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MRFF Contact: Bekki Miller
Tel. (337) 356-8696
[email protected]

"Longitudinal Character Study": Religion test administered at U.S. Military Academy at West Point in Clear Constitutional Violation

Friday, August 24, 2012

MRFF President Michael L. Mikey Weinstein issues letter forcefully demanding that unconstitutional "Religious Test" at West Point be put to an end. 42 MRFF clients at West Point, 35 of whom are Academy cadets and 7 of whom are members of the faculty, reached out to MRFF following the administration of the test. Out of these 42 MRFF clients, 35 are practicing Christians. The clients attest to the fact that the survey is a part of the overall religious pressure at the prestigious U.S. Military Academy.


BREAKING NEWS: MRFF
FEATURED BY ARMY TIMES

Group wants West Point
survey withdrawn

Questions related to religion are unconstitutional,
Military Religious Freedom Foundation says

Friday, August 24, 2012

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • A watchdog group is demanding that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., withdraw an online survey of cadets that asks about religion, claiming it violates their constitutional protections.

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said Friday an anonymous survey sent to members of the Class of 2013 asks 89 questions related to leadership and character. The foundation claims a half-dozen questions related to faith and spirituality represent an unconstitutional test of religious preference.
  • The Military Religious Freedom Foundation says Friday an anonymous survey sent to members of the Class of 2013 asks 89 questions related to leadership and character.
  • Brig. Gen. Theodore D. Martin, the commandant of cadets, encouraged cadets to take the survey in an Aug. 21 letter provided to Army Times by the foundation.

  • Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told Army Times he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the academy if the survey was not withdrawn.

    “The military academy, sadly, needs to be educated about what’s constitutional and what’s not,” Weinstein said. “We’ll give them a reasonable time to fix this, and after that we’ll see them in court.”

    A West Point cadet, who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals, said he contacted Weinstein to report the survey as part of a pattern at the school and in the military.

    The cadet told Army Times that officers and others routinely equate resiliency and leadership ability with religious devotion. As an avowedly secular person, he said he feels marginalized.

Click here to read this article at
Army Times


BREAKING NEWS FEATURED BY THE
WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE

West Point survey blasted for
religion questions

Friday, August 24, 2012

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • WEST POINT, N.Y. — A watchdog group is demanding that the U.S. Military Academy withdraw an online survey of cadets that asks about religion, claiming it violates their constitutional protections.
  • The Military Religious Freedom Foundation says Friday an anonymous survey sent to members of the Class of 2013 asks 89 questions related to leadership and character.
  • The foundation says the survey consists of statements like "My faith makes me who I am" and "I practice my religion." Respondents are asked to click on one of five circles describing how the statements apply to them, ranging from "very much like me" to "very much unlike me."

Click here to read this article at
The Wall Street Journal


MRFF PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
MIKEY WEINSTEIN SENDS DEMAND LETTER
TO WEST POINT SUPERINTENDENT

To: Lieutenant General David H. Huntoon, Superintendent United States Military Academy at West Point

Dear Lt. General (LTG) Huntoon,

I am Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, the Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF, http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org). MRFF is a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated civil rights advocacy organization that currently represents over 29,000 active duty United States soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, cadets, and midshipmen at our U.S. military academies and in ROTC and OCS/OTS, reservists, National Guard personnel and veterans. Approximately 96% of our clients are either Protestants or Roman Catholics. You may recall that earlier this year, MRFF was significantly instrumental in persuading you and the West Point staff to retract your invitation to the rabid Islamophobe and fundamentalist Christian extremist, retired Lt. General William G. Boykin, to officially speak at West Point. Boykin represented a treacherous trend that stands in stark contradiction of the culture as well as the proud traditions of the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. As we noted at the time (please navigate to the following URL: http://tinyurl.com/BoykinUSMA), Boykin’s seditious ideology represented a “brand of fundamentalist Christian militarism ... ingrained with a virulent theological hostility towards the cherished blessings of democracy and religious freedom, as embodied and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which generations of service members have shed precious blood to protect.” General Huntoon, you did the right thing then, sir, when the values and traditions of the prestigious Academy you lead faced a threat – once again I’m directing you to do the right thing and take action on this crucial matter with the utmost urgency.

I write to you today on behalf of 42 MRFF clients at West Point, 35 of whom are Academy cadets and 7 of whom are members of the faculty. Out of these 42 MRFF clients, 35 are practicing Christians. They have collectively requested that MRFF represent them to demand that you, LTG Huntoon, as the Superintendent of West Point, order the staff under your charge to immediately cease and desist from any further   testing of one’s religious preferences and practices (or lack thereof) in any manner, generally, and, as is currently being unconstitutionally done in the "Class of 2013 Longitudinal Study of Character Survey," more specifically (see Appendix C). Our 42 MRFF clients at West Point gravely fear the distinct possibility that they could be the target of nontrivial direct or indirect reprisals and/or retribution if they were to voice their concerns and demands to their superiors at the Academy, per their respective chains of command. Thus, they came to MRFF as a matter of recourse and a safe, secure means by which they could communicate their unbridled outrage and desperation to you, sir.

I will make this short and get right to the point; West Point is currently in direct violation of Clause 3, Article 6 of the United States Constitution's absolute prohibition against the utilization of any "religious test” (please see Appendix A, attached). Please see the enclosed e-mail (Appendix B) from just one of MRFF's clients, which vividly and comprehensively says it all. The cadet who wrote this letter is, in our estimation, an exemplary American. This cadet is also a hero for standing up and writing on behalf of so many others at West Point. There is simply no cognizable excuse extant for this wretched Constitutional violation by West Point, either practically or as a matter of law. West Point has grievously transgressed against and is in clear violation of the Constitution of the United States of America, period. This travesty must end here and now!

Thus, MRFF formally demands that you:

  1. Cease and desist forthwith from any further usage of "religious testing" in any way, shape, or form at West Point.
  2. Aggressively and expeditiously investigate any and all USMA personnel under your command who have been even remotely involved, by any manner or means, with such noxious unconstitutional behavior.
  3. Severely punish all who are found to have been complicit.

If you believe yourself to be so complicit, please swiftly recuse yourself from this demanded investigation. If this is the case, you must immediately request an independent, third party, DoD entity's investigatory participation in order to obviate any potential conflict of interest on your part.

As you are well aware, LTG Huntoon, all members of the United States military swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. They do not swear such an oath in favor of a particular fundamentalist Christian version of the New Testament or of any other religious faith (or lack thereof). Testing "religion" is absolutely un-American, and incontrovertibly vandalizes and defrauds the foundational Constitutional rights of the cadets and staff at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Indeed, West Point's revered Cadet Honor Code asserts the following: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." Please explain to me how West Point’s violation of the rights of its valued cadets and staff is somehow NOT tantamount to a glaring incident of "cheating," writ large? As the 58th Superintendent of West Point, you know well the importance of leading by example.

It is admittedly very hard to speak truth to power, especially when that power wields the ability to exact unjust harm against those who dare speak out. Bravely, MRFF's 42 West Point clients (in unison) have done just that in this demand missive and appeal to you. As their Superintendent and leader, you should be proud of all of them, as they are acting in the interests of all cadets and servicemembers not only at West Point, but also throughout the whole of the United States armed forces. They are distinct patriots of the highest order, sir. Indeed, as the late, great historian Howard Zinn once said, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

In the immediate future, LTG Huntoon, MRFF will closely follow your next steps in formally addressing our demands to cease and desist, without delay, all “religious testing” at West Point. Likewise, we also demand that you investigate, punish, and purge all of those under your command who are responsible for this base, vile, and wholly unconstitutional misconduct.

Sincerely,

Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq.
Founder and President, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

CC:  
Leon E. Panetta, Secretary, United States Department of Defense
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
John McHugh, Secretary of the Army
General Raymond T. Odierno, Army Chief of Staff
Ms. Katherine Ritchey, Esq., Jones Day

Click here to read original
letter in PDF form


APPENDIX A

Clause III, Article VI of the United States Constitution

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

APPENDIX B

Class of 2013 Longitudinal Study of Character Survey

    From: XXXXX XXXXXXX X CADET MIL USA USMA" <[email protected]>
    Subject: Class of 2013 Longitudinal Study of Character Survey
    Date: August 23, 2012 11:42:10 AM MDT
    To: "[email protected]" <[email protected]>

    Dear Mr. Weinstein,

    This is the e-mail we were sent directing us to take part in the survey.  The expressed intent of the survey is to analyze our "development as a Leader of Character" and to query our "values, moral reasoning and knowledge of our Army Professional Ethic."  On that I have to call "bullshit".  Although much of the survey was pragmatic in nature, the author of this study made the same nescient assumption that we see by so many officers and leaders here: that in order to be resilient or morally sound, we must be religious.  I am not religious, but this does not mean I lack resilience or character.  Being asked if I lean on faith in someone else's god or if I pray or meditate on the same page of a survey as questions about my perseverance through hardship is absurdly disrespectful and a violation of my most basic constitutional, civil and human rights. Taking part in this survey is explicitly encouraged by a Brigadier General in my Chain of Command.  Being "encouraged" to do something in the military is not the same as a casual suggestion from a peer or friend.  I've been briefed countless times by superior officers that a suggestion to take part in something, when coming from a superior officer, is tantamount to an order.  Although formal consequences rarely follow, there are subtle shifts in perception that lead to being considered a lower quality officer than others.  Soldiers are "encouraged" to go to prayer breakfasts, churches and religious retreats from their first Sunday in basic training on.  Even so much as declining to bow for compulsory prayer singles out and ostracizes the individual soldier.  The "all soldiers should be Christian" assumption that commanders make when they allow constitutional violations like the mandatory prayers we see here so often (that my class will be subjected to once again tomorrow afternoon, and then again on Saturday), Christian branding of entire regiments, extra privileges given to religious cadets to get out of otherwise mandatory inspections and take passes not given to the non-religious or the excessive access to new cadets given to evangelical Christians during cadet basic training here needs to be discarded.  If I wanted someone to tell me I should meet Jesus, I'd go to church.  If I wanted a custom made Bible, I'd go online.  If I wanted to go to a religious school to be taught scripture, I'd have gone to Brigham Young or Thomas Aquinas.  I chose to come to the United States Military Academy, I choose to go to formation and I choose to go to class.  These are not places where the military, or any government organization can squander resources on modifying the philosophy of its members.  I am confident in the beliefs I hold, and I am sick of being subjected to the arrogance and disrespect of the religious majority through unlawful means.

    Mr. Weinstein, on behalf of myself and many others here at West Point who are being regularly and systematically degraded and marginalized by academy leadership for our lack of "chain of command-endorsed" religious beliefs, I am requesting your assistance in correcting this issue.  I am personally uncomfortable bringing this to my chain of command after having three field grade officers here tell me on separate occasions that "you won't be a good leader until you fill the hole in your heart," "after going through rough times, everyone needs to see a chaplain" (then directed to a Christian evangelical), and "I don't understand how you can have any moral foundation without god," I am confident that my appeals will be ignored as they have been in the past.  Thank you for your help.

    (West Point cadet/MRFF client's name, cadet rank and cadet title and assigned Corps of Cadets Company withheld)

    ________________________________

    From: USMA Institutional Research
    Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 2:34 PM
    To: XXXXX XXXXXXX X CADET MIL USA USMA
    Cc: XXXXXXX, XXXXXXX X CIV US USA TRADOC
    Subject: Class of 2013 Longitudinal Study of Character Survey

    Members of the Class of 2013:

    You have been part of a 4-year study to determine the effect of the West Point Experience on development as a Leader of Character.

    This study began with New Cadet Testing during your CBT in July 2009.  Since then, the Class has received electronic questionnaires seeking your responses and insights in matters addressing values, moral reasoning, and knowledge of our Army Professional Ethic.

    At this time, I ask that you please complete this brief, but very important questionnaire. It takes less than 10 minutes. Please complete as soon as your schedule permits, but NLT Friday, 31 AUG.

    All your information is and will remain confidential.  We are only using group responses in the analysis of results.

    Thank you in advance for your candid contribution to this study as it will benefit the Academy and the Army.

    Sincerely,

    Theodore D. Martin
    Brigadier General, United States Army
    Commandant of Cadets

    The link to the survey is:

    http://survey.westpoint.edu/TakeSurvey.aspx?EID=981B467B038B0M7nBM5oBM55B2KM

    Note. You can navigate in the survey with the Back and Next options at the bottom of each page.  Use the Save option if you need to exit the survey prior to completion.  When you return to complete the survey, begin after the questions you already completed.  Click the Done option on the last page when you have completed the survey.

APPENDIX C

 


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