As previously noted, the Air Force has published a revision to its AFI 1-1, “Air Force Standards,” which alters the wording and tone on how the service views religious liberty and expression. The new AFI can be found here (PDF).
The greatest sources of consternation were paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12, and that’s where the Air Force made its revisions. In one notable change, the topics of 2.11 and 2.12 have been reversed: The Air Force now talks about religious freedom and expression before it talks about restrictions and the Establishment clause. While that may seem insignificant to some, it is noteworthy for the tone of the regulation.
The most significant change to the AFI — in direct response to laws passed by Congress — also marks its most dramatic explicit statement. The new regulation now says [emphasis added]:
EveryAirman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment.
Every Airman has the right to express their religious beliefs. Further, Continue reading →
Religion scholar and former youth minister Jason Heap filed suit Wednesday along with the organization backing him, the Humanist Society, alleging that the military unfairly passed him over earlier this year not because he lacked qualifications, but because he doesn’t believe in a traditional religion.
There are a few high hurdles Heap has to overcome. First, he has to prove the Navy “passed him over…because he doesn’t believe…” Remember, the Navy previously said less than 50% of the Chaplain applicants were approved. Heap has to prove that he was rejected because of his non-theistic beliefs, and not for any reason similar to Continue reading →
POW/MIA display tables — symbolically empty tables representing those who did not come home — have long been a fixture in military dining halls and formal ceremonies. They’ve also been a sore spot for militant secularists, who object to the traditional inclusion of a Bible on the table. Prior controversies have been discussed before, including one at Patrick Air Force Base earlier this year that resulted in the table being completely removed because it was “divisive.”
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has now gotten into the fray, complaining to the US Navy that an official Navy blog included an info graphic of the traditional table — complete with Bible:
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
According to the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), [a civilian] complained about Marquinez’ article, claiming that it was “odious” and “offending.” In response to the complaint, Commander Col. Craig R. Baker ordered the newsletter to be republished without Marquinez’ piece.
Weinstein claimed full credit, praising the commander. The “odious” and “offending” words were his [emphasis added]: Continue reading →
The following appeared as an article in the 180th Fighter Wing publication The Stinger, but was removed by order of the Wing Commander, Col Craig R. Baker, because of a complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein that it was “odious” and “offensive.” (See discussion here.) The sentences in which Col Marquinez mentions his faith are highlighted.
Colonel Florencio Marquinez
Medical Group Commander
First, I want to honor and thank you, present and past veterans, for your dedication and service to our wonderful, great nation. Every military branch has their own creed, serving as a guidepost for our actions. Each creed has similar themes and values reminding us of our responsibilities and duties when we put the uniform on. Of course, the most important to us, and my personal favorite is the Airman’s Creed.
I am an American Airman.
I am a warrior.
I have answered my nation’s call.
Olasky started the interview by presenting Weinstein with a variety of situations pulled from the media regarding expression of religion in the US military, querying Weinstein as to whether he felt there was a problem with the particular event. His answers were almost exclusively no, though he started to hedge as he figured out where the conversation was going.
Olasky asked about events in the military from four different religions over a period of just a few minutes, and Weinstein addressed each one succinctly. When Olasky broached a Christian topic, however, Weinstein Continue reading →
Update: Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for the American Family Association, wrote an article saying “The U.S. Constitution makes it clear: American atheists are not and should not be barred from serving their country through military service.”
The Air Force said Tuesday it was awaiting a legal opinion from the Defense Department’s top lawyer on whether an enlisted airman who’s an atheist can opt out of the phrase “so help me God” in his re-enlistment oath…
“The opinion that we’re seeking will help inform future decisions and the latitude that can be taken with the oath,” Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said Tuesday. “But the Air Force has to comply with law.”
The American Humanist Association — the same group vying for an atheist chaplain — has threatened to sue the Air Force because the military enlistment oath ends in “So help me God,” and an Airman at Creech AFB lined out part of the oath on his enlistment form:
According to the AHA, the unnamed airman was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept his contract because he had crossed out the phrase “so help me God.”…
That is unconstitutional and unacceptable, the AHA said.
“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller said. “Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or reenlistment contracts.”
They’re correct. The problem with the AHA’s position is they demonstrated an amazing lack of comprehension of the law — and basic public relations skills.
Update: The recent articles reference complaints filed this past summer by UNG’s “Students for Secular Freedom.” For background, Cadet David Gormley started a Change.org petition on April 27th calling for “Remov[ing] Christian Prayers From School Sponsored Events.” This was apparently the day of UNG’s Memorial Retreat, according to a video uploaded to YouTube by Gormley but attributed to another student, Saara Wintersgill. (Wintersgill is credited on another video from another ceremony the same weekend.) UNG’s SSF subsequently advertised the petition on Reddit, saying a “U.S. Public College Forces Sectarian Prayer on Cadets.” An atheist posting of the controversy in April generated some interesting comments on both sides of the debate. The SSF apparently has crossover with UNG’s “Skeptics Society,” for which Gormley and Wintersgill are listed as officers. Wintersgill has previously published articles at the student paper on the activities of her group.
In an interesting twist to an old tale, Allen West — a retired Army LtCol and former Florida Representative — compared the “covert action of atheist groups” in the United States to the militant attacks by the terrorist group ISIS in Syria and Iraq:
What is the difference between the violent actions of ISIS and the covert actions of these atheist groups? Let’s be honest, the desired end state and result is the same — the death of Christianity.
As first reported by the American Family Association, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with the US Navy because there were Gideon Bibles in the nightstands at Navy lodging facilities.
US Army Master Sergeant Nathan Sommers made waves last year when he said he faced retribution from the Army for political bumper stickers, reading conservative political books, and serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Those controversies apparently boiled over into what the Army called a substandard performance evaluation (which MSgt Sommers contested). The poor evaluation triggered a review of his continued enlistment, and he was recommended for discharge — even as his other appeals were still being processed. Since he was eligible to retire, he was essentially forced to do so.
Master Sergeant Nathan Sommers, a 25-year veteran of the military and a decorated soloist in the U.S. Army Band Chorus, claims he was forcibly retired from the Army due to his religious and conservative political beliefs.
A report at FoxNews highlights a message from US Army Col. Kevin Glasz, brigade commander of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, regarding respect for Islam during Ramadan:
“This is a period of great personal restraint and commitment in addition to renewed focus on worship,” Brigade Commander Col. Kevin Glasz wrote. “I’d like to encourage you to learn just a little more about this religion, but more importantly, I’m asking you to be considerate and do not consume food or drink in front of our Muslim colleagues; it is a simple, yet respectful action.”
In contrast from policies governing US military personnel in Bahrain, which was highlighted here last month, the USUHS is in Maryland, and there are no laws in Maryland governing Ramadan.
Optimistically viewed, it is just a supportive statement from the military to help others respect the faiths of those around them. But as an anonymous Marine officer is quoted in pointing out, this kind of “supportive statement” is only used in reference to Islam: Continue reading →
Todd Starnes at FoxNews reports on the decision by a local National Guard armory not to be recognized at a local Vacation Bible School — because, they said, it would violate the military policies on religion. (The Washington Times and others subsequently picked up the story.)
Bible Baptist Church in Carthage…decided to honor the military during their annual Vacation Bible School. The theme was “God’s Rescue Squad.” And each day of the week, the church invited local “rescue squads” to visit with the boys and girls.