[Note: This is the first in an occasional series examining and assessing potential threats to religious liberty in America and around the world.]
The Situation: According to the Associated Press, a group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is urging the Pentagon to court martial officers whose subordinates feel they’re being proselytized. MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein says even a Christian bumper sticker on an officer’s car or a Bible on an officer’s desk can amount to “pushing this fundamentalist version of Christianity on helpless subordinates.” Weinstein and other leaders of his foundation met with top officials at the Pentagon last week.
The Backstory: Weinstein and his group met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23. He told Fox News that U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.” “Someone needs to be punished for this,” Weinstein told Fox News. “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.”
“If a member of the military is proselytizing in a manner that violates the law, well then of course they can be prosecuted,” he said. “We would love to see hundreds of prosecutions to stop this outrage of fundamentalist religious persecution.”
“[Proselytizing] is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” Weinstein told Fox News.
The Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that Christian evangelism is against regulations. “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense, LCDR Nate Christensen said in a written statement. He declined to say if any chaplains or service members had been prosecuted for such an offense.