Breaking: Air Force Restores Censored Chaplain Article

Update: Now covered at the Christian Post, Christian News, WND, The Blaze, the ACLJ, OneNewsNow, and Charisma News.

In what will certainly be a blow to Michael Weinstein’s ego, the Air Force has re-published the article his “religious freedom” organization had convinced the Air Force to censor because they said it was “bigoted” and “defiles the dignity of service members.”

With noticeably no publicity, the article was quietly reinstated last week.  (The article by Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes can now be read here [updated link]) Col Brian Duffy, with “higher headquarters consultation,” issued the following statement:

Arctic Warriors, our “Chaplain’s Corner” will return and be accessible from our JBER Official Web Page…. Commentaries presented are designed to enhance the spiritual resilience and wellness of our community of Active Duty, DoD civilians, family members and retirees as part of the Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

We believe this new approach, taken in consultation with our higher headquarters, appropriately balances constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. Thank you again for your patience and understanding as we implement these measures.

Commander, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson &
Commander, 673 ABW
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK

All Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Chaplain’s Corner articles, which have returned to the JBER official home page, now include a disclaimer at the top, which reads:

The “Chaplain’s Corner” offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

Notably, the disclaimer has nothing to do with the complaint that resulted in the article being pulled.  Remember, Col Duffy had originally said

The article was removed out of concern for those who may have been offended.

The disclaimer does nothing to mitigate offense or what Weinstein’s “special assistant,” Blake Page, called an “anti-secular diatribe.”  It seems a tacit admission that the original decision to pull the story was in error.

(Col Duffy had also reassured Weinstein that this ‘incident’ wouldn’t happen again, a promise he seems to have abrogated.)

Weinstein had boasted of coercing the Air Force to his will, admitting his

MRFF Action Force[d] Immediate Removal of USAF Chaplain’s Statement Denigrating Military Service of Atheists

It seems his “swift victory” has been turned into a stinging defeat.  Much credit likely goes to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, and their Military Religious Freedom coalition.  At worst, those religious liberty groups have made it politically unpalatable for the Air Force to simply knee-jerk to a Weinstein demand — which means there will at least be a buffer protecting military religious freedom from Weinstein’s opposition.

At best, the MRF coalition has successfully defended the constitutionally-protected liberties of US troops from unnecessary government intrusion, however driven the government may have been by Weinstein’s vitriolic attacks.  They did this largely by preventing the Air Force from creating the perception it was creating an environment hostile to religious liberty, religion, and Christianity in particular.  This perception is easy to create when the Air Force appears to be an unwitting pawn in Weinstein’s long-running vendetta against Christianity and Christians in the military.

The ADF said

Chaplains have the freedom and obligation to speak about faith and religious values, and this freedom should not be censored or prohibited. The Air Force should be commended for recognizing this and returning Chaplain Reyes’s essay to the ‘Chaplains Corner’ portion of his base’s website.

To be fair, this is only one step, and it was a small one.  It took several weeks to rebuild the environment of tolerance and religious liberty that Weinstein successfully destroyed in less than 5 hours.

It should serve as a warning, then:  To the Air Force, not to treat Weinstein as anything but a well-funded critic; To Weinstein, not to think he runs the playground anymore — he has been denied his heckler’s veto of religious freedom.

This victory for military religious freedom is a loss for Michael Weinstein…but then, as Mark Twain would say, “I repeat myself.”

Aside: Incidentally, the disclaimer applies only locally.  The article from Moody AFB, written by an atheist Airman, contains no similar statement.

With reference to the ADF.