Topeka Government lawyers are seeking the dismissal of a federal lawsuit in Kansas alleging widespread religious discrimination within the military, arguing many of its claims are only “general grievances” and not wrongs against specific soldiers.
The Justice Department also contends a former Fort Riley soldier who joined the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in filing the lawsuit did not pursue his complaints aggressively enough with superiors first.
But Mikey Weinstein, president of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based foundation, said Friday that the government’s response contains “nothing meritorious.”
The lawsuit, filed last year in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., named Defense Secretary Robert Gates as the defendant. It alleges a pervasive bias within the military in favor of evangelical Christianity, even allowing its personnel to attempt to convert Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Justice Department attorneys filed their response Thursday, questioning whether the foundation has the legal standing to sue. The department also suggests the lawsuit attacks a tradition of religious observances within the military dating back to George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.
As for a pattern of abuses, the government attorneys wrote, “These allegations are precisely the kind of generalized grievances that are routinely rejected by the federal courts.”
Weinstein and two Topeka attorneys involved in the lawsuit said the government is wrong about the facts of the case and misinterpreting past court decisions. Weinstein said the Justice Department is parroting some evangelical Christians’ “revisionist” version of American history.
“I’m literally thunderstruck by its plethora of fatal flaws,” Weinstein said of the government response. “I’d have expected better from a junior high civics class.”
The other plaintiff is Spc. Dustin Chalker, a combat medic previously stationed at Fort Riley and now at Fort Detrick, Md.
Chalker is an atheist whose original complaints included being forced to attend military formations where Christian prayers were given.