Controversy dogs Pentagon over National Day of Prayer

WASHINGTON — A group promoting religious freedom in the Armed Forces is demanding that the Pentagon back out of a National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation objects to the May 1 National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill, and complains that it is being organized by an evangelical Christian group, the NDP (National Day of Prayer) Task Force.

The foundation’s founder, Mikey Weinstein, is the author of a book that claims evangelical Christians are attempting to dominate the United States military, which is constitutionally bound not to endorse one religion or denomination over another.

“The planned participation by uniformed U.S. military personnel in this private fundamentalist Christian religious event, run by a non-federal entity, is an unequivocally clear violation of [a] plethora of DoD regulations and instructions,” Weinstein wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on April 17. “The U.S. military absolutely cannot endorse these searingly sectarian events by its public participation in them.”

But a Stars and Stripes report says the Army still intends to send a chaplain, color guard, vocalist and band to the prayer event.

Task Force vice chairman John Bornschein told Stars and Stripes that the military is sending its assets at the request of the congressman sponsoring the National Day of Prayer event, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., rather than the non-profit organization.

He said the event was intended as a nonsectarian invitation to prayer. “This is not about proselytizing,” Bornschein said. “This is purely about prayer and praying for our leadership and asking for God’s wisdom and blessing over our leaders.”

The foundation warns the military that it may seek a court injunction to block its participation.

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