Army Says It Is Investigating Head of Indiana Guard
Umbarger accused of ethics and Constitution violation by religious freedom group
The Department of the Army says it is investigating whether the head of the Indiana National Guard violated regulations when he made a video supportive of an evangelical Christian group.
A spokesman says the Army's inspector general is reviewing the complaint lodged by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation against Major General Martin Umbarger. The Army said it could not comment further since the investigation was ongoing.
In September 2011, Umbarger appeared in a video on the website of Centurion's Watch, a Christian group in Indianapolis that promotes free marriage counseling services for military families. Umbarger is wearing his desert fatigues uniform in the video, and while the video has been removed from the group's website and from YouTube, the text of Umbarger's appeal was reported by The Huffington Post.
"I would say Centurion's Watch is a wonderful way that you can help. Any donation or resource that you can give this organization -- it's faith-based. It's wanting to keep families together with the stresses and strains of being apart, being in harm's way, risking their lives for this, for this country. I can't think of a better organization that you can support. So if you want to give back, if you want to have some way you can help, I would highly encourage that you support this organization," said Umbarger in the video.
Mikey Weinstein with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation says his group found out about the video after being contacted by 31 Indiana National Guard members. Weinstein contends Umbarger's appeal on behalf of an evangelical Christian group, especially while in uniform, violates several military regulations as well as the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution . Weinstein sent a letter to the National Guard Bureau in Washington, which forwarded the complaint to the Army's inspector general.
Umbarger declined a request for an interview, but issued the following statement:
"I apologize for and regret the negative attention my well-meaning endorsement of an organization which so generously offered to help our Soldiers, Airmen, and their families. As I have done so many times before, I instinctively advocated on behalf of my service members.
This situation underscores the enduring need for all of us to pursue every possible avenue in providing services to our faithful military families.
It is my earnest desire and sincere hope that my comments will not detract from the professionalism and dedication of the extraordinary men and women who serve and sacrifice every day in defense of our communities, State, and Nation."
Weinstein says he believes Umbarger should be removed from his position immediately. Jane Jankowski, press secretary for Governor Daniels, has not responded to a request for comment.
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