4/13/12 – Constitutional Confusion at U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer School

MRFF’s Inbox

We at MRFF receive an enormous amount of email both from our supporters and our detractors. MRFF’s Inbox allows us to share these emails with you. The following is a MRFF client report on the ongoing trend of unconstitutional proselytization attempts:

From: USAF Fighter Pilot’s E-Mail Address Withheld
Subject: Re: USAF Squadron Officer School (SOS) Encounters
Date: April 13, 2012 7:42:20 AM MDT
To: Mikey Weinstein


Having kept a close relationship with your family for years, I’ve also been a supporter of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) since its inception. As you know, I am a 200X USAF Academy grad and an F-XX fighter pilot, having served X combat tours in XXXXXX. During my X years as a commissioned officer in the AF, I have witnessed the egregious and flagrant disrespect of our Constitution and the essence of military service by officers/leaders of all ranks. However, I can say that most of my encounters with religious intolerance and unlawful proselytizing have been as a spectator. And while I am not coming to you as a client with a specific injustice forced upon me, I would like to share a recent (and likely ongoing) experience. I am currently TDY to Squadron Officers School (SOS) at Maxwell AFB, AL. The academic environment of the school allows for free exchange of ideas between students and instructors in a non-retributional setting.

During one of our class settings, the instructor led a discussion about spiritual wellness. To begin, the instructor handed out a copy of Gen Schwartz’s memo on religious neutrality – almost nobody in the room even knew that this document existed. As you might expect, the conversation quickly turned into a debate about the place of religion in the military. Most of the students remained quiet and out of the crossfire. I found out later that many simply felt uncomfortable about even discussing any overtly religious subjects despite their religious beliefs. I found myself as the sole defender of the idea that commanders should not and cannot support one religion over another while in uniform – and especially when in a command position. To the several engaged in the discussion, this seemed to be a foreign and repulsive idea. The instructor did not engage in the discussion, but simply sat and listened – neither in support or against any position. At every position I took to explain that commanders cannot show that they have preference or appear to have preference towards a particular religion while exercising their official position, a select few of the students strongly rebutted. Responses of ardent declarations of officers’ right to display their religion in dealings with subordinates and in official functions came as a shocking revelation that multitudes of young AF officers do not respect the separation of church and state. I immediately brought up the fact that the US government has clearly established a separation of church and state over and over again and that military members are first responsible to the constitution before their religion while wearing the uniform. This once again was taken as a threat towards the students’ ability to freely exercise their religion. I responded with a hopeful remark to remind them that Gen Schwartz’s memo on the stance of government neutrality towards religion should not be seen as a threat to their ability to exercise religion, but as a right to religious freedom for all military members. I further explained through anecdotes that this is only possible when leaders put aside their personal religion/spiritual beliefs when in a command position and in uniform. The tone of the room continued to seethe, and the instructor ended the discussion without any resolution.

The next afternoon, there was a briefing from a panel of briefers in the main auditorium to the approximately 800 students. Among the panel to answer the audience’s questions about wellness, was a chaplain – a Captain, just like everybody in the audience. A question was presented to the chaplain asking how he addresses commanders who see Gen Schwartz’s memorandum on religious neutrality as a threat to their freedom instead of a foundation for the equal freedom of all airmen. I was excited to hear the response from the chaplain, but was unfortunately disappointed. The chaplain spent approximately 2 minutes avoiding the question by talking about how happy he was to be here and reminding the audience that the chaplaincy was a great resource like a game show host might pump up the audience. Once he finally approached the question, he did so by dancing around it and finally landing on a statement which left me in disbelief. He stated that it is a commander’s prerogative and duty to guide airmen under their command through their spiritual journey. I was flabbergasted to hear that in response to a question about how commanders must remain neutral with regard to religion, the chaplain answered that it is a commander’s JOB to guide their subordinates through a spiritual journey…..!!??

Both my experience in the classroom and in the auditorium were clear examples that many officers both young and old do not have a grasp on the critical and constitutional reality that members of the military cannot engage in actions that pressure religious ideals on others. Military officers are actors of the state and must answer to the constitution while holding office, not to their particular flavor of religion. I have tried hard to instill in my classmates that I celebrate their freedom to exercise their religion – but that their immovable stance is a hindrance on everybody else’s freedoms. I only get responses that the constitution does not actually state the separation of church and state and that court precedent is a flawed system. It is difficult to respond to such idiotic and unfounded remarks, but I will not stand down. I’m not turning myself into a martyr or making some sort of scene to find my way on to a soapbox, but I will not allow these statements to go unanswered. I cannot stand by when my peers are so incredibly out of line from the lawful practices of what is expected of a military officer. I might not have the ability to speak so frankly to the colonels and generals above me, but I can speak strongly towards other captains who will one day be those colonels and generals.

Mikey, thank you for your unending support and the knowledge that the MRFF will have my back in all of my battles no matter how big or small.

Your faithful friend and supporter,

Captain XXXX  XXXXX, (USAF Fighter Pilot’s military unit and installation withheld)

MRFF Needs Your Constant Vigilance to Uncover Unconstitutional Religious Incursions in the Military

The constitutional violations occurring in our military are so numerous and widespread
that we can’t possibly find all of them ourselves. MRFF counts on its supporters and volunteers — the indispensable “eyes and ears” who alert us to everything from the most egregious of constitutional violations to articles we might be interested in.

So, keep the emails coming, and never think that anything is too insignificant or assume
that we might already know about it. You never know — you might have stumbled into the
next bombshell of a story and not even realize it.

Please report anything that may be of concern to: [email protected]

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  1. Helen

    It seems to me that the good chaplain gave us a starting point. Since, in his view, it is “a commander’s JOB to guide their subordinates through a spiritual journey…” then it appears that the chaplaincy is redundant. I suggest we fire all chaplains immediately and see how long this stance prevails.

  2. John

    Yes, I agree that a commander cannot and should not show preference toward people in their unit based on their religions, nor should they exercise their beliefs while acting as commander or in functions. But… Separation of church and state is constantly misinterpreted to mean you can’t mix personal beliefs with government. That is false. We are in such a hurry to get offended by everything in America that we forget people are allowed to have their own beliefs: often conflicting with our own. Separation of church and state is in place to prevent the church (organization, I.e. The Roman Catholic Church) from having power over the government as it did in Europe. So implying I can’t share my beliefs in the workplace or that I should constantly remain neutral, well…that offends me!

    God bless religious freedom… Not just for atheists as we seem to be trying to legislate as the only acceptable religion to display.

  3. jym segneri

    John… You are ONLY perpetuating a rhetoric with the words that you say. Please read your post again, and tell me what question did the Captain ask that you provided an answer to? You may need to read through his post again. And I’m sorry John, I’m only being facetious… Because the answer is NOTHING. Nothing of what you said had anything to do with helping the Captain with his dilemma; actually, you provide additional energy to the problem that this country is n fact facing; however, you supply negative and corrosive energy and feed off your own anger, meaning you are the one making yourself mad, and if you’d bother to take the focus off of yourself for 1 hour you might be able to see that nothing is broke and you are being played a fool… And you’d be an Oscar contender if it wasn’t so frigging easy that every human on the planet that’s had his/her baby teeth replaced can also do it.. Again, I’m sorry for being rude, but found starters, #1). The preferred religion allowed to be expressed and supported IS NOT atheism or ANYTHING other than the Christianity it’s ALWAYS been. Were Atheism truly the preferred religion and the only one to get full support and expression for, then Labor Day, the 4th of July and Memorial Day would be the ONlY holiday’s; but in fact there is a religious holiday every month save one, and these holidays, only because of an act of congress, are also federal holidays and therefore receive the benefits required by federal law. Do you really not see that Easter, Valentines, St. patty’s, Mardi Gras (good friday), Halloween, Christmas, even Thanksgiving is Christian carved Pilgrim’s pride… with cranberry sauce… #2). Christians themselves promote and spread hate so much lately that honest and decent God fearing Americans are questioning this very same God now; ya’ll couldn’t leave well enough alone and get out of your own lives enough to see that the only religious restraints are what YOU put on yourselves and pull out of thin air because 150 years and we hadn’t needed to make ANY laws about it, but dang nab it, the constitution says NO LAWS WILL BE MADE RESPECTING religion… But that’s exactly it; YOU ate no respecter of religion(s), anyone’s… Not even your own… Why did Cain kill Abel? So, why are you walking around like your another jealous, murdering, Cain? GOD DOESN’T LOVE You LESS, BUILT HE WILL PUNISH YOU MORE! because you paint a picture of a God unwanted, and you know you don’t have all the answers, hell, you didn’t even have ONE answer for our Captain… but many do question their beliefs, and many turn away from God, who would not have had it not been for you, and Chick fil a, and that fowl patriarch who used to work for A&E, and…. do you get t? Can you see that you would be wise to never express your thoughts and feelings on religion because you can’t even contemplate that God is not happy wth any religions and not ne person other than Jesus is fully deserving to be in heaven, ever? You don’t even consider your own opinion, but you get mad when we waste the time to consider it and determine it Craig… Which it is; otherwise, can you explain why any country in the Middle East might be upset with us, the US, .. Can you understand at all why they might be angry with us? Right or wrong isn’t the issue… You’re tired of being told your wrong, they’re tired of you telling them they’re wrong, Israel is tired of getting the blame AND social punishment, there aren’t but 3 atheist’s who give a crap, satanists are no real threat, ya’ll have the same God, really, i mean, satan wouldn’t be around if God hadn’t made him, right? And then there are others and all of the “other” religions like Buddhism, Hindu, etc…. And the people that wrote that constitution and separate state and church stuff wrote it to escape YOU and get away from being persecuted constantly from people like you… They knew real persecution all too well and you don’t have a clue nor do you even care or you’d have realized that and oh yeah remembered learning that when really we should have taught you and all people like you to shut the hell up and repent before you doom the whole country beyond repair…#4). And final cuz my fingers hurt… Referring to your God as God is a respecter of all religions AS WELL AS RESPECTING YOUR OWN!!! Don’t you get that either? Happy Holidays is if your too chicken crap to ask if someone may be Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan… And as long as you know your neighbors have a God in their life, you can be somewhat assured they will be striving for morals and fairness and not a Godless threat you need to worry about daily… Sorry, i gotta at least present you with this one: #5). Do you really think your employer is gonna let you do anything regarding religion at all? … Especially if his is different than yours; you wanna be able to express your religion? Open up your own company and what about the countless millions of Jews that were hiding under houses and in walls and endured unimaginably to only still not get to express their religion… Just shut up you ignorant selfish unchristian piece of crap; dang it- now i have to go to confession and repent
    however, as for our Captain friend; as it is a schooling facility of closely related rank, it’s possible the scenario was a test… To which there are no answers… And just to aid in placement upon commencement… I would seek an opinion of an outside enlisted officer above Captain, if you know of any; id imagine if you approached your instructor of that class in private about doesn’t he see your genuine struggle and how would he prefer you to ask for his advice, input assistance, which he must surely have as the day is long… This should place you in a more preferred spotlight of leader yet still follower; i bet they like that in their subordinates; plus, answering your question will give them a min on their soapbox again and that feels good to all men (beware, it’s especially good to those who don’t give the glory to God, bit keep it in the service. Thanks everyone and thank you Jesus! GLORY BE TO GOD!

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