WASHINGTON — A government watch group has filed a lawsuit in an effort to obtain records of correspondence between the U.S. Department of Defense and a prominent anti-Christian activist.
Judicial Watch, a Washington-based organization that “seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people,” states that it recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit in its search for “all records and communication” between the Pentagon and Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).
Weinstein had made headlines earlier this year when he told reporters that he had met with Pentagon officials to discuss his concerns surrounding religious practices in the military, specifically conversion efforts by military leaders.
“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” Weinstein told conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
“Someone needs to be punished for this,” he said. “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.”
After a number of Christian groups expressed alarm over Weinstein’s assertions, the Pentagon released a statement explaining that members of military are free to share their faith, and that they cannot “harass” others in doing so.
“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),” it wrote, parenthesis in original. “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.”
While the Department of Defense says that the meeting with Weinstein was a one-time occurrence, Judicial Watch remains skeptical. It believes that there may have been a “continuing relationship” between Weinstein and the Pentagon since 2009. The organization notes that the New York Times reported in February 2009 that Weinstein met with Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwarz, and would like to know if there has been additional communication between the 2009 and 2013 meetings.
“The American people deserve to know the full truth about just how close the relationship is between anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein and the Obama Department of Defense,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “There is increasing intolerance for the First Amendment rights of traditional Christians in today’s military.”
The organization had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in May of this year, but apparently the documents were not provided.
However, as previously reported, the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition (RMRF), a Christian organization that was formed in response to the escalation of religious liberty violations in the U.S. military, also recently met with Pentagon officials to discuss concerns.
Jerry Boykin of Family Research Council, Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association, and attorney Kellie Fiedorek from Alliance Defending Freedom all participated in the meeting, which they characterized as “productive.”
“[W]e asked that the Department of Defense move quickly to implement the religious freedom protections enacted in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” Boykin stated. “Given new incidents of military personnel facing career reprisals for their religious beliefs, it is vital that regulations preventing discrimination be issued by the Secretary of Defense as required by law.”