Military Atheists Join, Contradict Fight Against Travis AFB Nativity
Update: As promised, Travis AFB let local media on the base to view the display (and take pictures). As expected, each noted the nativity and Menorah were part of a group of nearly two-dozen holiday displays. Weinstein has managed to keep his invective fairly calm up to this point, but the more he talks, the more ridiculous he gets. Now the nativity and Menorah are “dehumanizing:”
“You are dehumanizing people. You are marginalizing people,” Weinstein said. “We know it’s a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.”
“If you want something with religious symbols, be it Islamic, Jewish, Christian or whatever, put it on the grounds of the (base) chapel. That’s what the regulations say and that’s what the law says and we’re a nation of laws,” Weinstein declared.
Naturally, the former JAG doesn’t say what regulations or laws “say” that. That’s likely because, despite his authoritative-sounding assertion, none do. He’s trying to create a “new” law in the military restricting faith to the chapel.
Not to be outdone, Army atheist Justin Griffith is going one step further than Weinstein:
[Military bases] not only have a right to ban Nativity scenes, they have an obligation to do so.
He forgot to mention the Menorah. Like Weinstein, he also fails to say why the government is ‘obligated’ to ban religious (Christian) displays.
Weinstein has reportedly said he is considering a federal lawsuit over the issue, but he has threatened lawsuit over just about every controversy over the past few years without following through.
Justin Griffith, the “military director” of American Atheists, has belatedly joined the attack by Michael Weinstein against Travis Air Force Base’s holiday card lane, which contains a nativity and Menorah, among nearly two dozen other displays. Writing in the third person, Griffith says
Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings is an atheist stationed at Travis. Rawlings contacted American Atheists about putting up an Atheist-themed display as well. The display was intended to go up next to the Nativity Scene and the token Jewish Menorah. Justin Griffith, the Military Director at American Atheists offered to provide and pay for an equivalent display for Staff Sergeant Rawlings to submit.
Note, of course, the atheists’ intent to put up a response to the religious displays, rather than take independent action (as has been the ideological trend of atheists). Note, too, they came up with the idea only after they read about the displays in the news (though the displays have been up for some time):
Rawlings was told by his USAF chaplain that he could not participate…
The reason given was that “an investigation was being launched, so Air Mobility Command has requested that the entire display be left as-is.”
The “investigation” was as a result of Weinstein’s legal letter, which was dated last Friday, meaning Rawlings likely only discussed the display this week.
Clearly, the atheists presented Travis AFB with a catch-22. If they did not allow the Johnny-come-lately atheists to add their display to the avenue, they would be criticized, as Griffith adequately demonstrates. If they did allow them to add it, Weinstein would have been in the news the next day claiming either some form of “victory” or of pandering on the part of the Air Force.
Still, Griffith — an Army Sergeant himself — views the rather reasonable response as institutional persecution.
“We’re not saying dismantle, incinerate the displays,” Weinstein said. “We’re saying move it two blocks and put it on the chapel lawn.”
By contrast, Griffith opined:
The displays are not even near a chapel, though that would still be unlawful…
[American Atheists] is now joining with their peers [including the MRFF] in a vocal demand to remove the entire display altogether.
Griffith said a “world class law firm” is now working with the Staff Sergeant. Presumably, that’s the same “prestigious” Jones Day law firm that didn’t even look at the Travis AFB pictures before launching their diatribes against religious freedom in the military.
Again, despite the manufactured offense, there is nothing wrong with the display on a military base of a nativity and Menorah during the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons. In fact, specifically restricting religious displays while allowing others would create an environment hostile to religion through the unconstitutional targeting of religious belief by the government.
As a side note, think anyone will complain about the prejudicial undertones of Griffith’s description of the Jewish display as “token?”