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The Department of Defense (DoD) issued a statement today ‘clarifying’ its earlier statements about possible prosecution for military personnel who share their religious beliefs with other military personnel. This comes the day after a law firm began its investigation into the matter.
Fox News reported Tuesday that DoD Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen issued a statement on behalf of the Pentagon saying that “religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense” and that “court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis.”
Last week, the Pentagon had a private meeting with Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Weinstein has said that all service members who proselytize are committing “treason.”
Christensen issued a statement today saying that “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).”
The words in parentheses are in the original statement.
ADF is “troubled” by both the new comments as well as the original statement. The law firm filed a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday to investigate the DoD’s position on military personnel sharing their faith.
“We appreciate the Pentagon’s clarification, but little or no evidence exists of coercive proselytization in the military, so we are troubled over what motivated the original comments,” said ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue. “Members of our military should not be denied the very freedoms they fight to defend. Freedom of religion and speech are paramount among those freedoms. We wish to ensure that the Pentagon does not deny members of the armed services the basic freedoms that the Constitution guarantees all Americans. For that reason, ADF is serious about investigating this gross error.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read ADF’s FOIA request.
Read DoD’s statement on the issue.
Indiana lawmakers recently passed a bill that would halt implementation of national K-12 education standards until a cost analysis can be completed. The national Common Core standards provide curriculum guidelines for states to follow in public schools.
Although 45 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to adopt the standards, some states — like Indiana — are getting cold feet, said CitizenLink Education Analyst Candi Cushman.
“The reason we had so many states buying into this was mainly because the federal government was tying them to federal grants,” Cushman said. “It starts looking a lot like trying to buy them off with money, basically.”
In addition, these standards could create a roadblock between parents and their child’s education.
“Parents likely lose much of their ability to weigh in on curriculum at the local level if standards have already been predetermined at the national level,” Cushman said. “If parents had a complaint about an education standard that’s affecting their kids’ classrooms, where are they going to go? — what national federal official or association do they go to?”
Written by the Missouri Family Policy Council
The Missouri House has advanced legislation which would provide constitutional protection to the right of parents to guide the upbringing of their children. The House has given preliminary approval to House Joint Resolution 26, sponsored by Representative Todd Richardson of Poplar Bluff.
The legislation would establish in Missouri’s Constitution “that parents have a fundamental right to exercise exclusive control over the care, custody, and upbringing of their minor children.” That fundamental right would encompass all decisions involving the discipline, education, religious instruction, health, medical care, place of habitation, and general well-being of their children.
Representative Richardson’s proposal would guarantee in Missouri’s Constitution the fundamental freedom of parents to educate their children in public schools, private schools or through home education. Government agencies would be prohibited from taking actions to infringe upon the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children except when the life, health, or safety of a child is in jeopardy.
House Joint Resolution 26 would enshrine in the state constitution the legal principles governing parental rights that have developed in federal case law over the last century. Federal courts have ruled that “the private realm of family life is one which the state should not enter except for compelling circumstances.”
Federal court decisions have stipulated that the rights of parents to control the care, custody, and upbringing of their children is a liberty interest bestowed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Courts have consistently stated that parents have the legal prerogative to pass down to their children their moral and cultural values.
In more recent years the Supreme Court has elevated the legal standard of parental custody and control to that of a fundamental right. In the case of Troxel v. Granville in 2000, the court reaffirmed that “the child is not the mere creature of the state,” but that “the custody, care, and nurture of the child resides first with the parents…”
“So long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children, there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of family life…The Due Process Clause does not permit a State to infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make childrearing decisions simply because [the state] believes a better decision could be made.”
While such decisions on both the state and federal level have been friendly to parental rights, there remains no specific language in the federal or state constitution delineating these rights. The liberty of parents to guide the upbringing of their children according to their values and beliefs continues to rely on the benevolence of the judicial branch of government.
Over the years, efforts have been made on the state and federal level to enact parental rights amendments. However, they have suffered weaknesses in formulation. Some have failed to effectively limit the degree to which the state can intrude into family life. Yet others have failed to explicitly preserve the legitimate interest of the state to protect the welfare of children in genuine cases of child abuse, sexual abuse, and child neglect.
House Joint Resolution 26 limits the instances when the fundamental rights of parents can be infringed to specific instances of child protection and child welfare currently outlined in Missouri law. The language reinforces the prevailing legal principle in federal courts that custody cannot be removed from a parent until a parent has been proven to be unfit through clear and convincing evidence.
Without question, a central element of Representative Richardson’s bill is an effort to place language protecting homeschooling in Missouri’s Constitution. The importance of such action is illustrated by a current federal court case concerning a homeschooling family from Germany.
The Romeike family is seeking political asylum in the United States. They fled Germany after being fined a total of $9000 for failing to enroll their children in the public schools. German law prohibits home education. The German Supreme Court has ruled that such a law is necessary to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”
The Romeikes made the decision to flee to the United States when German authorities threatened to remove their children from their custody. A U.S. immigration judge granted the family asylum, yet the U.S Agency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement has appealed that ruling to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Obama Administration has filed a brief in that case through the U.S. Justice Department. That brief shockingly states that laws that prohibit home education “do not violate basic human rights.”
The cultural challenges to parental rights were amplified by a recent public service announcement on MSNBC. Host Melissa Harris-Perry argued that children “belong to whole communities.”
“We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities,” she said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the Missouri Family Policy Council.