Mikey Weinstein, MRFF Founder/President was contacted by 29 cadets and four faculty and staff members about the posting of a Christian Bible passage outside the private room of a cadet leader. The passage from Galatians 2: 20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” was clearly seen as a violation of Section 2.11 of Air Force Instruction (AFI) 1-1:
2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates [emphasis added] or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air Force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.
The passage was removed by the cadet just over two hours later after this conflict was brought to his attention by USAFA leadership. During the predictable media furor that arose from this incident, Mikey clearly and concisely explained MRFF’s position on behalf of its clients to numerous media outlets: “Had it been in his room – not a problem. It’s not about the belief. It’s about the time, the place and the manner.”
MRFF’s position on behalf of its clients was further justified when another client (Christian-Protestant AF Captain) shared the following impressions made by USAF Chief of Chaplains, Maj Gen Howard Stendahl on March 31, 2014 before a mandatory mass briefing of about 800 officer-students attending Squadron Officer School (SOS) at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama:
- Throughout the course of his speech he emphasized that a chaplain’s job is to see to the needs of ALL troops regardless of their faith or lack thereof.
- Given the latest news flood about it, it figured that the first question that was asked was about the hot issue currently surrounding the Air Force Academy’s latest religious battle. This is the one with cadets posting Bible scriptures on whiteboards in the Academy’s public hallways or dormitories. We were curious to see how Maj Gen Stendahl would handle this question. The way in which he chose to answer it was more or less “would you post a picture of the last political candidate you voted for outside your office”? He then implied that of course you wouldn’t. “Would you post a political speech outside of your office”? Once again he made it clear that of course you wouldn’t. He stressed to us all that “the Air Force is a military organization, not a religious organization”.
- Maj Gen Stendahl definitely seemed to understand this point and drove it home in his response to the aforementioned question. All of us were very happy to hear him do so and we just thought you and the MRFF would like to know about it since that is the MRFF’s position too.