Thank You From a USAF JAG

Mr. Weinstein,

Thank you for taking the time out to advise me on some legal considerations for chaplain activity at the recent Holocaust Memorial at my base. As an Air Force JAG, I knew it appeared questionable, Constitutionally, to begin and end such a memorial with an invocation and benediction under Engel v. Vitale and Katcoff v. Marsh. However, I also wondered at its propriety at an event to commemorate predominantly (though certainly not entirely) the genocide of six million Jews.

The worst part was being told, despite Constitutional and DoD regulation research to support this position, that my objection lacked objectivity due to my religion and that some high ranking Chaplain had determined I was “out to lunch.” Needless to say, I questioned this Chaplain’s expertise as a Constitutional scholar to my leadership. I further indicated, had this been an issue of Government ethics for example, the mere appearance of an issue would have warranted at least some hesitation, in this case, a moment of silence or inspirational story.

Your reference to AFI 1-1 was helpful in the analysis, in conjunction with case law research. Most importantly however, your encouragement to fight the issue motivated me to provide a full and thorough legal review. Though my position was not supported, at least my leadership acknowledged the reasonableness of the position and I’m hoping in the future, that it will not be so eagerly disregarded.

Best regards,

(USAF JAG’s name, rank, USAF unit and name of assigned military installation all withheld)

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1 Comment

  1. watchtower

    Was this a “religious” issue or a “constitutional issue”? I can’t quit put a finger on exactly what the problem is/was (beyond the heartfelt thanks for support).

    Chaplains, regardless of rank, have no position or authority to speak on constitutional or Military issues. We have given the chaplaincy far too much leniency and access to command then necessary. They should stay in the church and away from ANY Military issues that are not religious (even suicide issues that belong with the shrinks).

    “high Ranking Chaplain” balderdash…this bugs the piss out me!

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