House.
We also sent an inquiry to a media contact at the Department of Defense as to the accuracy of a report which stated that military members who discussed their faith while on duty could be charged with a crime. Our question was as follows:
There is a report that the Pentagon plans on criminalizing soldiers who openly discuss their religious beliefs with others while on duty: http://www.citizenlink.com/2013/05/01/report-pentagon-may-prosecute-military-personnel-who-share-faith/
Could I obtain a statement from you or the Pentagon as to the accuracy of the report?
If there is such a document prepared by the Pentagon, may I obtain a copy?
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
Our contact referred the question to the appropriate party, who responded on Thursday morning as follows:
The below is for your use on the record, attributable to me, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a DoD Spokesman.
“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution. The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.
Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).
If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis.
The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs. The Department does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military services.
We work to ensure that all service members are free to exercise their Constitutional right to practice their religion — in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline; and that do not detract from accomplishing the military mission.”
LCDR Nate Christensen
DoD Spokesman, Defense Press Office, Personnel and Readiness
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
Pentagon, Room 2D961
In 2009, the Defense Department’s policy toward religious expression stated that “The U.S. Constitution proscribes Congress from enacting any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions. It is DoD policy that requests for accommodation of religious practices should be approved by commanders when accommodation will not have an adverse impact on mission accomplishment, military readiness, unit cohesion, standards, or discipline.”
Weinstein has stated that the object of his activism is “fundamentalists.”