By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - On April 23, Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation met with the Pentagon to discuss his concerns about religious proselytizing in the military.
"When you have people of equal ranks talking about religion, it's not a problem. When you have someone that is superior to your rank, during duty hours talking about their faith and they outrank you," Weinstein told NBC 38 in a phone interview.
After the meeting, the Internet lit up with reports that the Pentagon was cracking down on Christianity.
Lt. Com. Nate Christensen has issued a statement on behalf of the Department of Defense saying the DOD has never and will never single out a particular religion. The statement that was released Friday goes on to say the department "provides free access of religion for all members of the military service."
But for Jeff Struecker, a retired military chaplain and current Co-Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, the meeting with Weinstein is worrisome.
"With Weinstein in the room, there is really no good for the sake of all warriors being able to exercise their faith, no matter what their faith is," Struecker says.
Struecker says it is important to have a force with a very strong faith, "Because you're going to be placed in some very intense situations in combat and have to rely on who you are as a man or woman and have to make some very important decisions, at that point your faith becomes important."
"That is a lie and that's a terrible thing to say. In fact, 20% of the military identifies with having no faith whatsoever," Weinstein says.
The Department of Defense says higher ranking officials should avoid talking to lower ranking soldiers about religion, and Struecker says higher ranking officials respect that.
"Of course as a leader in the military I had to be careful how I did it because I can't officially endorse a religion," he says.
But Weinstein says his organization represents more than 33,000 service members, 96% of which are Christian, who claim to have been pressured.
"They are the subject of tyranny and marginalization. They are being robbed of their work by Dominion or Fundamentalist Christians," Weinstein says.
"Weinstein's organization, if he could would totally remove religion from all branches of the service. Having served as an infantryman, as an enlisted guy and as a chaplain in the military, that's absolutely impossible," Struecker says.
Weinstein says if the Pentagon doesn't make changes, his organization will file lawsuits on behalf of its clients.
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