Over the past couple of years a group of self-described atheists and humanists has been hosting an alternative Sunday service for trainees at Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. The effort was largely led by Victoria Gettman, a former US Army Sergeant on whose behalf Michael “Mikey” Weinstein once promised (and, predictably, failed to deliver) an “aggressive” federal lawsuit.
Gettman and her cadre have been lauding the attendance numbers at their non-theistic weekly gathering — including the fact it has now reached 1,000, the maximum capacity of the venue granted by the Air Force, meaning they have to turn trainees away. But Gettman’s explanation has an interesting caveat [emphasis added]: Read more
by Sonny Hernandez
Todd Starnes reported a controversial story about an email that was sent by a senior Air Force leader to an untold number of personnel at Lackland Air Force Base, which should cause observers to wonder if it is a politically correct agenda that shows partiality toward those who care more about sensitivity than service.
Starnes alleges an incensed Airman sent him a copy of an email which did not address integrity, service before self, or excellence — instead, the email addressed issues that could be construed as offensive to others. It would be expected for the military to ensure compliance that sexual harassment, slander, and moral turpitude would not be tolerated. It is ironic that the email did not address any of the aforementioned compliances. Instead, the Air Force advised the Airmen to study a list of words, which should cause observers to be vexed: Read more
A recent commentary noted the apparent rise of atheism within the US military and highlighted the atheist “church” that occurs at Air Force Basic Training at Lackland AFB — where, at the time, atheists were claiming nearly 1,000 weekly attendees.
The group has been putting up weekly photos of a few of their attendees (though none of the events themselves):
(Here’s something interesting: When a group of Army trainees took a similar-themed photo after their Christian service, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein called them a “national security threat” and used the image as a fundraising prop in his fight against Christians. Think Weinstein will consider these atheists a national security threat, too?)
According to the Read more
A US Army Private recently related how the pagan community at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, helped him find his way:
I graduated [training] a few weeks ago and only got to attend one gathering, It was a great experience…I was raised in an environment always surrounded in crystals and meditation, energy and magics, Reiki and healing, spirits and the like, but no words to put to what I knew…
It wasn’t until I went to the circle at Fort Jackson that I could definitively say I’m a white magic practitioner and hold pagan beliefs as far as karmic law and universal ties and energy go…
HeatStreet recently published a blog on the Fort Jackson pagan circle, which it claims now Read more
As previously noted, retired SMSgt Phillip Monk recently appeared at a religious freedom forum for GOP presidential candidate and US Senator Ted Cruz (video here). SMSgt Monk spoke briefly about his experience of discrimination in the military as a result of the conflict between homosexuality and religious faith.
SMSgt Monk’s story was criticized on a Facebook page called “Team Perry,” which cited an official military investigation to claim his allegations were “nonsense.” The raison d’être of the “Team Perry” page is to defend former Lackland AFB squadron commander LtCol Craig Perry: Perry was fired under controversial circumstances last year, and the posts on the page claim to reveal details proving the Air Force treated him unjustly (despite military investigations and reports to the contrary). It took a surprising degree of intellectual inconsistency (or simple hypocrisy), then, for Team Perry to cite an Air Force investigation to criticize Monk while simultaneously claiming similar investigations were unjust when they dealt with Perry.
That Monk’s story would be criticized on the Team Perry page may seem odd until you realize Perry and Monk were stationed at Lackland AFB together. Further, it turns out LtCol Craig Perry was fast friends with then-fellow squadron commander then-Maj Elisa “Liz” Valenzuela, SMSgt Monk’s commander and the target of his complaints.
There’s nothing wrong with them being friends. But clearly Team Perry is judging SMSgt Monk not just on public reports or even insider information, but also from the viewpoint of a close family friend of his ‘antagonist.’
As if to prove the point, now-LtCol Valenzuela is Read more
Pastor Steven Branson of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio emerged as the leading voice and defender of US Air Force Airmen near Lackland AFB (Joint Base San Antonio). He held a meeting at his church for Airmen to discuss issues of “religious hostility” — and 80 Airmen attended the “standing room only” meeting.
The left-leaning website Media Matters’ berated Branson, calling him “extreme” and repeatedly describing him as “anti-gay.” Media Matters’ Carlos Maza wrote that Branson Read more
An Air Force investigation was initiated after SMSgt Philip Monk filed a complaint of religious discrimination, claiming he was relieved and reassigned earlier than planned after a conversation with his commanding officer, Maj Elisa Valenzuela. The Air Force issued a press release about the investigation, saying the charges of religious discrimination were not substantiated:
The investigation, initiated Aug. 15 by Col. Mark Camerer, 37th Training Wing commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, found the claim unsubstantiated…
“The weight of the evidence shows that religion was never discussed between the two,” Camerer said in an Air Education and Training Command release.
“In the end, this is a case about command authority, good order and discipline, and civil rights — not religious freedoms,” he said.
Interestingly, no one ever publicly claimed “religion was…discussed between the two,” but it raises the question as to whether one must explicitly voice a religious belief for it to be actionable. The investigation also made an interesting comment about the statements at the heart of the controversy [emphasis added]: Read more
Pastor Steve Branson of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, TX, reported that he recently held a meeting with a large group of members of the US Air Force to hear their worries over the Air Force’s treatment of their religious freedom.
At least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where [Branson] heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.
“The religious persecution is happening,” the pastor said. “It’s getting bigger every day.”
As to the improper conduct for which these Airmen claim they are being discriminated against [emphasis added]:
“A commander told him, ‘Don’t you understand discrimination – that your thought process is discrimination?’” Pastor Branson said.
Branson’s church in San Antonio, near Lackland Air Force Base, has Read more