I would like to thank you and your team for your assistance this past week.
I am a (USAF position withheld) at (USAF base name withheld) AFB, working under the (USAF assigned unit name withheld) At a recent Commander’s Call, our Commander stated that several individuals had noted feeling alienated and marginalized by others in the unit due to differences in religious, political, and personal opinions. The Commander made it clear that he expected everyone’s beliefs to be tolerated and that he did not condone such an environment of hostility.
Then, last week, an email was sent out to our entire unit by a member of the Commander’s staff inviting us all to a location in the (USAF assigned unit name withheld) to make Easter baskets for local children. This was billed as a “volunteer opportunity.” I thought this email looked fishy, and immediately knew to reach out to an entity who could help–the MRFF.
Within minutes of emailing the MRFF my concerns, Mikey Weinstein called me and told me I was absolutely correct to be suspicious. Sending an email from the Commander’s office asking all of those under his Command to participate in an activity that clearly favors one religious belief–in this case, Christianity–is in direct violation of constitutional church-state separation mandates and AFI 1-1, Section 2.12: “Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause.” This critical USAF regulatory Instruction states, “Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They 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.”
With Mikey’s assistance and backing, I sent an email to my Commander bringing this matter to his attention, with Mikey on the “cc” line. I told him such an email constitutes a direct endorsement of a particular religion by leadership and that such emails are a clear example of the hostile, intolerant climate he had hoped to address! Happily, the Commander reached out to me within a short time and told me that he absolutely agreed with my assessment, he had no intention of ever endorsing a particular religion, he would use this as a learning experience for his staff and the entire unit, and he would make sure the Chaplain’s office is consulted instead on such events.
Thanks so much to Mikey and the MRFF for their help in this matter. If I had not had an organization like the MRFF to turn to, I would not have had the knowledge or support to confront such proselytizing. This matter was dealt with quickly and without escalation–a clear testament to the power of the MRFF! Thanks for fighting for us!
(USAF Member’s name, rank, unit and USAF installation all withheld)