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‘This Must End:’ Lawmakers Warn DOD Religious Liberty Of Service Members At Risk

  • Republican lawmakers are urging the Department of Defense to protect religious liberty during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Republican Georgia Rep. Doug Collins and Republican Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn led lawmakers in pushing Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to protect religious liberties of service members targeted by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).
  • “This must end,” the lawmakers wrote.

Republican lawmakers are urging the Department of Defense to protect religious liberty during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reps. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia and Doug Lamborn of Colorado led lawmakers in sending a letter Thursday asking Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to protect religious liberties within the armed services, which have been targeted of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), according to the lawmakers.

“Despite these Federal mandates and guidance from the Army Chaplain Corps, commands have taken action that restrict the religious freedoms of military chaplains and service members,” the letter says. “This pattern of behavior must be addressed.”

The letter lists multiple instances wherein the lawmakers say that the religious freedoms of service members have been compromised. In one case, the MRFF demanded that Esper initiate a review into the actions of a garrison chaplain at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, Col. Moon H. Kim, because Kim “authored an email to his chaplain colleagues including a PDF of a faith-based book he thought may help them and the families they serve.”

In another incident that the lawmakers cited, the MRFF sent demand letters that resulted in the removal of Facebook videos posted by Capt. Amy Smith and Maj. Scott Ingram from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade in Fort Drum, New York, as well as a Maj. Christian Goza from Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

Those Facebook videos included “protected religious expression,” according to the letter.

The MRFF also allegedly targeted Col. Jason Condrey, Commander of the U.S. Army Garrison, in Stuttgart, Germany, because Condrey hosted “Sunday Christian Porch Preaching” on his apartment building balcony during coronavirus quarantines.

“In the weeks since this global health crisis began, his preaching has drawn growing crowds of his neighbors seeking solace in faith,” the letter said. “Lt. Col. McGraw’s actions are within his rights under the First Amendment and we were concerned to discover that his command and MRFF pressured Lt. Col. McGraw into halting his Sunday services.”

“Even more concerning, MRFF is now calling for him to be disciplined and brought before a military court-martial,” the lawmakers added. “The command at USAG Stuttgart unlawfully halted Lt. Col. McGraw’s services to appease an anti-faith organization. Lt. Col. McGraw should be allowed to continue his Sunday morning preaching and hymn-singing immediately.”

The MRFF did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The lawmakers note in the letter that they are “growing frustrated” as military leaders violate religious liberty and the intent of Congress related to military chaplains, “often out of ignorance.”

“Far too often, commanders react in a knee-jerk fashion to loud complaints from vocal anti-religion activists only to have their decisions immediately overturned upon scrutiny, but often only after congressional intervention pressing the Services to adhere to their own regulations (let alone the Constitution),” the letter adds. “This must end.”

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