- - Friday, September 9, 2016

Often you will read how someone takes offense at a public display of religion and files a lawsuit to stop it.

In the vast majority of these cases, the one who files will win without even stepping into court. The local government, school board, Boy Scout troop, Little League, etc. hears the word “lawsuit” and, knowing the price of lawyering up for a battle, reneges on whatever dastardly religious action they were taking.

And if they even consider mounting a defense, the big artillery words come out and takes aim at them: “unconstitutional” and “separation of church and state.”

Pre-game prayer? Forget about it.

A valedictorian’s speech that mentions how Jesus changed her life? Not a chance!

How about if the coach of the U.S. Army’s football team taps an assistant on the shoulder to pray after a rousing win? Some of the athletes may bow in prayer; others may just listen quietly. The assistant might even finish the prayer with “in the name of Jesus.”

That’s what happened last Friday, reported the Army Times:

After Army West Point’s 28-13 upset win over Temple on Friday in Philadelphia, athletics department staff posted a clip that, according to multiple people who saw the video, showed head coach Jeff Monken asking a staff member to lead the team in prayer. 

…After receiving multiple complaints regarding the video, Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey Weinstein said he reached out to academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen on Monday to discuss the post. It was taken down shortly thereafter and replaced on some platforms by a shorter, edited video of the celebration.

In a Tuesday statement, West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker did not name the MRFF, but said a “third party advocacy group” made the school aware of the video and “made allegations that this act violated first amendment rights of some of the cadets.” 

An allegation is not the same thing as a judicial decision (and even those can miss the mark). But in this case, no judge ruled that this voluntary, locker room prayer “violated First Amendment rights of some of the cadets.”

No judge made that decision because it didn’t go to court. The matter didn’t even have time for a lawsuit to be filed. Or even an official complaint to be filed with the inspector general.

No, the offended-by-prayer people simply complained, to a 501(c)3.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, funded in recent years by about $700,000 in contributions, pays their activist leader Mikey Weinstein about $250,000 year to create sound and fury about alleged religious coercion within the military.

Regarding First Amendment rights, what does a non-compulsory, locker room prayer signify? Nothing.

Enter the sound and fury:

Ninety individuals had registered complaints with the MRFF as of Wednesday morning, Weinstein said – 44 graduates, 40 members of the West Point staff, and six football players. Unlike many other religious-freedom cases pursued by the group, Weinstein said he does not plan to file a third-party inspector general’s complaint on the issue. 

“We’re satisfied that this will be taken care of,” Weinstein said, adding that his foundation seeks an admission of wrongdoing and an apology from Monken, as well as assurances that the coach will adjust his postgame ritual. 

“There are plenty of Supreme Court decisions that say he can’t do that,” Weinstein said of the prayer. “High school coaches can’t do that, elementary school coaches can’t do that … not if it’s a public school.” 

Did you catch that? No lawsuit. No official legal case was made, except to refer to “plenty of Supreme Court decisions.” But the matter has been wrapped up to the satisfaction of Weinstein. He got his demanded admission of wrongdoing, an apology from the coach and assurances that this won’t happen again.

Secularists, take note. In your pursuit of a public square devoid of religion, you don’t even need to file lawsuits anymore.

Did anybody think to respond defiantly to Weinstein? How about just ignoring him for a few weeks? Let him file a lawsuit. Or why not stall for enough time to let the general public get wind of this nonsense? Then see if, in the court of public opinion, you still need to apologize and grovel because you offered a prayer to your God while at your work. 

True, such an approach would mean having to listen to the offended parents of some of the offended athletes. Weinstein produced emails from helicopter parents who believe their son has what it takes to: (1) join the Army, (2) defend their country in time of war and (3) play collegiate football at the highest levels, while also believing their son cannot endure the trial of hearing others pray in the name of Jesus.

They wrote:

“Coach Monken had no business telling my son and his Army teammates to get on their knees and pray a prayer to Jesus!” wrote one concerned parent. “My son was very upset about this. … This violates the Constitution and to think it happened at West Point?”

As a taxpayer funding the young man’s education at West Point, I too have my concerns.

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