by WorldTribune Staff, August 4, 2020
The Pentagon’s “culture of hostility towards religion” must be addressed, Sen. Ted Cruz said in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Cruz, Texas Republican, accused the Defense Department of “religious discrimination” in the letter, specifically asking whether the department had brought discipline in a case involving Air Force veteran Jay Lorenzen, whose scheduled speech to an annual training for Marine Corps (USMC) JAG reservists last month was canceled, Fox News reported on Monday.
Lorenzen’s speech was canceled after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) relayed its reservist clients’ concerns about Lorenzen’s Christian beliefs influencing his remarks, the report said.
“The Department must do better. It must take affirmative steps to stop those in its ranks from targeting religious individuals and violating the United States Constitution,” Cruz wrote.
“The First Amendment unambiguously protects the ‘free exercise’ of religion. More to the point, it protects ‘religious observers against unequal treatment … on the basis of religious status.’ The government is prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their religious faith or religious practice. Nevertheless, the Department is unabashedly discriminating against religious individuals,” Cruz wrote.
First Liberty Institute, which represents a JAG reservist opposed to the cancellation, told Fox News that Lorenzen wouldn’t have included religious elements in his talk. Lorenzen has declined to comment on the situation.
“We are grateful for Sen. Cruz’s tireless defense of religious liberty and his dedication to our service members,” First Liberty Special Counsel Jeremy Dys said. “He is due an answer for why the Department of Defense appears to be ‘vetting’ speakers according to their religious beliefs. No one should be canceled because of their religious beliefs.”
MRFF President Michael Weinstein told Fox News that Cruz’s letter was “ridiculous” and “nothing more than red meat being thrown to the fundamentalist Christian electorate that’s out there.”