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Tony Perkins / May 15, 2020

Army Off Base With Chaplain Crackdown

Asking a chaplain to do his job without his faith is like asking an Army sergeant to go to war without a weapon. But thanks to a handful of atheist activists, that’s exactly what the military’s asking.

Asking a chaplain to do his job without his faith is like asking an Army sergeant to go to war without a weapon. But thanks to a handful of atheist activists, that’s exactly what the military’s asking.

During the coronavirus crisis, chaplains everywhere have been working overtime — including, it turns out, the U.S. Army’s. From South Korea to Alabama, these spiritual leaders have been leading prayer efforts, outside church services, and generally doing their best to inspire hope. When the men and women at Camp Humphreys struggled to make sense of the tragedy, U.S. Army Colonel Moon Kim sent an email to fellow chaplains explaining that John Piper's Coronavirus and Christ gave him some insight to the pandemic and his calling. He hoped it might do the same for them.

He never endorsed the book — he just said simply, “Hopefully, this small booklet [will] help you and your soldiers, their families, and others who you serve.” Innocent enough, right? Wrong, argued the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Together with 22 other chaplains, MRFF president Mikey Weinstein demanded that Col. Kim be court martialed for daring to send “unsolicited” copies to “subordinate chaplains,” promoting a — gasp! — biblical message.

But MRFF wasn’t done yet. They also demanded the Army punish Lt. Colonel David McGraw, a chaplain at the U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, Germany, for preaching Sunday sermons on the balcony of his apartment during the virus lockdown. “After the complaint,” Fox News reports, “the services stopped.”

“When a chaplain is engaging in what chaplains do every day, it’s protected,” First Liberty Institute’s Michael Berry insisted. And yet, there’ve been at several instances of crackdowns like these against chaplains during the coronavirus. “For too long now, anti-Constitution zealots have used fearmongering and dubious legal claims to bully the military,” Mike argued. “It seems that all it takes to bring the Army to its knees isn’t a missile strike or a global pandemic, but rather a poorly-written complaint from Mikey Weinstein.”

The situation has gotten so out of hand that 19 members of Congress, led by Air Force Reserve chaplain Doug Collins, (R-Ga.) fired off a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, despairing about “multiple, unfounded complaints…” and MRFF “preying on military chaplains.” Joined by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) and others, they demanded that the DOD “follow federal law in protecting [chaplains’] religious liberties and ensure that the ongoing pandemic is not exploited by nefarious organizations bent on removing faith from the U.S. military.”

“It is clear,” they went on, “that Army commands are not on the same page about how to address religious liberty issues” with “knee-jerk” reactions to “loud complaints from vocal anti-religion activists.” That, the Republicans agreed, must stop. “The Department and the Army have been far too quick to restrict the religious freedom of chaplains and the service members they serve as a result of this group’s attacks.”

FRC’s Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin was just as disturbed, signing on to First Liberty’s own letter to Secretary Esper. Like others, they pointed out that the pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone — including the military. Just as pastors have been creative in their ministry, so have chaplains. And they should be free to continue that mission — without the Army’s censorship making their jobs more difficult.

“There was a time when confusion reigned supreme when it came to religious freedom within the armed forces. That time has passed. In 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13798-Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty. Shortly thereafter, the United States Attorney General issued a guidance memorandum interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law. In 2018, Congress directed the DOD to implement a comprehensive training program for chaplains and judge advocates that further incorporates EO 13798 and the Attorney General’s guidance within DOD. To date, the DOD has not complied with Congress’s directive.”

This administration has been religious freedom’s biggest proponent. The idea that President Trump’s own Defense Department would be undermining that effort is astonishing. It’s time for military leaders to fall in line with the president’s directive and give every service member fighting for freedom the opportunity to practice it.

Originally published here.

HEROES with 12 Zeroes

If you could sit down and write a list of every bad idea the Left has ever had, guess what? You’ve got the House’s Phase 4 coronavirus stimulus. Picture Planned Parenthood loans, taxpayer-funded abortion, cash for illegal immigrants, marijuana banking, state bailouts, rigged elections, freed felons, and a complete redefinition of the family. Clocking in at 1,800 pages — more than three reams of paper — the Democrats’ bill reads more like a love letter to their radical base than a serious attempt at COVID relief. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities.” The Democrats call it the HEROES Act, but honestly, the most heroic thing anyone could do is kill it.

The summary alone is 90 pages — and conservatives will need an empty stomach to get that far! “If you actually read through these 1,800 pages in this bill, you’ll want to beat your head against the wall,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said on “Washington Watch.” “You quickly realize this has nothing to do with the coronavirus. This is a wish-list grab bag, open door for Democrats to placate their left-wing base. They know that this bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. There’s no way President Trump will sign it, but they’re putting it on the floor anyway… because they want something to go back to their [liberal] base and tell them that they did something, and Republicans voted against it.”

But here’s the scary part, Jim pointed out. “If Democrats won the Senate and Joe Biden was president, this is exactly the type of bill that they would ram through if they had that kind of control.” Voters don’t have to wonder what kind of extreme policies liberals would push with the keys to the White House and Senate. This is it, right there in black and white — a complete upheaval of everything this administration has worked for on life, liberty, family, solvency, constitutionality.

And it’s not just the policies that ought to concern Americans, it’s the price tag. This is a $3 trillion proposal — a surprising chunk of which goes to states that haven’t proven they can manage with the money they have! Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did exactly what Republicans asked her not to, Jim shook his head. She made this about bailing out blue states “with a track record of mismanagement and deficit spending.”

Using Indiana’s neighbor, Illinois, as an example, Rep. Banks pointed out the unfairness of the idea. Hoosiers, who’ve slashed spending and paid down their debt, would be forced — under this bill — to bailout states like Illinois who’ve let their budgets go to pot. “It’s absolutely shameful,” he argued. She wants to balance the budgets of the radical governors on the backs of taxpayers. If liberal states want to run their economies into the ground with bad decision-making, fine. But it should be up to them to pay for it.

Otherwise, the government is just rewarding bad behavior. And Republicans said as much in a joint letter. “A bailout of these jurisdictions would only serve to condone these actions and encourage economically oppressive restrictions on American people and businesses.” They’re right. If these tyrannical governors know that Uncle Sam will come to their rescue, then they’ll continue to exercise this dictatorial power for as long as they want.

Of course, the other major problem with this approach is that it undermines the will of other states. Take the Illinois-Indiana example Jim used. Indiana is a conservative state that defunded Planned Parenthood back when Mike Pence was governor. Their radical neighbor next door, however, not only funds Planned Parenthood but other controversial things like transgender surgeries. Both states have a right to pursue those policies — it’s their money. But what they shouldn’t have a right to do is impose those policies on others. Under these bailouts, taxpayers wouldn’t have a choice. All money is fungible — so there would be no way to protect Americans from subsidizing agendas they rejected in their own states.

And Pelosi doesn’t stop there. She also took the opportunity to shoehorn her party’s cheat-by-mail system into the text, gutting voter ID laws, signature witnesses, and other safeguards passed democratically by the states. “Also included in the plan," Breitbart warns, "is the legalization of ballot harvesting, allowing political operatives to collect and deliver as many ballots as they want” — opening the door to widespread fraud, voter harassment, coercion, and impersonation.

“This is all about Democrats reworking American society in their own image to tilt the elections in their favor. And that’s why we have to stand strong against it.”

Originally published here.

White House Treads a Fine Guideline

The CDC’s opinion matters. But it isn’t the only one that does. There are a lot more factors to consider when it comes to getting America back on its feet than public health. When the president decided to not go with the CDC's re-opening guidelines as they presented, he wasn’t ignoring the experts’ advice. He was just looking for something workable. If the White House had accepted the agency’s recommendations, no one would be eligible for re-opening. And in a country struggling to keep its head above water, that’s not just flawed — it’s fatal.

“The key word is… ‘guidelines,’” Dr. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) argued. “We get those in medicine all the time. They’re general recommendations that are to be [adapted] to certain circumstances. And that’s what the president’s done.” Physicians have the luxury of narrowly focusing on the medical problem. “That’s what the CDC is doing. They’re honing in on an infectious disease. But the president and his administration have a responsibility — not only to the health of the country in a medical aspect, but to the welfare of the entire country. And that means getting back to work… You can have one narrow focus and that’s fine, but you have to be able to look at the big picture. And that’s what the president and his administration are doing.”

Obviously, we want the CDC to make those laser-focused narrow prescriptions, because that’s their role. Just like it’s the president’s role to consider every aspect of the pandemic — medical and otherwise. My beef isn’t with the CDC. They’re trying to do the best they can in their lane of expertise. The real issue is with the media, who insists that the administration needs to do whatever the CDC or Dr. Anthony Fauci says. As we talked about on Wednesday, that’s only one side of the coin.

Even Rep. Murphy, who’s seen the numbers, believes “we’re being much more restrictive than what the data indicates. I believe we have an avenue that today we could open up a lot more than we could in a safe and efficient manner. I support the efforts… [to] move forward a little bit.” And it’s not like he’s removed from the pandemic.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of patients in the last couple weeks when we’re not [in session] to just try to help with the backlog. You know, I wear a mask. They wear a mask. What’s the difference between a hair salon stylist or a barber doing the exact same thing? There’s no difference whatsoever. So I believe, you know, people are selectively looking at pieces of data and using them to push their political agenda at this point, which I believe is contrary to what we really should be doing in this nation, rather than uniting. I believe it’s tearing our nation apart.”

Dr. Fauci and other members of the CDC were hired to care about one thing: infectious disease. That’s an important job, to be sure, but there’s more to leading a country than that. He wasn’t elected to consider the other threats — to the economy or to the moral, social, and mental well-being of communities. Donald Trump was.

Do I think we need to take the necessary precautions? Absolutely. We need to follow the guidelines that are already out there. But I also think it’s time to give small businesses and churches the freedom to address these issues and use what we know to re-open sensibly. But if we wait much longer, there won’t be much of an economy to come back to.

Originally published here.

A Three-Star Conspiracy…

Was the Michael Flynn saga ever about him? Or was it just another way to get to the president? Andrew McCarthy has been following the case for three years, and he says there’s no doubt. Find out what Democrats were up to — then and now — in this special sit-down with the former federal prosecutor. Hear about all of the new developments, including one judge’s decision not to drop the case.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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