ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is facing fallout for canceling a Christian veteran's speech just over an hour after an activist group complained.
USMC is taking heat after scrubbing a training session on Saturday following complaints by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The MRFF complained to the USMC about Air Force veteran Jay Lorenzen, who was scheduled to speak at an annual training session, owing to Lorenzen's ties to various Christian evangelical organizations.
Michael "Mikey" L. Weinstein, founder of the MRFF, said in a press release on Saturday, "The fact that the Marine [senior] leaders called back on my personal cell phone 64 minutes later and simply said 'done' following up with that confirming e-mail makes it QUITE clear that the senior leadership in Washington agreed with us 100%."
He added that the officials responsible for planning the event should receive "visible and aggressive punishment."
"A virtual battlefield tour of Gettysburg using a video from the National Park Service was scheduled as part of the annual training," said USMC Capt. Joseph Butterfield, commenting on the situation. "Some of the participating Marines raised concerns about a former military officer who volunteered as an outside virtual presenter. In response to the concerns, the leadership of the unit decided to keep the virtual training internal to the Marines."
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., a military chaplain, said he was "appalled" by the USMC's quick capitulation "to Mikey Weinstein's atheist demands to eradicate Christianity from our military."
"While the Department of Defense has a long history of willfully ignoring the religious freedom of its service members, banning a former Air Force Academy professor from leading a Marine Corps training because of his Christian beliefs is absolutely unconscionable," he added. "I look forward to discussing this with Department of Defense officials at our meeting on Thursday."
Special Counsel Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute — a legal organization "dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans" — expressed concern about the military capitulating to "cancel culture."
"From Article VI of the U.S. Constitution to cases like Trinity Lutheran to numerous DOD policies, the law is clear: The government cannot require a religious test for office," he said, adding, "nor insist that religious people be excluded from benefits — like teaching to a class of Marine Corps JAGs — because they are religious."
Dys' client told Fox News in a statement that he and others were "furious that the Marine Corps would cancel what was anticipated as one of the highlights of our reserve duty."
"Even more infuriating is the fact that the cancellation was based on a false allegation. We're here to become better Marine officers by studying one of the most important battles in American history. And that was stolen from us by a lie," added the client.
According to the MRFF website, Weinstein is "the undisputed leader of the national movement to restore the obliterated wall separating Church and State in the most technologically lethal organization ever created by humankind — the United States Armed Forces." He founded the MRFF in 2005 "to directly battle the far-right militant radical evangelical religious fundamentalists."
MRFF is currently seeking unpaid workers nationwide to help raise money for the organization: "This is a volunteer position (estimated in-kind value of position = $21,750)."
The volunteer is called a "community coordinator" and works "to increase the visibility and fundraising at the community level."
"Every U.S. service member is entitled to a career without religious influence being exerted in their training, assignment, advancement and retention along with freedom from mandatory participation in religious practices," according to MRFF's page calling for volunteers.
Federal law (10 U.S.C. 502) requires each person entering one of the seven branches of the United States' Armed Forces (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard and National Guard) to take an enlistment oath. That law gives the following formula:
I, [name] do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
The USMC's "Religious Ministry in the United States Marine Corps" states the mission of religious ministry in the USMC is "to support the free exercise of religion and attend to the sacred, spiritual and moral aspects of life, in order to strengthen faith, develop character, heighten spiritual fitness, enhance resilience and promote core values and virtues so that Marines, sailors and their families may best serve their country."