10/21/16 Due to Col. John Walker’s Empty Response MRFF Sends SECOND Demand Letter Regarding Lt. Col. Michael Kersten’s Official Sectarian Christian Statements

Friday, October 21, 2016

Col. John C. Walker
Commander, 39th Air Base Wing
Incirlik Air Base
5th SOK Street
No. 3850
09824
Yüreğir/Adana, Turkey

 

Dear Colonel John C. Walker:

 

We recently received your “response” to our concerns regarding the published religious statements of Lt. Col. Michael Kersten. Unfortunately, your “response” tells us nothing about whether you take the complaints of our MRFF clients seriously or whether you plan to take any action to remedy this situation. Instead, you simply recite the obvious: that Airmen are “sworn to protect our rights and liberties as Americans, including the right of all Airmen to practice their religious faith or to practice no faith at all.” Essentially, your letter is the equivalent of a signed glamour shot sent by a celebrity to everyone who writes to them, regardless of the content of the correspondence.

Perhaps you misunderstood our position concerning Lt. Col. Kersten’s statements and our demand for appropriate and visible consequences. This demand is not a matter of punishing him for his Christian faith, nor is it a matter of insisting he remain silent about his religious beliefs. As stated in our previous letter, MRFF both supports and would vigorously defend Lt. Col. Kersten’s right to believe as he chooses and to express those beliefs in the proper time, place, and manner. This demand is a matter of ensuring that all religious expression – particularly by military leaders – conforms to the mandates of the Constitution and Air Force Regulations. While Lt. Col. Kersten certainly has the right to share his religious beliefs, he is not entitled to publicly declare that all of his decisions are based his personal faith, rather than upon his oath of office and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections…The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it…Speech that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command. If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.

Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 94 S.Ct. 2547 (1974). Lt. Col. Kersten plainly undermined the effectiveness of response to command when he announced that his decisions will be based on his personal Christian beliefs, rather than objective merit. He further stated that at least two core Air Force values are synonymous with the teachings of Christ, thus implying that non-Christians cannot adequately exercise those values. This declaration was then widely published in an official Air Force internet publication, creating the distinct impression that the Air Force supports a practice of preferential treatment toward Christian airmen.

Please note that Lt. Col. Kersten’s public endorsement of Christianity violates both the Constitution and Air Force Instruction 1-1 regardless of whether he has any intent to actually favor Christians over non-Christians while serving in his leadership position. Additionally, the consequences of this endorsement do not involve hypothetical service members who might be offended by Lt. Col. Kersten’s words – the number of complaints MRFF has received clearly demonstrates that many service members and civilians under your direct command are genuinely concerned about potential ramifications to their careers as a result of their own religious beliefs or non-belief.

This grievous matter is a serious situation that warrants serious action. Regrettably, your boilerplate response leaves us wondering whether you will take any action at all. When you say, “The Air Force places the highest value on the rights of its personnel in matters of religion and facilitiates [sic] the free exercise of religion by its members,” do you mean that you will take appropriate action to ensure that non-Christians do not need to worry that they will be treated with disfavor? Or do you mean that you will do nothing due to a misguided belief that Lt. Col. Kersten’s unconstitutional endorsement will have no impact on the religious freedom of those under his command, as well as Turkish military personnel and civilians, despite all evidence to the contrary?

In our previous letter, we set forth MRFF’s demand that you:

(1) Expeditiously and publicly rebuke Lt. Col. Kersten’s official statement – as contrasted with his private Christian faith belief, which is not MRFF’s concern – (2) appropriately and visibly punish Lt. Col. Kersten for his unconstitutional and UCMJ-violating behavior; (3) apologize to your airmen and our Turkish allies, and; (4) reaffirm an inclusive 39th Air Base Wing command climate in which ALL USAF airmen/civilians and Turkish military/civilian members, regardless of their respective religion, race, gender, sexual preference, national origin, or political leanings are treated with equal and mutual respect and dignity.

If you will not take appropriate action, we must take appropriate action on behalf of our clients. Therefore, we must insist, sir, on a real response from you that states unambiguously whether you will take any action concerning our demand.

We look forward to your timely response.

 

Respectfully,

Tobanna Barker
MRFF Legal Affairs Coordinator
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

 

Click to read first demand letter

Click to read Col. John Walker’s response

 

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9 Comments

  1. Deplorable Patriot

    Ms, Barker,

    I think they gave you their response already! Basically they have told you, MRFF, and Mikey to go pound sand and leave them alone!

    The officer in question was well within his rights to share what he shared if that is what his personal convictions are regarding what drives his life. It is a terrible thing when you want to shut up a Christian from saying he is a Christian when asked in an interview. If a non-com said the same thing as the officer, and said that I am a Christian and Jesus Christ and His teachers is what guides my decisions in everything I do!

  2. Connie

    Deplorable Patriot – you are aptly named. Where in the world are you headed with your last statement?

    You said “If a non-com said the same thing as the officer, and said that I am a Christian and Jesus Christ and His teachers is what guides my decisions in everything I do!”

    This means what exactly because you don’t really make a point there. Here – I’ll make the logic leap for you.

    What’s the harm in a commander stating in an interview that he views himself as a Christian first and an American second? Ask my late husband who wore the burn scars from his Domionist mates under the instruction of his Domionist commander. He was not Christian – seventh generation Asatru and loyal to his beliefs. According to you Christian supremacists his rights only exist if he believes the same as all the rest. Screw his heritage! Ignore his honor as a warrior! Spewing the correct religion is the only important thing according to you, deplorable patriot.

    Yep – the word deplorable suits you. Patriot? Not so much.

    Dominionist hopes
    Religion and State wed to
    Instigate their coup

  3. Deplorable Patriot

    Connie,
    As a Christian we have dual citizenship, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and of the kingdom of man, but when the kingdom of man violates the Kingdom of God, then we must obey God’s kingdom laws and not the laws of man. We are Christians first and then Americans or any other country we live in second. We answer to God first not man.

    I am sorry for what happened to your husband but you cannot blame me for that.

    Acts 5:27-29 English Standard Version (ESV)

    27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

  4. Connie

    DP –

    The words used in your reply to me prove the point the MRFF and Mikey makes every day. Thank you.

    The Military is secular, meaning it is governed by the Laws of Humans. If a person can’t in good faith follow those laws and regulations perhaps they should eschew the government and by extension, the Military.

  5. G

    Gee DP. I don’t recall being given citizenship papers let alone a passport by the Christian church let alone a passport stating that I was a citizen of God’s Kingdom? If I am a citizen of God, then God should be giving us free/affordable education, free/affordable healthcare, good paying jobs, decent standard of living, clean drinking water, etc., because I don’t see the wealthy Christians providing those items.

    “I am sorry for what happened to your husband but you cannot blame me for that.”

    Oh really, DP? Aren’t we held responsible for what other people do or do not do to, according to Genesis 4:9? Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

    I guess the laws of God and man made laws don’t mean a thing to you.

  6. Bill H

    My company commander at Fort Gordon was recently interviewed for a story in Army.mil, the official U.S. Army news agency. He was also asked to name the leader who had most influenced his career.

    He said no leader made an impression on him, but he is quoted as saying his wisdom and strength derive from the Sumerian serpent god Ningishzida, He said the deity, two snakes wrapped around a stick, teaches him that he should do everything in life as if he was doing each thing for Ningishzida. He said that makes his decisions wise.

  7. Tschunconta

    G said:
    “Oh really, DP? Aren’t we held responsible for what other people do or do not do to, according to Genesis 4:9?”

    Uh, you do know that the person who said he wasn’t his brother’s keeper had just murdered him, right?

  8. Tschunconta

    Bill H said:
    “he is quoted as saying his wisdom and strength derive from the Sumerian serpent god Ningishzida”

    You’re trying to make up a silly parallel to illustrate your point (which is that Christians should be cowed into silence), but it failed. Did the officer issue any orders contrary to the Constitution and UCMJ? If not, you’re just seeking to punish thought you don’t like.

  9. G

    Tschunconta:

    “Uh, you do know that the person who said he wasn’t his brother’s keeper had just murdered him, right?”

    Yea, I know that Tschunconta, and do you know that 45,000 Americans died each year from lack of affordable health care because their fellow Christians only care about making money even though those same Christians go to church on Sunday and then lied, cheated, and steal from people on Monday?

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