Fifteen United States Air Force (USAF) officers, enlisted personnel and civilians contacted MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein for assistance after receiving a directive from the 375 Air Mobility Wing Commander to attend the National Prayer breakfast schedule for February 25, 2020 at Scott AFB (located 25 east of St. Louis, MO). The initial command invitation/directive stated:
The Commander, 375th Air Mobility Wing, Colonel J. Scot Heathman, cordially invites you to attend the National Prayer Breakfast … RSVP by February 19, 2020.
The 15 MRFF clients seeking assistance in this command prioritized religious proselytizing matter consisted of six self-identifying practicing Christians (both Protestant and Roman Catholic) with the remaining nine following minority faith and non-faith traditions; to wit, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as non-faith traditions to include Atheism, Agnosticism and Secular Humanism.
MRFF clients have often dealt with being “volun-Told” (illegally and unconstitutionally) to attend sectarian religious proselytizing events. Mikey told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that “The prayer breakfast isn’t benign; it’s meant to be a massive proselytizing. You can’t use your position as commander to force (this). In military culture, you’re being told to go there.” This environment of coercive religious proselytizing was clearly defined in an email from a family member of one of MRFF’s client’s in this matter:
My family is one of the fifteen which asked the MRFF to stand up for us in the face of our 375 Air Mobility Wing Commander’s directive to attend the National Prayer breakfast at Scott AFB later this month. Although my husband is Christian, I am not. Both of us were so disappointed and hurt when we first saw the so called invitation from Col. Heathman to attend what is always a totally Christian event no matter what they say to us to the contrary.
We’ve been in the Air Force long enough now to have seen this all before. For over (number of years of USAF service withheld) years now and it just seems to get worse and worse when it comes to the constant pressure to become an approved Christian. There is even pressure now on our kids. We know that if we voiced our concerns we would be targeted by our chain and pay the awful price. Thank you to the whole MRFF for taking this matter on for us all here at Scott AFB. And bringing it so fast to a good conclusion which never would have happened if we had sat silent.
On behalf of MRFF’s 15 clients in this matter, Mikey sent a letter on February 6, 2020 to 375 Air Mobility Wing Commander Colonel Jeremiah S. Heathman demanding a retraction of his action making attendance at this sectarian prayer event (National Prayer Breakfast) a command priority. Additionally, Mikey demanded that should Col. Heathman chose to have the invitation resent in an appropriate fashion via the USAF chaplain staff at Scott AFB, the E-mail “resend’ must include appropriate language acknowledging the prior “error” by explaining why the E-mail is being sent out a second time. Mikey noted in this demand letter that this admission of an error in this matter would enable all individuals under Col. Heathman’s command can learn the appropriate way to handle situations like this and to prevent them from ever happening again in the future.
On February 10, 2020, Kim Bell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that on Monday morning (2/10/2020), the wording on the invitation was changed to take out the commander’s name.