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The Devil—and the Lord—
Is in the Details

Friday, March 14, 2014


By Col. (U.S. Army-retired) Lawrence Wilkerson

MIKEY'S NOTE: This guest Op-Ed from dear friend, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) Advisory Board member, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, comes in light of an unprecedented Christian fundamentalist furor. This disingenuous hue and cry  surrounds our ongoing fight against dominionist hegemony at my alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, CO, long a hotbed of nationalistic Christian supremacist extremism. Sadly, the scandal has reinforced the fact that many of the worst opponents of the U.S. Constitution are our elected representatives themselves... Mikey.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R, CO) has just penned a letter to the Superintendent of the US Air Force Academy, Lieutenant General Michele Johnson.  In the letter, the Congressman lectures the “Supe” in religious freedom and the U.S. Constitution.  It is quite clear from the letter that Congressman Lamborn knows extremely little about the Constitution, religious freedom, or the military.

The most egregious demonstration of abject ignorance of the military and the Constitution is this statement in Lamborn’s letter: “We are asking future officers to perhaps give even their very lives to protect and defend the Constitution and yet denying them rights from that same Constitution.”

Military personnel, particularly officers, surrender several Constitutional rights immediately upon becoming members of the armed forces. For example, they cannot speak out politically; they cannot criticize publicly their chain of command—to include the President; they cannot vote in uniform and armed (I found that out in Columbus, Georgia—the hard way); they cannot promote religion to their subordinates; they cannot associate their uniform with a commercial enterprise; and so on. Thus, every hour of the day we deny military members certain of their Constitutional rights. It is an integral part of the civil-military relationship in America.

Compounding Lamborn’s error is this statement from his letter: “I am deeply concerned and outraged by recent news reports indicating that an Air Force Cadet was forced to remove a Bible verse from the whiteboard posted outside his room. I was further troubled to learn that the apparent reason the Cadet in question had to remove this verse was due to the fact that he is in a position of leadership. This suggests that a Cadet in a leadership role may have less religious freedom than Cadets in the rank and file.”

This statement is simply full of ignorance as well as illogic.  The “apparent reason”, as Lamborn terms it, is precisely accurate.  From a position of leadership, no military member may advocate a particular religion or absence thereof.  Moreover, this restriction on a military member is to promote religious freedom, not constrain it.  How can there be freedom of religion if people in power over others are allowed to appear—or actually to do so—to favor one religion over another, or no religion over religion?  The clear answer is, there can’t be.

Not content to be simply illogical and ignorant, the Congressman goes on to write: “those who pursue leadership positions should not be forced to sacrifice their religious freedom in order to lead.”

Of course such leaders are not sacrificing their religious freedom.  They are able to go to the church, synagogue, or mosque of their choice, or believe in no divine providence whatsoever; they are simply not allowed, by their position of power over others, to try to cause others to adhere to their beliefs or even subtly to influence them to do so.  This policy promotes religious freedom for everyone, it does not constrain it and it most certainly does not sacrifice it for anyone.

Congressman Lamborn then delivers the blow that is at the heart of his apparent angst: “I would also appreciate an explanation of the apparent influence the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has at the Air Force Academy in legal and media issues relating to decisions on Cadets’ religious practices over the past 5 years (sic). The MRFF is an organization that seems to detest religious expression of any faith, and has become so outlandish in its claims that it should simply be ignored.”

Now we detect the real reason for Lamborn’s outburst.  Like the other fundamentalist Christian sects—the so-called “Dominionists” lead the way in this regard—which are so up in arms over the MRFF because it supports religiously (no pun intended) the real and important heart of religious freedom—the separation at all times of church and state—Lamborn worries that MRFF might be too successful.

I hope in that respect he is absolutely correct.  It would be the only thing in his letter that is.

Col. (U.S. Army-retired) Lawrence Wilkerson is a professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He served 31 years in the U.S. Army, both in the enlisted and officer ranks.    

Click to read this article at DailyKos

Click to read this article at Alternet


Air Force leaders detail force cuts, defend religion policies

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III
refutes lawmaker claims of the "persecution" of
fundamentalist Christians, roundly rejects credibility of
Fox News Radio host and MRFF foe Todd Starnes:
“I would not believe an article from Mr. Starnes..."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • WASHINGTON — Air Force leaders detailed future force cuts and defended the service’s religious accommodation practices after coming under attack from conservative lawmakers at a congressional budget hearing Friday.
  • The Air Force leaders came under fire from Republican lawmakers over a recent incident at the Air Force Academy in which a cadet was told to remove a Bible verse from a hallway whiteboard outside his room.

    “I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” the verse reportedly read.

    The verse was taken down after Military Religious Freedom Foundation director Mikey Weinstein complained about it after being contacted by 33 people at the academy — including cadets, faculty and staff — according to a press release by MRFF.

    Weinstein contends that the Air Force Academy is hostile to people who aren’t fundamentalist Christian.

    Several members of the committee argued that the removal of the verse constituted a violation of the cadet’s religious freedom, and suggested that the Air Force was ignoring the Constitution.

    “We’re worried that this idea in the law that [imposes some religious restrictions aimed at maintaining] good order and discipline is now becoming an excuse for political correctness. And I think that very quickly tramples the First Amendment rights of certainly our airmen,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. “We’re seeing this in Air Force far more than other services.”

    “It’s a balancing act. It’s balancing that free expression of religion with the needs of the military and not giving the appearance or an actuality of forcing anything [on airmen].” James said

    Welsh pushed back strongly against the accusations that were being leveled.

    “I know all kinds of people at the Air Force Academy ... who would disagree with your assessment of there being a problem with religious persecution at the Air Force Academy ... You have to get the facts right on every one of these cases and try and stay unemotional until you know what happened,” he said. “The single biggest frustration I’ve had in this job is the perception that somehow there is religious persecution inside the United States Air Force. It is not true. We have incidents like everybody has incidents. We investigate every one of them. We’ve asked every chaplain in our Air Force if they know of these cases, [and] they say no.”

    Fleming cited a case reported by Todd Starnes, a Fox News columnist, in which a group trying to distribute Bibles at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Were turned away by base officials.

    “I would not believe an article from Mr. Starnes,” Welsh said. “I know there are cases where he’s not had his facts right in his articles.”

    Welsh told another lawmaker that servicemembers have a right not to be proselytized to by religious airmen.

    “You have every right to your beliefs and to practice your faith freely. If someone asks you about your faith, tell them everything about it. [But] if they don’t ask you, don’t assume they want or need to know.”

    James agreed to provide the committee with an Air Force version of events surrounding the incident at the Air Force Academy within 10 days, and to explain Air Force policy on religious expression and how it applies to that situation.

Click to read this article at Stars and Stripes


AFA superintendent talks religion

Friday, March 14, 2014

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • Responding to a firestorm of commentary stemming from a Bible scripture written on a cadet whiteboard this week, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson called a news conference suddenly this afternoon to talk about religious respect.
  • Johnson also noted the academy is trying to balance the instruction's mandate with First Amendment freedom of expression while instilling a culture of commitment and climate of respect. She said she has spoken to the cadet wing and her staff about being respectful of others, including their religious beliefs.

    "There are natural tensions built into the Constitution, and we live these every day," she said.

    Asked how she feels about people at the academy being more willing to report such incidents to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation rather than through chain of command, Johnson said, "We're trying to have people use the system so we can better understand what the problems are. It's hard to take on things if you don't know what they are."

Click to read this article at
Colorado Springs Independent


Bible Verse Removal Mobilizes Conservative Legal Groups to Prepare for Battle With
Air Force Academy

Friday, March 14, 2014

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • A conservative coalition of 24 nonprofit and legal organizations has come together to announce that its members will offer assistance to cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy who face “repercussions” for writing Bible verses on whiteboards outside their bedroom doors.

    The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, a group dedicated to “defending the religious freedoms of members of [the] Armed Forces and Veterans,” officially responded Thursday to the ongoing furor over the removal of a scripture message from a cadet’s bedroom door.
  • The latest response to the situation comes after Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told TheBlaze Wednesday that there is a “revolt” underway at the academy over the removal of the cadet’s Bible verse.

    Weinstein told TheBlaze that 29 cadets and four faculty and staff members — 26 of whom he described as Catholic or Protestant — disagreed with the verse’s presence and reached out to his organization after the verse was posted on the whiteboard.

Click to read this article at TheBlaze


Video: Incident at Air Force Academy sparks debate
about religious freedom

Friday, March 13, 2014

Selected Article Excerpt:

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Congressman Doug Lamborn accused the Air Force Academy of infringing on the religious freedom of a cadet Thursday.

On Monday, a cadet removed a Bible verse written outside his dorm room. The Air Force Academy said the cadet decided to take it down after a discussion about religion and leadership.

Lamborn said the cadet should not have felt pressure directly or indirectly to take down the biblical verses.

“These cadets are going to be in some cases putting their lives on the line protecting the country and the Constitution and that very same Constitution gives them freedom of religion and freedom of speech. This shouldn’t even be an issue,” said Lamborn by phone from Washington, D.C.

He is outraged by the academy’s handling of the situation. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation also thinks the situation was mishandled, but for different reasons.

The foundation’s leader, Mikey Weinstein, thinks the cadet should be court-martialed for posting the scripture.

Weinstein said there is a time and a place for people to practice their faith. However, he said the cadet was in a position of leadership so his actions violate a Air Force regulation adopted in August 2012.

“It makes it very clear that people in leadership positions in the Air Force cannot be involved in improperly — either apparently or actually – using their position of leadership to promote their personal religious faith,” said Weinstein.

Click to read this article at KRDO


Detractors Launch
Salvoes at Constitution
Following MRFF Win at USAFA


Air Force Cadets Complain Over ‘Christ Lives in Me’ Posted on Door

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Selected Article Excerpt:

Controversy has erupted this week over the posting of Christian verses on the door of a cadet’s room at the Air Force Academy — with some calling the move an attempt to bully non-Christians and a violation of the separation of church and state.

More than 30 cadets complained after seeing the Bible verse, which many of them consider a sign of evangelical dominance at the college in Colorado Springs, according to Mikey Weinstein, director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The verse read: “I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,”

Weinstein said he believes allowing the messages would amount to an endorsement of Christianity and would violate the separation of church and state.

“If they’re inside the room, that’s one thing,” he said.

Click to read this article at
Jewish Daily Forward


What’s going on at
Air Force Academy?
God’s word vs. Pentagon’s word

by Todd Starnes

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Selected Article Excerpt:

The Restore Military Religious Freedom coalition, a group of two dozen like-minded religious liberty organizations, a announced Thursday that they are ready to offer assistance to any Air Force Academy cadet who faces repercussions for writing Bible verses on their hallway whiteboards.

The Air Force Academy admitted Wednesday that a cadet leader had to remove a Bible verse he had displayed outside his dorm room because it offended non-Christians and could “cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality.”

The controversy started when a cadet leader posted a passage of scripture on his whiteboard with a quote from the New Testament book of Galatians. “I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” the verse from Galatians 2:20 read.

Friends of the cadet tell me the young man had posted the verse several months ago and considered the New Testament passage as a source of inspiration.

Mikey Weinstein, director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told me that 29 cadets and four faculty and staff members contacted his organization to complain about the Christian passage.

“Had it been in his room — not a problem,” Weinstein told me. “It’s not about the belief. It’s about the time, the place and the manner.”

He said the Bible verse on the cadet’s personal whiteboard created a hostile environment at the academy.

Click to read this article
Fox News Radio

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MRFF's Inbox

We receive an enormous amount of emails at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, both from our supporters and detractors. "MRFF's Inbox" allows us to share this correspondence with you.

Please click here to view some of this
incredibly vile, as well as intimately
heartfelt, correspondence to MRFF.

FEATURED INBOX POST – Our Air Force Academy
Cadet Daughter’s Physical Altercation

Dear Mr. Mikey Weinstein and the MRFF, Our daughter (cadet name and rank withheld) is a cadet at the Air Force Academy in Squadron Number (cadet Squadron No. withheld). Earlier today she experienced a frightful situation that left her terrified and we as her parents, furious.

Thank you, Mikey, for taking our several calls for help. Thank you too for taking the time to talk to our daughter several times today.

Here’s briefly what happened. As you know the word got out around the Air Force Academy very fast about the one cadet who had their white board message of a New Testament biblical verse taken down. It seems that the news stories on the matter got out on Facebook and Twitter and other social media to the point that it flooded the Air Force Academy cadets. Apparently there was a protest movement initiated by certain very Christian cadets to put many more religious messages up on many white boards around the cadet campus in the Squadron outside hallway areas. This became very disconcerting and troubling to our daughter and many of her fellow cadets. She decided to do something about it. Her way. Our daughter wanted to make a point as to how she felt the placing of Christian religious messages in the official Squadron hallways outside of the cadet rooms was a direct violation of the regulations. We are a (Protestant denomination withheld) family and raised our daughter in the same (Protestant denomination withheld) faith. Despite the way we raised her in only our faith our daughter respects all faiths and also those who are not religious at all. To make a point about how terrible the white board religious postings are she wrote on her white board the following message “There is no evidence that any God has ever existed”.

Almost immediately she was shouted down by 2 larger male cadets. Both of who out ranked her in seniority. They yelled at her and shouted that her message was “anti-faith” and that it was “an insult to all people of faith” and that she was targeting only “Christians”. They yelled that merely putting a biblical verse on a white board “did not insult anyone else”. They said that it did “not insult atheists and that it “only proclaimed the Christan faith” and that it “did not tear down those nonbelievers”. They were very, very mad at our daughter. They started to wipe off our daughter’s message. She felt she ahd every right to put it up there if all of the other Christian messages were allowed. She tried to stop them but they overpowered her. They pushed her and forcibly held her back from stopping them. The whole thing took less than a minute to happen. Our daughter ran away and called us. She was beside herself and crying. We were more afraid than we’ve ever been.

We called you Mikey and were surprised you answered your own phone. After speaking with you we called our daughter back so she could talk to you. She also called and you answered right there and then. Thank you for speaking with us all.

We were trying to determine the best way to proceed. Our daugher is adament that she wants to drop it and we support her. We do not want to disappont you by not “going public” but we all feel that the resulting pressure will be too much. For our daughter and our family to bear. None of us trust that the Air Force Academy internal agencies would properly handle any follow-on investiagtion. She has 2 bruises from the shoving that occurred. As she tried to prevent her white board message from being removed by the 2 other male cadets.

You asked us to send you this email to at least go on the record with the MRFF as to what happened. We are all still very confused and shaken by it all. The Academy chiefs have blundered and created a monster now.

Mikey and the MRFF, please respect our privacy and our decision to remain anonymous. We know that is not what you wanted us to do but it is what we want to do. You may use this email any way you wish to. As long as our identities are not shown.

Thank you, Mikey and the MRFF for being there for us and our cadet daughter and for all the others you speak for.

xxxxxx and xxxxx xxxxxx

xxxxxxxxx, xxxxx


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