More on Ted Cruz and His Opposition to Gluten Free Meals

Yesterday, Ted Cruz linked gluten-free meals with political correctness.
There is something to be gained by watching Ted Cruz deliver his anti-gluten-free position instead of just reading about it. Watch

As it turns out, having Celiac Disease isn’t well tolerated in the military. Instead of Cruz being a voice for inclusion and sanity, he sticks up for intolerance of gluten-intolerance. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcCwoOxIpqU[/youtube]
If there is a movement to provide gluten free meals in order to attract and keep good people with Celiac Disease, it is incredible that any presidential candidate would oppose it.
I continue to wonder if Cruz thinks Celiac isn’t a real disease. Given his advisors, I honestly would not be surprised if he doesn’t believe it is real.

Answering the Claim that the Repeal of DOMA Will Force Military Chaplains to Perform Gay Marriages

In response to claims that the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will force military chaplains to perform gay marriages, a defense official told me today that chaplains are not required to perform marriages which violate the tenets of their religion.
The day DOMA was repealed, David Barton opined to Glenn Beck that military chaplains will now have to perform weddings for gay service members.  Barton said DOMA had protected “the rights of chaplains not to have to perform gay marriage against their will.” He then predicted that chaplains would be under renewed pressure to perform these ceremonies.
However, according to a defense official, nothing has changed because of the repeal of DOMA. The official told me “a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs.”
Given this stance, it seems quite unlikely that gay people will join the military just to get married, as Barton predicted Monday. A more efficient route for someone who lives in a state which does not recognize gay couples would be to go to a state without a residency requirement (e.g., Massachusetts). In any case for now, DOD is on record as saying chaplains can refuse to perform private ceremonies if those activities violate the tenets of their religion.
 

Pentagon again addresses rumors of crackdown on Christians

Yesterday, the Pentagon issued another statement regarding the rumors of a crackdown on religious speech. The Hill picked up on the comments and I have the Department of Defense statement here. In response to queries from various sources, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen sent along the following comments:

EEOC rules do not apply to military personnel.
There is no DOD wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing.  Furthermore, there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the UCMJ, including under Article 134.
Service members may exercise their rights under the 1st Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission; even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member.   In general, service members may share their faith with other service members, but may not forcibly attempt to convert others of any faith or no faith to their own beliefs.
Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved.

Again, these comments distinguish between proselytizing and simply speaking about one’s religious views. Even Rear Admiral William Lee, who has been quoted at length recently by right-of-center groups, said he opposes proselytizing (at the end of this speech). The issue and has always been about using one’s position or other means of coercion to impose beliefs or expectations of religious behavior.
Although not bound by EEOC rules, the DoD has responded to concerns about workplace conditions which create a hostile environment and to provide accommodations when necessary to allow first amendment freedoms while maintaining order and cohesion in the ranks.
 
 
 

Todd Starnes and the Pentagon Still Not Together on the Facts

Yesterday, Todd Starnes continued to make his case that the military is hostile to Christianity. He cited a couple of lawmakers who believe as he does and again cited the case of the Air Force officer who allegedly was asked to remove a Bible from his desk. Despite the fact that the Air Force issued a statement which indicates that religious materials may be visible on a desk, Starnes continues to focus only on information that supports his claims.
In his column, he repeated another inaccurate claim as indication that Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is behind what Starnes believes is military hostility to Christians.

The latest concerns came after Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation met with military officials at the Pentagon about an instructional guide on religious tolerance.
 

I asked Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen about this claim and informed me that Weinstein has had no involvement in constructing an instructional guide.  Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley confirmed it. If the Air Force issues such a guide, it will be based on a Air Force instruction 1-1 (read the instruction here). A brief summary of that instruction is restated in a memo written by Air Force General Norton Schwartz. The substance of that memo is below:
airforceregsreligion
 
 
The essential point is that military leaders want religious programming to come from the chaplains and not from superior officers.  The purposes of this policy are to avoid the appearance of religious favoritism and to prevent a hostile work environment.
The facts are there but Mr. Starnes’ readers are not getting all of them.
On a related matter, Starnes also referred to Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee’s comments on religious freedom. You can watch his speech here. While Lee’s remarks are delivered with real conviction, I wonder how the audience would have reacted if Lee was a member of the Unification Church. In his speech, Lee referred to a meeting with a young veteran who survived a suicide attempt. About this meeting, Lee said

…the rules say send him to the chaplain, my heart said, give this man a Bible.

While most evangelicals would resonate with Lee’s heart, would they applaud if Lee’s heart had said, give this man a copy of Sun Myung Moon’s Divine Principle? Or, in contrast, would they wish that a Unificationist superior officer direct the chaplains to provide advice in keeping with the young man’s own religious beliefs?
Personally, my values favor more freedom than less so I am not as bothered by allowing people to speak their minds. However, I understand the reasons for these regulations and see how they can be beneficial as a means of respecting the religious views of all service members. Agree with the regulations or not, Starnes should report the situation fairly and let his audience decide.
 

Summary: Religious Proselytizing and the Military

Update: The Blaze came out with an extensive look at this issue on May 8 which cites several of posts from this blog.
On May 1, PolitiFact came out with a useful summary of the recent controversy over religious proselytizing and the military. The writers evaluated the claim that the military was soon going to court martial Christians. At the end of the analysis, they labeled the claim “Mostly False.” Politifact noted the reason the claim was mostly false and not completely false: “Still, there’s a sliver of truth — if you believe your Christian faith compels you to try to convert others in a way people find harassing, it’s possible you could face court-martial, though such a thing has yet to happen.”
The article is useful because it lays out in one place what I took several posts to develop. As a summary of recent events, I have links to all of those posts.
Is the Military Preparing to Court Martial Christians?
On the Military and Religious Proselytizing: Military Spokesman’s Original Comments Used Out of Context
The Military’s Policy on Proselytizing Is Not New and Is Consistent with Federal Law Politifact did not mention this part of the story – The DoD is following guidance of the EEOC, applying to military personnel the protections enjoyed by civilian workers.
Department of Defense Statement on Religious Proselytizing
Air Force Statement on Religious Proselytizing and Religious Materials on Desks (In contrast to the isolated case of a service member being asked to remove a Bible from his desk)
 

Obama may delay repeal of "don't ask, don't tell"

The Washington Times is reporting what seems like a smart move: Barack Obama will probably deal with the most serious problems facing the nation first and postpone action on potentially divisive actions, like the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” My guess is that Obama will delay the push until after the 2010 mid-term elections.
Bob Knight is quoted as suggesting that Americans don’t have this policy on their radar now but will be quick to react negatively if the policy is debated nationally. I think he is probably on target. While attitudes toward homosexuals continue to become more positive, I think questions about practical matters of living arrangements, morale and recruitment will be raised by opponents.