On December 29, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed an amended complaint in the case of its co-plaintiff, decorated combat medic Army SPC Dustin Chalker. The amendment includes a number of additional examples of the "pattern and practice" of unconstitutional promotions of religion in the military, but, most importantly, now includes that SPC Chalker's attempt to resolve his complaint through military channels failed. Chalker was informed last week that the Army has determined his objection to Christian prayers at mandatory military functions to be "unfounded."
Those who were following the Jeremy Hall case may recall that the Department of Justice, in its entire 350-page motion to dismiss, really only had two arguments. One was that Hall hadn't exhausted military channels to resolve his complaint, and the other was that MRFF's allegations of a "pattern and practice" of unconstitutional promotions of religion throughout the military "lacked specificity." Both of these arguments are addressed with the Chalker complaint. (Jeremy Hall's case has essentially been replaced by the Chalker case because Hall, who served two tours in Iraq, is scheduled to leave the Army in a few months when his enlistment is up.)
The amended complaint notes that both SPC Chalker and a number of other service members have attempted to resolve their complaints through military channels, none with a satisfactory resolution. The Chalker complaint also lists a slew of examples of the widespread unconstitutional religious activity in the military and complete disregard of both military regulations and the Constitution, presented with far more "specificity" than is customary in a filing like this. Among the many new "pattern and practice" examples added in the amended complaint are the participation of the U.S. military in the production of a Christian reality TV series, the publication in the Air Force's quarterly magazine of the anti-Muslim writings of a member of a extremist Christian white supremacist organization, the U.S. military's involvement in the evangelizing of Iraqis and Afghans, and the U.S. Air Force's official sponsorship of an evangelical Christian motocross ministry.
Here's the press release put out by MRFF, which contains a link to the entire complaint, as well as a link to just the new items added in the amendment. It also includes a link to the AP article about the amended complaint.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION AND CO-PLAINTIFF AMEND FEDERAL LAWSUIT TO INCLUDE MULTIPLE NEW CASES OF UNCONSTITUTIONAL RELIGIOUS INCURSION IN U.S. MILITARY
December 29, 2008
ALBUQUERQUE, NM and KANSAS CITY, KS - The Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Co-Plaintiff SPC Dustin Chalker amended their landmark federal lawsuit today to include two additions regarding unsuccessful attempts by service members to resolve their complaints through military channels. This is extremely important because the DoJ's motion to dismiss Jeremy Hall's case relied heavily upon the "Mindes Doctrine," asserting that the federal courts should not hear Hall's case because he had failed to utilize the military channels that the DoJ claims would have adequately handled the complaint. Based on a number of reports received from service members who have unsuccessfully attempted to utilize these military channels, MRFF contends that these military channels consistently fail to adequately address or resolve such complaints.
In addition to the assertion of the inefficacy of military channels to resolve cases of religious discrimination in the United States armed forces, today's amended filing includes five new categories of examples showing the "pattern and practice" of constitutionally impermissible promotions of religion by the military.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, released the following statement regarding the amended filing: "Today, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and its co-plaintiff Specialist Dustin Chalker, officially amend our Kansas City-based Federal lawsuit against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Department of Defense (DoD) to include many new and shocking additional examples of the noxiously unconstitutional pattern and practice of fundamentalist Christian oppression in our U.S., armed forces. The list of amended items is at once quite literally shameful and astonishing. It includes military-sanctioned missionary proselytizing of Iraqi and Afghan citizens, an official USAF sponsored evangelical motocross team ministry, the prominent featuring of a Christian/white supremacist in the USAF's flagship quarterly professional magazine and the unbridled Christian supremacy espoused in a U.S. Army suicide prevention program, to name just a few. Our amended complaint is specifically designed to further stab at the throbbing unconstitutional heart of darkness that comprises the systemic fundamentalist Christianity so pervasive and pernicious in today's American armed forces."
Details and actual text of lawsuit amendments can be viewed here:
The amended filing can be downloaded here:
The Associated Press's coverage of this amended filing can be viewed here:
MRFF, which has recorded nearly 11,000 active duty military clients, is a nonprofit charity dedicated to the protection of thousands of U.S. military personnel from unconstitutional religious practices forced on them by military superiors against their will. Weinstein and MRFF have recently filed suit on behalf of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who have been victims of religious intolerance and have had their constitutional rights violated. MRFF's website can be found at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org.
Mikey Weinstein is an honor graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a former USAF Judge Advocate General. He was Assistant General Counsel in the Reagan White House and served as General Counsel to Texas billionaire and two-time Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. Weinstein is the co-author of "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military"(St. Martins Press, 2006). He and his family have been most recently featured in "Constantine's Sword," a documentary outlining the historical interaction between the Jewish and Christian faiths, directed by Oscar nominee Oren Jacoby.