Air Force Academy

So, Mikey boy, are you and your little followers having fun suppressing religious freedom at the Air Force Academy? Kind of cool getting your name and your pathetic little organization MRFF in the news and on a few websites, eh? Come to think of it, ginning up this kind of phony controversy is probably the only way your little group can garner any publicity.

(name withheld)


Hi (name withheld),

“I’m very tempted to call you “Georgie-boy,” but I guess it won’t do me or you any good to get down to your level. The fact is, the only “pathetic little” thing in this exchange is the mindset you demonstrate.”

Call me anything you like, Mike. I’ve been called “baby killer” and worse. What can you do to get “down to my level”? Send me back to Nam’? My email was perhaps a little chippy, so when it comes to name-calling – maybe I had it coming.

I GET THAT YOU’RE AN EDUCATED MAN. MY “CONDESCENDING REMARK” WAS IN RESPONSE TO WHAT YOU’VE CALLED BEING “CHIPPY’.

“But just in the hope that there’s an opening in your thinking cap big enough for a thought to get through, let me try to clarify a few things you don’t seem to fully grasp.”

I think I can manage. I went to college as a full-time student while working a full-time job on night shift in a steel mill, with a wife, a kid and a mortgage to pay. I completed a BS in Business with calculus and statistics in 4 years with a B+ average, so I think perhaps I can “grasp” what’s going on when I see it, despite your condescending remark above.

“1) As was determined by the leadership of the Air Force Academy, the verse on the whiteboard in a public space violated the Academy’s and the military’s admonition against religious proselytizing. So your complaint would better be taken up with the Academy leadership.”

Expressing one’s belief in writing on a white board is hardly proselytizing. Please educate yourself and look up the definition of proselytizing: “to try to persuade people to join a religion, cause, or group”. I wasn’t there (neither were you), but would bet the house that the cadets in question were doing no such thing. They were not approaching their classmates, cornering them or trying to convert them, “save” them or drag them kicking and screaming to the altar. For God’s sake, they simply wrote a Bible verse on a white board.

YOU’RE QUITE RIGHT THAT I WASN’T THERE. I WAS THERE, HOWEVER, A COUPLE OF WEEKS EARLIER, AND THE ISSUE OF CHRISTIANITY AND CHRISTIAN PROSELYTIZING IS VERY PRESENT. LET ME QUOTE BELOW AN AIR FORCE OFFICER AND VETERAN ON THE SUBJECT AT HAND:

There is no limitation whatsoever on what any military leader or member can believe — that aspect of a service member’s religious freedom is sacrosanct. Like you, I will fight to the bitter end to defend every military member’s right to hold any belief he desires, without interference from his military organization other government influence. At the same time, the expression of that belief can be subject to limitations by the military with regard to time, place and manner. In the case of an Air Force leader (such as the cadet in the whiteboard incident), the individual has an obligation to comply with Air Force Instruction 1-1, which requires all leaders to avoid “the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates.”

“2) The cadets and staff who found the posting of the verse inappropriate and contacted the MRFF are within their rights to do so. And in doing so they, not the person who posted the verse and certainly not you, are upholding military regulations in seeing to it that no one in a position of leadership flaunts her or his religious beliefs in a manner that can be interpreted as promoting that religious belief over another. Every person in the military is welcome to her or his belief or non-belief, and no one has the right to press a personal belief on another. Private religious practices are, of course, perfectly within regulations. It’s a question of time, place and manner.”

I believe the Air Force Academy was founded in 1954. If the passive religious expression (which is what this was) is against military regulations, why has this never surfaced as a major issue before? Why? Because you guys want to make it a major issue. It strikes me that you are the same kind of folks who insist on removing religious plaques or symbols from 100 year old statues at small town court houses because instead of ignoring or looking away, you choose to be offended. I guess it is the history and tradition of the greatest, most benevolent country in the world that offends you.

GIVEN THE CONTEXT, I THINK YOU MISCHARACTERIZE THE WHITEBOARD INCIDENT AS A “PASSIVE EXPRESSION.” FURTHER, I’M NOT QUITE SURE WHAT YOU INCLUDE BY THE WORD ‘”THIS,” BUT THE QUESTION OF RELIGIOUS PROSELYTIZING IS AND HAS BEEN FOR SOME TIME A “MAJOR ISSUE;” AN ISSUE, BY THE WAY, NOT LIMITED TO THE AIR FORCE ACADEMY BUT CERTAINLY A MAJOR CONCERN THERE.

TO YOUR POINT THAT WE HAVE MADE IT AN ISSUE, YOU ARE QUITE CORRECT. YOU ARE INCORRECT, HOWEVER, IN LINKING US WITH THE “KIND OF FOLKS” YOU DESCRIBE IN THE SENTENCE THAT FOLLOWS. OUR SINGLE CONCERN IS THE MILITARY AND ENSURING THAT THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IN ALL ITS ASPECTS (AND THAT INCLUDES THE MILTARY) IS HONORED.

IT IS “THE HISTORY AND TRADITION OF THE GREATEST, MOST BENEVOLENT COUNTRY IN THE WORLD” THAT WE ARE BENT ON PROTECTING BY SEEING TO IT THAT THE RIGHT OF FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND RELIGIOUS (OR NON-RELIGIOUS) CHOICE OF EVERY WOMAN AND MAN IN THE MILITARY IS PROTECTED.

“3) Learning to live by military regulations and having the courage to do so even when it puts one under the pressure of scrutiny and disfavor are exactly the lessons we want those in the military to get. Your puffed-up sneering about “delicate flowers” is reminiscent of the ape-like bullying that used to pass as manhood. Apparently you missed a step or two along the evolutionary pathway. Or is evolution another one of those concepts foreign to you?”

I am 65 years old and certainly no bully, but over the last of the ape-like bullying that used to pass as manhood. Apparently you missed a step or two along the evolutionary pathway. Or is evolution another one of those concepts foreign to you? I am 65 years old and certainly no bully, but over the last 30 years I have watched the Left’s continuing efforts to emasculate and feminize men.

YOU’RE WELCOME, OF COURSE, TO YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS, BUT YOU ARE WRONG HERE TO ASCRIBE A POLITICAL AGENDA TO THE WORK OF THE MRFF. WE ARE WOMEN AND MEN OF ALL FAITHS AND BELIEF SYSTEMS, THOUGH MOSTLY CHRISTIAN, INCLUDING SOME CLERGY, AND OF ALL POLITICAL VIEW

“4) Yes, George, many of our staff and supporters have had serious experiences in the military and understand how it feels to lose a beloved comrade or suffer grievous wounds themselves. You can usually tell them because they don’t beat their breasts and brag about it.”

Um, I clearly used the comment about dying comrades looking to God to make my point. No one reading the comment would construe it as one bragging or beating one’s chest. I did not attach the comment to any specific incident. I didn’t describe the circumstances of the friend I lost who was five feet away from me when he was KIA on 25FEB68, and I won’t do so here, but I guarantee you it is nothing I could ever beat my chest about. All I can do is cherish his memory.

IN MY VIEW, YOUR POINT WAS QUITE POINTEDLY MADE AND THE RESPONSE WAS APPROPRIATE.

“5) Your misunderstanding about our work and the nature of this organization is tiresome. If you’d exercise your brain by reading up on the MRFF you’d know that we are neither anti-Christian nor anti-American, but I know that takes more time and thought than scrawling out a nasty, epithet-filled, juvenile piece of hate mail. But if you decide to get off the low road for a while, give it a try. You might be surprised.”

Oh yes, I know the MRFF claims to be neither of those things, but your organization’s actions speak louder than its carefully crafted, politically correct words. The mission is clearly to worship at the altar of secularism and to eradicate every last vestige of this country’s religious history and tradition. To accomplish this mission, you must run around looking for acts of people of faith in order to conger up an issue, i.e. to find someone who has been “offended” by the mere sight of a religious expression. Reminds me of the late night ads paid for by “slip and fall” lawyers asking the question “have you been injured???”

AGAIN, GEORGE, BECAUSE YOU SEEM CONTENT WITH YOUR PERSONAL CONCLUSION THAT WE ARE BEING DUPLICITOUS WITH OUR “CAREFULLY CRAFTED, POLITICALLY CORRECT WORDS,” AND THAT YOU HAVE CLEVERLY SUSSED OUT THE HIDDEN AGENDA IN OUR MISSION, NAMELY TO “ERADICATE EVERY LAST VESTIGE OF THIS COUNTRY’S HISTORY AND TRADITION,” THERE APPEARS TO BE NOTHING I CAN SAY THAT WILL PIERCE THE VEIL OF YOUR PRECONCEIVED (AND I WILL ADD ILL-CONCEIVED) BELIEF. BUT I GUESS, SINCE OUR ACTUAL WORK IS INTENT ON PROTECTING THE RIGHT OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE MILITARY TO BELIEVE AS THEY CHOOSE, I’LL EXTEND YOU THAT RIGHT AND WISH YOU WELL.

I WILL ONLY ADD THAT THE THANKS WE RECEIVE FROM MEMBERS OF THE MILITARY WHO HAVE BEEN PUNISHED, PASSED OVER, DEMOTED, CASTIGATED AND OTHERWISE MADE TO SUFFER FOR THEIR UNWILLINGNESS TO BOW TO A SUPERIOR’S INSISTENT RELIGIOUS PRESSURE MORE THAN MAKES UP FOR YOUR DETERMINATION TO THINK ILL OF US.

BEST,

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)


Good Day, (name withheld) —

Mikey Weinstein has read your email and asked me to offer a response. As a volunteer who supports MRFF in a number of ways, I’m glad to do so if for no other reason than to thank you for your military service. I’m an AF veteran, a USAF Academy graduate, and a Christian. I appreciate the passion with which you share your concerns, although I find the name-calling and nastiness to be unfortunate, unnecessary, and unfounded. Still, I’d like to share with you a better perspective and more accurate information, and will endeavor to do so in a respectful manner.

The first misconception that I’d like to address is your assumption that MRFF is trying to suppress religious freedom. Simply put, that is false and entirely contrary to our organization’s mission. In fact, most supporters and clients are people of faith, as is Mikey himself, and all of us are firmly committed to defending the religious freedom of ALL military members of ALL beliefs – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Druidism, Paganism, Wicca, Paganism, Agnosticism, Free Thinking, Atheism… and any other possible belief or non-belief. To presume that questioning the time, place and manner of any individual’s public proclamation of his faith is about suppressing the religious freedom of that individual is incorrect.

The second thing I’d ask you to consider is the critical difference between “offensiveness” and “inappropriateness”. You clearly believe that the core issue in the whiteboard situation is someone “complaining” about being “offended” or “emotionally upset”. As I mentioned, I am a Christian myself – and in fact, Galatians 2:20 is one of my favorite Scripture verses – so it’s not possible that I (or any other Christian) would be offended by the verse. But I still recognize that the time, place and manner of a Christian sharing this belief can be inappropriate. Cadet leaders, like all AF leaders, are obliged to follow Air Force Instruction 1-1, which requires them to avoid “the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates.”

Writing this type of message on a board in the squadron hallway (a duty area for all cadets), adjacent to his name and position, makes it a public pronouncement and subject to AFI 1-1. My personal sense is that the cadet probably didn’t mean to cause any harm, he may just have wanted to share something that he finds personally helpful. But it was no more appropriate than an atheist cadet leader posting “All thinking men are atheists” on a board outside of his room. In both cases, it is not the message that matters; it is the time, place and manner in which the message is being shared.

Bottom line is that no one is merely whining, complaining or being overly sensitive. The limits on religious expression by military leaders exist for a good reason – to ensure that no military subordinate is subject to unwelcome proselytizing. The mission of our USAF leaders is not to save souls; it is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Thanks again for writing and for your service to our country.

Peace,

Mike Challman

Christian, AF veteran, MRFF supporter

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