Monday, October 30, 2006

Statement on Court Ruling


ALBUQUERQUE – Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation today vowed to refile a lawsuit seeking to protect our nation’s armed forces from unconstitutional violations of their religious freedom.

A federal judge today in New Mexico dismissed on a technicality the lawsuit filed against the United States Air Force. Mikey Weinstein released the following statement in response to the decision:

“While we respect Judge Parker’s ruling, we are deeply disappointed that our efforts have been delayed to protect the rights of the brave and honorable men and women serving in our nation’s armed forces. We will refile our lawsuit as quickly as possible. Our fight is far from over. Religious bias and the outrageous violations of the separation of church and state continue to spread rampantly throughout our military.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation remains steadfastly committed to upholding our constitutional rights and to ensure that our government and military officials do the same. We will do everything in our power to halt the encroachment of fundamentalist religious ideology on our nation’s armed forces.”


The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Friday, October 20, 2006

CO Springs Gazette: Academy allegations discussed

Academy allegations discussed

John Regni: Academy superintendent met with grad.


Mikey Weinstein, an Air Force Academy graduate who has sued the Air Force for religious intolerance, met with academy superintendent Lt. Gen. John F. Regni on Thursday afternoon to discuss the academy baseball team, which has been riddled with turnover during the past three years.

The Gazette reported Sunday that former players said baseball coach Mike Hutcheon had pushed his religious views or favored players with similar beliefs. Hutcheon denied the allegations and academy officials supported him. More on this topic
Earlier coverage:

Weinstein said the meeting with Regni was “positive and valuable.” Regni was unavailable to comment. Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said Regni described the meeting as “cordial” and “good.”

Weinstein, who was in town to promote his book, “With God on Our Side,” requested the meeting after reading the article in The Gazette.

Weinstein said he and Regni established a direct line of communication that did not previously exist. He added that Regni said he wanted to talk to individuals who report incidents to Weinstein and “wants to get to the bottom of” any alleged religious intolerance.

“I was prepared for a contentious, unpleasant, awkward meeting, and it was the antithesis of that,” Weinstein said. “There was an air of mutual respect in the meeting. They listened to everything I had to say, and I think they took it to heart. . . . Now we’ll have to see if they can walk the walk.”

Regni was joined in the meeting by an Air Force attorney, Col. Mike Rodgers, and Don Bird, who is a chemistry professor and faculty representative to the athletic department. Bird conducted the athletic department’s investigation of allegations, which were sent to the superintendent’s office in an anonymous letter, against Hutcheon.

Whitaker said that Regni told Weinstein that “our baseball program today is run within all the constitutional rules, all the Air Force rules regarding religion and religious respect, and Mr. Weinstein agreed with all that.”

Weinstein confirmed that. Weinstein, whose son is a cadet, said he spoke to one of his son’s friends who is a member of the baseball team. Based on that, Weinstein said as far as he knows the baseball team has been “in constitutional compliance, at least since April.” But he said he wanted to talk about “the things that happened in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

“I understand (Regni) wants to focus on things that are happening now, but to me, the past is prologue,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein said he thought Bird’s investigation was inadequate. Weinstein said Bird spoke passionately about his investigation and said that Bird did not attempt to cover up anything.

Weinstein said he felt the academy would investigate similar allegations more thoroughly in the future.

Weinstein said he and his lawyers still are considering filing a motion to amend the lawsuit to add some accounts from The Gazette’s article.

Meanwhile, another baseball player, senior Billy Adams, has been cut. According to Air Force sports information director Troy Garnhart, Hutcheon said he cut Adams two weeks ago at the end of fall practices. Adams, however, was still on the roster Thursday morning, but gone by Thursday evening. Garnhart said Hutcheon told him the decision was made because Adams was a senior who would play little. Garnhart said Hutcheon is trying to find a way to keep Adams involved in the program because he admired Adams’ commitment to the team.

In Sunday’s Gazette story, Adams - while still a team member - was asked about the departure of so many players and he said the team had finally “gotten rid of the cancer.” He also said in the interview that, “If there was a dividing line in the locker room, it was who’s going to shut up and play ball and accept what coach says or who’s going to run their mouth because we’re losing and bringing negativity.”

Garnhart said Adams declined comment Thursday.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Allard Question Academy Brass About Allegations

Allard questions academy brass about allegations


Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., called Air Force superintendent Lieutenant General John F. Regni on Monday to ask about a report that baseball coach Mike Hutcheon might have pushed his religious views on players, said Steve Wymer, Allard’s deputy press secretary. Allard’s call was in response to a story in the Sunday edition of The Gazette.

The article quoted unnamed players who said Hutcheon pushed his religious views on players or favored players with similar outlooks. The Gazette reported that 31 varsity players from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons either quit the team or were pushed out by Hutcheon and detailed a near mutiny in 2005.

Allard was assured by Regni, according to Wymer, that the academy had looked into the allegations and would continue to monitor the situation. Regni told Allard, Wymer said, that the situation was “of concern and that they have been and would be looking into it.” Wymer said Allard would follow up with Regni later. Hutcheon has denied that religion is a factor in how he treats players, and the academy’s leadership has expressed support for him.

Asked to comment on the story in Sunday’s Gazette, Air Force Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said: “We’re disappointed that the paper chose this route to make a major story based on what we looked into and considered to be meritless, anonymous allegations. “

We received pretty much the same anonymous letters and comments, and we looked into them and found them to be baseless, without substance. “We hired coach Hutcheon to come in here and clean up a program and add discipline and rigor. It was out of control. That’s what he’s doing and we whole-heartedly support him.”

Political activist Mikey Weinstein, meantime, said he was “outraged” by what he read in the story. An Air Force graduate who has a pending lawsuit against the academy for religious intolerance, Weinstein said Monday he has been thinking about filing a motion to amend the lawsuit and “add these accounts (in the article) and use this evidence and determine who we may or may not want to call as witnesses.”

Weinstein said he was most upset by what he said was an inadequate investigation into the allegations by the academy.

“When I see how the academy, quote, investigated it, it must have taken all of about 45 minutes,” Weinstein said. “They’re trying to say, ‘Move along, move along. Nothing to see here.’”

Friday, October 06, 2006

Associated Press: Religious Freedom Issue to Move to Capitol Hill

Religious freedom issue to move to Capitol Hill

October 3, 2006

By Anne Plummer Flaherty

Christian conservatives in Congress are expected to renew their fight to allow military chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus at public events, contending that existing practices infringe upon basic religious freedoms.

They lost a battle last week to push through legislation that would have allowed military chaplains to publicly lead groups in sectarian prayers. The language was championed by conservatives who say service policies are so restrictive that chaplains cannot invoke Jesus’ name when praying in public, including over a dead soldier on the battlefield.

Military chaplains often lead groups in prayer outside private religious services, but omit references to any particular religion. Opponents have said allowing specific religious references during public military prayers could be divisive.

Debate on the legislation came just weeks before the Nov. 7 congressional elections and was seen by critics as a desperate effort by conservatives to cater to religious voters, who in recent elections periodically have swayed election outcomes. Critics also say the language could cripple U.S. efforts to win the “hearts and minds” of Muslims in the Middle East by depicting the American military as evangelizing Christians.

Republican Rep. Walter Jones and other conservatives who supported the legislation say their proposal is not intended to allow evangelizing within the military.

“This is about a First Amendment right” to free speech, Jones said in an interview Monday.

Jones and Rep. Todd Akin, also a Republican, said pushing legislation next year to lift religious restrictions on chaplains would be a focus for them if re-elected.

“The Navy and Air Force regulations that we are striking prevented chaplains from praying according to their faith and conscience, whether they were Muslim, Christian, Jewish or of any other faith,” said Akin.

House conservatives led by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, tried last week to attach language to a defense policy bill that would have allowed chaplains to pray “according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.” Their efforts were blocked by Republican John Warner, Hunter’s counterpart in the Senate, who said he wanted more time to debate such a measure.

Warner and Hunter, who negotiated the final defense bill, agreed to drop the provision but added another one asking the Navy and Air Force to rescind their policies aimed at increasing religious sensitivity.

The agreement was seen by Jones and other conservatives as a small step in their favor that did not go far enough to clarify what chaplains can and cannot say at public events.

Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the Air Force Academy who sued the Air Force for acts he said illegally imposed Christianity on its students, called the agreement “red meat” thrown to religious conservatives just before the elections and a forecast of what was to come.

“We know the religious right will come back twice as hard in January,” said Weinstein, who started the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Democrats largely have opposed the measure and could try tightening restrictions to prohibit “proselytizing” of service members should they gain control of Congress next year.

“The battle ahead will be to work with the military on a new set of guidelines that reflect America’s mainstream values and ensure good order and discipline on our military bases,” said Democratic Rep. Steve Israel.