Forbes used his five minutes to ask Michael Weinstein, founder of the controversial Military Religious Freedom Foundation, about remarks he made about Christians.
“In a Washington Post article on July 16, 2006 they attributed a quote to you that said: ‘We’ve created this foundation to be a weapon. We going to lie down a withering field of fire and leave sucking chest wounds,” Forbes said. “Was that an accurate quote?”
Weinstein did not answer the yes or no question but instead tried to defend his stance.
“I want to make it very clear that we realize what we’re facing is a tsunami of fundamental Christian…” Weinstein said.
Weinstein went on saying, “We are facing a tsunami of fundamental Christian exceptionalism and supremacy…”
“Yes, of course I said those words. I’m proud of them,” Weinstein added.
Forbes then repeated another quote attributed to Weinstein.
“A second one on June 16, 2013, you said, ‘Today we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s Armed Forces.’ Did you make that quote?” Forbes asked.
“I did,” Weinstein said.
Forbes then told the panel of witnesses that anti-Christian remarks like Weinstein’s – not religious expression – represent “the definition of coercion.”
“I haven’t heard any people of faith calling atheists monsters or saying they want to put sucking wounds into them,” Forbes said. “I mean, you’re basically looking at a situation here where these individuals are stating what they believe, and based on that, we’re calling that coercion and then starting to restrict that kind of freedom of expression and belief,” Forbes said. “Nobody is defending individuals trying to proselytize or coerce.
“We’re simply trying to say we need a protection – just because you wear a uniform doesn’t mean that you no longer have your right to express your freedom of your faith,” Forbes said.
In recent months after religious freedom advocacy groups and the subcommittee objected to instances of persecution of Christians for expressing their faith, ranging from an Airman who was relieved of his duties for opposing same-sex marriage to Department of Defense (DOD) training materials that described Christians as members of “hate groups.”
Although the DOD has made some changes to its policy for religious accommodations in the military, more needs to be done, according to witnesses at the hearing.
“On its face, the [DOD] Instruction appears to address some of the past deficiencies with respect of service members’ religious liberties,” Michael Berry, senior counsel and director of military affairs at the Liberty Institute, said in his sworn testimony.
“It is crucial, however, that the DOD follows this promising start by ensuring that all service members are truly free to exercise their religious beliefs without fear, intimidation, threat or punishment,” he said.
"Despite Congressional efforts to address these [religious expression] restrictions, and DOD assertions that the problems are not that bad, religious expression continues to be stifled in the military - as we saw earlier this year when Bibles were removed from Navy Lodges due to fears they were causing offense, and when an Air Force Academy Cadet's religious expression was singled out and targeted for removal from his own whiteboard,” Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said in press release announcing his appearance before the subcommittee.
"Even if later corrected, such accounts create a chilling effect and bolster the perception that religious beliefs must be hidden to maintain one's standing in the military,” Weber said.