Eglin AFB Removes Bible from Waiting Room. Leaves People Magazine.
In a shocking capitulation to an anti-Christian activist, the US Air Force removed a Bible from the pile of reading material in a medical waiting room because Michael “Mikey” Weinstein was offended over its mere presence:
A Bible has been removed from the waiting room of Eglin Air Force Base Allergy and Immunization Clinic after a military retiree contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and expressed concern.
Faced with the apparently unsolvable legal conundrum about what to do with a Bible in public, the Eglin AFB leadership declined to make the decision themselves:
Andy Bourland, director of public affairs for Eglin, said the matter was elevated to major command at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where it was reviewed and addressed.
“It has been removed,” he said. “The issue has been taken care of. There was one Bible.”
The issue hasn’t been “taken care of.” The issue has been created.
How can the US government say reading material in a waiting room can consist of random magazines but not a Bible? Any conceivable logic fails when you note People Magazine wasn’t removed. For example, is it impermissible government endorsement for a Bible to be in the waiting area? If so, does Eglin AFB similarly endorse People Magazine or the ideas and commercial enterprises within it?
Contrary to Mikey Weinstein’s machinations, no policy, rule, regulation, or law requires the Air Force to ban Bibles from waiting rooms. Nothing prevents a Qu’ran, Book of Mormon, Torah, JC Whitney catalog, or ad from the local grocery store from appearing on a waiting room table. In fact, to say that a variety of reading material can remain but a Bible cannot targets one particular viewpoint for censorship — the very definition of impermissible government discrimination.
Want to discuss “morale, good order and discipline“? How does it affect the morale and good order of Airmen when they see their leadership appear to prioritize anti-Christian critics over the culture of military religious freedom?
With that in mind, what message is Air Force Materiel Command — Eglin’s parent unit at Wright Patterson AFB — communicating to its 80,000 uniformed and civilian Airmen? Is Mikey Weinstein’s offense and personal opinion more important than both the law and its own Airmen?
While critics may not like it, the presence of a Bible does not endorse, favor, or establish religion or any other ideological viewpoint. By contrast, banning a Bible purely because it is a religious text does endorse a viewpoint — one that is antithetical to the Air Force’s own claims of diversity, tolerance, and religious liberty — as well as the beliefs of a vast majority of Airmen.
When proponents of religious liberty have pointed out these contradictions, critics supporting Mikey Weinstein have said visitors to the waiting room should “just bring their own Bible.” Whether the Bible is there or not is not the point — the government’s action toward it very much is. Still, why did that simple retort not work for the “offended” retiree who sent Weinstein the picture? He never said he was forced to read it — he was offended merely because he could see it. Why couldn’t he read People Magazine, or bring something of his own to read, or just watch TV? (The TV was probably tuned to FoxNews, to which he probably also objects.)
Why take something away from someone else when you’re not interested in it, anyway? Only a bitter, vindictive, heartless and intolerant critic — and one who had no understanding of the Constitution — would demand such a thing, and no reasonable government agency would accede to that, would they?
There were two far better options for Air Force leadership. The first would have been to simply ignore Mikey Weinstein. It has been done plenty of times, and it has worked every time. Weinstein’s bigoted bluster is plenty loud, but it is backed by little more than keyboard courage. As has been shown many times, ignore him, and he’ll go away.
It seems, not unlike Peterson AFB, that they may have caught on to that lesson a little too late. The linked article above notes Weinstein contacted the local news only after Eglin failed to tell him they’d kowtowed to his demands — though by that time, they already had.
The second option would have been to communicate the correct position of the US military: While someone might be offended because they could see a Bible, the US Air Force places no more emphasis or endorsement behind it than it does People Magazine. The US Air Force does not discriminate on the basis of religion, and so will not remove a book from sight merely because it is religious. No military policy or law requires religious material to be confined to chapels, and it is freely available to those who want to read it — and other material is available for those who don’t.
In other words, everyone’s liberty is protected.
Instead, Air Force leadership created another “Bible-free zone,” only because Mikey Weinstein demanded it. And when Airmen who value the Bible — or a Koran, or a Torah — see how their Air Force reacts to someone complaining about a perfectly permissible Bible, it chills the “diversity” and religious freedom the Air Force claims it values so highly.
After all, how can Airmen “confidently practice [their] own beliefs” (in accordance with Air Force regulations) if they develop the perception their Air Force is taking actions hostile to those beliefs?
Mikey Weinstein roams the country, seeking ideological agreement, ignorance, and moral cowardice to further his agenda and what he calls his “war” against Christians. Frequently, he is met by those with the intestinal fortitude to withstand his baseless attacks, and the religious liberties of US troops are protected. Occasionally, someone innocently or inadvertently aids his cause — and ends up reversing when confronted by advocates for military religious freedom. Regrettably, on occasion, Weinstein is still finding someone who will aid his cause.
Getting the Air Force to ban a Bible from a waiting room table is just one more notch in his belt.
Retiree’s photo via Northwest Florida Daily News, credited to MRFF.