The Marine Corps Times reports today that a controversy has erupted over religious expression in the military pitting the Department of Defense between Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Jerry Boykin of the conservative Family Research Council. The article reports:
Weinstein met with Air Force officials April 24 demanding that the Air Force take stiffer action to stop the intrusion of religion in the work place. The only way to do that, he contends, is to slap offenders with nonjudicial and judicial punishment — including courts-martial.
That was enough to light up the opposition. The Family Research Council launched a petition April 29 imploring Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “resist the demands of anti-Christian activists who are calling for a court-martial order upon chaplains and service members who share their faith.”
Within days nearly 130,000 people had signed on.
The showdown brought to a head a long-simmering debate over the limits of religious expression in the ranks. It pitted two former officers who personally symbolize that debate: Weinstein is a well-known and relentless critic of any whiff of what some would consider proselytizing in the military. Boykin, when he was in uniform, gained notoriety in 2003 when he seemed to cast the war on terrorism in religious terms, referring to Allah — Islam’s word for God — as “an idol.”
Within days, rumors were flying around the Internet that not only was the Pentagon seeking advice from Weinstein, but also that members of the military would be court-martialed for proselytizing, rumors reinforced by Breitbart.com, Fox News, and the Liberty Institute–rumors debunked by the DOD. The Marine Corps Times adds:
Weinstein’s meeting with Air Force officials included the judge advocate general, Lt. Gen. Richard Harding and some of his staff, said Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley.
“At Mr. Weinstein’s request, several Air Force officials met with him and two other members of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to discuss his concerns,” Tingley said. “He’s not a consultant for the Air Force, nor did we consult with him on Air Force policy on religious tolerance.”
There is no new regulation in the works, she said.