Commander Who Pulled Chaplain Post Issues Statement
Update: An Army Chaplain weighed in with a response to Col Duffy’s decision to pull Chaplain Reyes’ article, and a comment on the Commander’s statement from a recently retired Air Force Colonel takes Col Duffy to task:
Sir…Can you understand how your actions in kowtowing to [MRFF] threats now opens you and your fellow Blue Suiters up to even more insidious actions? Do you think this group will just roll over after having demanded that you take administrative actions against Lt Col Reyes for having had the audacity to write and publish this article? After they labeled his use of “no atheists in foxholes,” as a “… bigoted, religious supremacist” phrase? I believe we both know the answer to that question.
Sir, you hit the nail right on the head when you stated that you must protect the constitutional right of free speech and the free practice of religion…Where you go wrong is when you decide that this article, regarding faith and one’s perception of it in their own life, somehow is “governmental establishment of religion.”
The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Facebook page was inundated with criticisms of Col Brian Duffy’s decision to pull Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes’ column and issue an apology to Michael Weinstein. Those criticisms appear to have been completely deleted and replaced with a statement from the Colonel.
In short, the Colonel admits the article was removed out of concern for “those who may have been offended,” and called his decision a
“balance…between constitutional protections for free exercise of religion and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.”
A few commenters called that out, given that not even the MRFF claimed the Air Force was violating the First Amendment with the article. Besides, the Constitution says nothing about “offense,” which is the stated reason the article was pulled (which caused a spate of responses claiming various things were offensive, and demanding Col Duffy remove more content from his website). Several atheists chimed in and criticized the censorship as well — noting it wasn’t an “atheist vs Christian thing” — but a Weinstein vs Christian thing.
Then, though, the Colonel turned stern and took the unusual step of commenting on potential punishment — something normally rebutted with a “we make no comment on personnel matters.” In short, this time Col Duffy flatly refused Michael Weinstein’s demands and says he has “not and will not reprimand anyone.” The entire statement follows:
The following is a statement from Col. Brian Duffy, JBER and 673d Air Base Wing commander, regarding the Chaplain’s Corner commentary originally published on the JBER public Web site July 17 and removed July 23.
“On July 23, in response to a concern raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, I directed my staff to remove a commentary previously posted on the JBER Official Public Web site entitled, “Chaplain’s Corner: ‘No atheists in foxholes: Chaplains gave all in World War II.'” The article was removed out of concern for those who may have been offended.
Our staff performed a thorough review of applicable guidance and carefully considered many related issues and opinions expressed to us. All information published on our JBER Official Web Site implies my approval and endorsement as the JBER and 673d Air Base Wing Commander. In that capacity, I am required to ensure information published is balanced; in this case between constitutional protections for free exercise of religion and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.
Finally, with respect to assertions on disciplinary actions, I have not and will not reprimand anyone on anything related to this matter, concluding based on facts and circumstances such action is neither appropriate nor warranted.”