MRFF was contacted on August 17, 2016 on behalf of 33 USAF officers, enlisted personnel, civilians and contractors stationed at Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB (both located in Colorado Springs, CO area) seeking assistance in dealing with an ongoing violation of religious freedom and church-state religious separation principles contained within the U.S. Constitution and DoD regulations. A representative for these 33 MRFF clients described the ongoing practice of Major Steve Lewis, who is a supervisor at the Reserve National Security Space Institute (RNSSI) located in the Space Education and Training Center Building at Peterson AFB, of keeping an open and yellow-highlighted Christian bible displayed prominently on his official USAF work desk in an open office work environment. This MRFF client representative further described the work environment created by Major Lewis’ actions:
Personally, I am intimidated by the display, and I am a practicing Christian. I can only imagine how it must make military members and civilians who are not Christians, like myself, feel. It shows that this military work center is an area for sectarian religious statements and displays of Christian dominance, rather than the USAF mission goal of “service before self”. I ensured that I wrote this bible display up during the unit’s annual unit climate survey, yet it was not addressed by the chain of command at all, which I believe sends a strong message that the display of Christian supremacy is perfectly ok within the unit, and that, in fact, it is preferred or encouraged.
Based upon this complaint, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein contacted the commander of the 310thSpace Wing demanding immediate official action be taken to thoroughly investigate the grievances of Christian religious oppression of MRFF’s 33 clients as a result of Major Steve Lewis’ Christian biblical display. MRFF further demanded that Major Steve Lewis be ordered to remove his Christian bible display from his official USAF desktop workspace and that, pending the results of the investigation, both he and his direct supervisor be swiftly, visibly and aggressively punished for allowing this long-running, repulsive violation of USAF regulations and bedrock Constitutional law to fatally poison the Command Climate in the RNSSI.
Within 48 hours of MRFF’s demand, the Colorado Springs Independent reported that Peterson [AFB] officials removed the Bible and now are conducting a review of whether allowing it was a reasonable accommodation of the officer’s religious beliefs or whether it violates the separation of church and state.