Section 2.11 of AFI 1-1 pertaining to ‘Government NeutralityRegarding Religion’ was originally adopted on August 7, 2012. Enforcement of this regulation sparked outrage from various individuals and entities intent on allowing religious proselytizing under cover of government authority. One such individual is U.S. Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) who is Founder/Co-Chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Rep. Forbes began placing significant pressure on U.S. Air Force Chief-of-Staff, General Mark A. Welsh III to render AFI 1-1, Section 2.11 impotent and unenforceable. Rep. Forbes proposed two key changes:
-Remove the word ‘Apparent’ from the phrase “actual or apparent use of their (i.e. commanders/supervisors) position to promote their religious beliefs”.
-Add the word ‘Directly’ to the phrase “No expression of faith should be [directly] prejudicial to good order and discipline”.
These revisions proposed by Rep. Forbes (which were likely drafted by the Liberty Institute or a similar fundamentalist parachurch organization) would have shifted responsibility for maintainingreligious neutrality from those service members intent on proselytizing to those subjected to the proselytizing. Rep. Forbes’ proposed changes would have required proof of actual harm from unfettered religious proselytizing rather than focusing on a leader’s duty to avoid harm to unit cohesion, moral, good order and discipline.
Based largely upon concise legal analysis and recommendations provided by MRFF Founder/President Mikey Weinstein in a letter to Gen. Welsh on May 29, 2014, Rep. Forbes’ attempts to provide official cover for religious proselytizing among the ranks failed miserably. This failure was summarized best when Stephen Losey reported in the Military Times on November 16, 2014 that Mike Berry, senior counsel and director of military affairs for the Liberty Institute, stated “removing the “real, not hypothetical” language potentially weakens the revised regulation, and the Liberty Institute would have preferred it remain. Rep. Forbes’ and the Liberty Institute’s failure is further highlighted in AFI 1-1, Section 2.12:
They (i.e. leaders at all levels) must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.