From: (Active duty USAF Pilot’s/MRFF Client’s E-mail Address Withheld)
Subject: Squadron Commander’s Christian bible studies in our Ready Room
Date: May 18, 2023 at 11:24:53 PM MDT
To: Information Weinstein <[email protected]>
I am a (Squadron command position title withheld) in an Air Force squadron and fly the (aircraft nomenclature withheld) at an installation overseas.
I was raised and baptized in a strict Christian family but now consider myself to be agnostic.
Several weeks ago our Squadron Commander began conducting Christian bible studies during the lunch hour 3 times a week in one of our Ready Rooms used for Stan Eval and critical related aviation mission-sortie matters such as flight planning etc. He made a point of advertising these in our daily flight briefings as well. Although we have other such locations in our building where these military mission matters may be handled he chose the largest and most utilized room for his lunchtime Christian bible studies. But why was he even doing this during duty hours anyway I thought?
When I spoke to him about this problem he told me “don’t go there unless you’d like to join us in our bible study”.
I was surprised and disappointed by his dismissive and threatening statement to me. I was able to contact my local MRFF rep who first told me about Air Force Instruction 1-1. Later that same day I was able to speak with Mr. Weinstein on the phone despite the large time difference between our location and his.
Mr. Weinstein told me even more about Section 2.12 of that AF Instruction and asked me if I wanted him to personally engage our chain of command. I told him not yet and that I would try one more time one-on-one with our Sq. Commander using the regulation brought to my attention by the MRFF.
So I sat down with my Sq. Commander. I showed him the reg and went over it carefully with him. He was not happy and asked me where I got it from as if I had made it up or something. I told him I got it after being advised from the MRFF. The very moment I mentioned “the MRFF” to him his face turned pale. He frowned. He asked if I had spoken to “Weinstein” by name. I told him I had. He asked me if I had taken this matter above and over his head in our command chain. I told him I had not as I wanted to fix this directly with him our Sq. Commander.
Our Sq. Commander then abruptly dismissed me and said he would consult with our JAG folks and follow what they told him to do. As I was leaving his office he told me to come back. He looked at me and said “Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we have no rights, (USAF pilot’s rank withheld)”.
I tried to reply to that self-serving statement but he just told me to leave again.
I called Mr. Weinstein immediately again and he advised me not to panic but to let this play out and stay in touch.
Three duty days later our DO made an announcement that the Bible studies were being suspended until further notice. As of today they still have not resumed. It has been a number of weeks now.
I wanted to ask our Sq. Commander if our JAG had supported my complaint but I’ve decided to not do that at the present time. I am pretty sure I’m not very popular with him and may never be again.
But I know I did the right thing. Several other pilots know what I did and they support me. Others know and do not support. Nobody is talking about it anymore. The whole episode is pretty shady and has made me question why I’m even in the Air Force anymore?
I want to thank then MRFF for helping me so much through this nightmare. And I know that if I face any negative consequences that the MRFF will be there for me again.
(Active duty USAF Pilot’s name, rank, unit and installation all withheld)
Response from retired USAF officer and Judge Advocate and Legal Counsel to MRFF
“The whole episode is pretty shady and has made me question why I’m even in the Air Force anymore?”
This is why the inclusion of religion into governmental operations is so damn destructive. Here we have a squadron of pilots whose wingmen are to “cover their 6,” yet will the “Christian” trust the agnostic, atheist, Jew, Muslim, or what have you to do so, in combat?
The stupidity and ignorance of this Squadron Commander, no doubt a Lt Col, has done just what the AF (and other services officer corps) works to establish and instill, i.e., an esprit de corps and made this officer doubt his raison d’être for being in the Air Force. If anyone doubts the negative effect on “good order and discipline” that such actions “in the name of Jesus,” they are both fools and ignorant of our own history and basis for the First Amendment.
Another sad example of a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause that goes unpunished. Violating a Constitutional prohibition is certainly conduct unbecoming an officer. Finally, whether he realized it or not, the client’s actions were in the true spirit of his oath as an officer to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . .” Today, he is my hero.