Kirtland AFB Responds to Criticism over Email Bible Verse
A civilian Air Force employee at Kirtland AFB sent out a request for response to a small business contract opportunity — and raised the ire of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein when she did so. The closing of her email said this, as redacted and publicized by Weinstein:
(Name of USAF AFMC AFRL/RD employee withheld)
Small Business Specialist
3550 Aberdeen Ave SE
Kirtland AFB, NM 87117
Commercial: (505) XXX-XXXX
WARNING: This is an official Department of Defense communication. Some emails may be encrypted and require CAC certification to view. Emails, or their attachments, containing personally identifiable information are “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) – Privacy Sensitive – Any misuse or unauthorized disclosure can result in both civil and criminal penalties.
Did you catch the offensive part? The employee included “Jeremiah 29:11” in her signature block. For those unfamiliar:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Pretty offensive stuff, right?
As has been discussed here before, Air Force regulations are fairly clear on what can and cannot be included in official correspondence signature blocks. No personalization — whether a Bible verse or a reference to the local baseball team — is permitted by the AFI.
That said, it is also a rarely enforced portion of Air Force regulations. It is not uncommon to see quotes from famous figures, Latin phrases, squadron slogans, or even the occasional quote from a religious text — whether Bible or Koran. The quote “Boston Strong” has been popular for some time. It tends to be a regulation enforced only when someone complains.
And complain Weinstein did:
The Air Force knows EXACTLY what it is doing here. [This] is but another horrific example…of a despicable and blatant display of fundamentalist Christian exceptionalism, defiance, supremacy, triumphalism, oppression and tyranny in the United States Air Force. [This is] an irrefutably clear violation by the U.S. Air Force of the ‘No Establishment Clause’ of the First Amendment…as well as the ‘No Religious Test’ prohibition… [This] savages…Air Force Instruction 1-1, and Air Force Manual 33-152, which totally and absolutely prohibit such pathetic and self-serving proselytizing…
To translate, Weinstein is accusing the US Air Force of trying to establish Christianity as a state religion and convert people to Christianity because this civilian employee put “Jeremiah 29:11” on an email. (The fact that Jeremiah is also a Jewish religious text apparently escaped the self-described “Jewish agnostic” critic of Christianity.)
In the end, the policy is fairly clear: no personalization of email signature blocks. There’s nothing wrong with the Air Force enforcing their own regulation. What could be problematic, however, is the possible perception that they are kowtowing to Weinstein…again.
Weinstein went further:
MRFF demands that the Air Force immediately sends [sic] an apology and correcting e-mail to all of those who received the proselytizing one last Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. MRFF further immediately demands that the USAF aggressively investigate and punish any and all USAF or DoD personnel who are either directly or indirectly responsible for this wretched display of fundamentalist Christian evangelizing.
Weinstein later claimed that his demands had been met. A “corrected” email had been sent out, the employee had supposedly been punished, and the Air Force had apologized…at least, to him.
The potential problem with Weinstein receiving such treatment (if he indeed did) is the perception that the Air Force treats issues of religion differently because of religion — something it is not supposed to do. If the email signature block had said “Go Isotopes!” in a reference to the local baseball team, would the Air Force have re-sent the email and apologized to Weinstein? The “violation” would have been precisely the same, as far as the Air Force was (officially) concerned.
Weinstein owns the narrative on this “scandal,” as the Air Force statements have left room for him to add his spin. Base spokesman Carl Grusnick said:
“Airmen are restricted from adding slogans, quotes or other personalization to an official signature block,” he said. “In this case, unit leadership is re-emphasizing the requirement to adhere to established guidance governing official signature blocks.”
That’s entirely true. But it leaves room for Weinstein to claim the inclusion of the verse was “Christian…oppression and tyranny…” and to then imply the Air Force agreed — and that’s why it acted to meet his demands.
Does anyone really believe putting “Jeremiah 29:11” on an email violates the US Constitution? Or that it constitutes “proselytizing?” Does anyone really think the US Air Force grants credit to Weinstein’s bloviating about “Christian oppression” because she put a Bible reference in her email?
Well, the Air Force did act. Does that mean they agreed?
Did the US Air Force have to act to squash religious tyranny and oppression in its ranks? For the time being, the only one answering that question is Weinstein — and he says yes.
One commenter said
This Weinstein guy causes more religious problems in the AF than the actual religious zealots.
That’s not exactly true, because Weinstein is a religious zealot.
Taking “Jeremiah 29:11” and claiming the US Air Force is promoting “Christian exceptionalism, defiance, supremacy, triumphalism, oppression and tyranny.” Does anyone still doubt that Mikey Weinstein has a virtually unmatched hatred for Christianity?
Repeated at Military.com.