Lawyers defending a military officer who was punished for teaching about the dangers of radical Islam are accusing the Pentagon of selling out to political correctness.
“In order to appease Muslims and the White House, Gen. Dempsey and the Department of Defense rushed to punish Lt. Col. Matt Dooley,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center.
Dooley and the longstanding course he taught at the Joint Forces Staff College, “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” were targeted when Muslim groups demanded that material they viewed as offensive to Islam be “purged” from the coursework and that the teacher be “effectively disciplined.”
Dooley administratively was removed from his teaching assignment and an Officer Evaluation Report, marking him as outstanding, was withdrawn.
Thompson charged that Dooley’s commanders “violated not only our nation’s core principles of free speech and academic freedom guaranteed by our Constitution, but also, a number of the military’s own regulations dealing with academic freedom and non-attribution policies of the National Defense University.”
“They violated the right to due process of law and even bypassed the university’s provost, who under NDU’s own rules has primary responsibility for adjudication of this matter,” he said.
Dooley previously had been deployed in Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq, serving as a tank platoon leader, tank company executive officer, operations officer, plans officer, small group instructor and instructor at the Joint Combined Warfare School.
He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and a dozen other honors.
The course, its materials and subject matter all had been presented before, but Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly blasted Dooley.
In a Pentagon news conference May 10 with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Dempsey characterized Dooley’s teaching as “totally objectionable” and “against our values.”
The Thomas More Law Center called the news conference “astonishing and unprecedented,” noting Dempsey personally attacked “a subordinate Army officer who honorably served our nation, and was subsequently prohibited from publicly defending himself. ”
“The final bastion of America’s defense against Islamic jihad and Shariah, the Pentagon, fell to the enemy,” commented Claire M. Lopez, a former CIA agent and strategic policy and intelligence expert.
She noted Dempsey reissued his earlier order that all Department of Defense course content “be scrubbed to ensure no lingering remnant of disrespect to Islam.”
The Thomas More Law Center said Dooley was grappling in class with the most dangerous aspects of radical Islamist ideology and encouraged students to debate the issues openly, using “prior-approved course content, established guest speakers and doctrinal teaching methodologies.”
But a letter from Islamic groups, including some with known links to terrorism, demanded that all government training materials be purged, a mandatory retraining program be instituted and punishment be instituted for “bigoted trainers” who would use “biased training materials.”
The groups included the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Islamic Circle of North American and Islamic Relief USA.
Among the information cited as damaging was an FBI report that explained individuals who convert to Islam and suddenly begin wearing Muslim attire, growing beards and travel to Muslim countries could become radicalized.
Texts that were deemed biased included Robert Spencer’s “The Truth About Mohammed: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion.”
“The result is certain,” Thomas More said in a statement. “Officers and instructors see what has happened to Lt. Col. Dooley, and will refrain from telling the truth about Islam or confronting the difficult strategic challenges facing our nation for fear of jeopardizing their professional careers. The Pentagon has still apparently not learned from the politically correct policies that led to the Fort Hood massacre.”
The legal team said enforcement of a political correct perspective is dangerous.
“Those people who subscribe and enforce the current environment of political correctness are the ones most often surprised by incidents like the terrorism at Fort Hood and the uncivilized behavior currently roiling North Africa and the Middle East,” the law team said.
“Rather than thinking and acting bravely, PC’ers strike at our cherished First Amendment in a vain hope of buying friendship with a force we still do not understand that neither respects us nor appreciates civility.”
The law firm, which noted Dooley’s family was targeted by threats, said the case illustrates the consequences of “prejudicial statements” from military commanders.
“Betrayed by his military chain of command, all of whom refused to stand behind their own academic freedom and non-attribution regulations, Lt. Col. Dooley stands alone in his association with what had been previously acceptable methods of educational inquiry.”