NAVY TIMES – Cancelled services at Navy boot camp spark outrage

MIKEY WEINSTEIN / MRFF FEATURED IN NAVY TIMES LEAD HEADLINE STORY

John Chantry, a practicing Druid, was shocked to receive an email April 3 advising him that he was prohibited from continuing to lead earth-centered religious services for recruits at Recruit Training Command.

An RTC official who spoke on background said the volunteers were asked to leave in accordance with Navy guidance, which stipulates that a uniformed chaplain or a religiously accredited military member should conduct the service before the service pursues other avenues.

But Chantry, backed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and its outspoken founder and president, Mikey Weinstein, call the canceling of accommodations for minority religious groups a gross violation of the constitutional rights of recruits who practice minority religions, including Unitarian Universalists, Buddhists, Baha’i or earth-centered religions.

On Wednesday, Weinstein penned a letter to the RTC commanding officer claiming that more than 250 recruits have been impacted by the order, and gave Pfeifle 24 hours to reinstate the civilian volunteers at RTC. Weinstein said he is prepared to exhaust all “administrative means” or even go to court to get the order rescinded. “We have never seen a commander authorize such a sweeping abuse of the religious freedoms of those under their leadership,” the letter reads.

To Weinstein, it is also a matter of safety, given that one reason recruits are given access to religious services is to bolster resilience, which can prevent suicide. “Today the hundreds of affected sailors want to know why it is that they will no longer be allowed to practice their religion,” he wrote. “They want to know why that one refuge, which has bolstered them so much during this trying time, is being swept out from under them. I would like to know as well, and soon the American people will be asking you the same question.”

Click to read more at Navy Times

Click to read Demand Letter

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