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USAF Chief of Chaplains
Supports the MRFF Stance
on USAF Academy
Whiteboard Controversy

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hello Mr. Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,

I am an AF Captain currently assigned to Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama. My AFSC is (Air Force job title withheld) and I am stationed at (name withheld) AFB in (city and state withheld). I and alot of others have followed your great work with the MRFF for many years and I never thought I’d be e-mailing you myself. Actually not just myself. I am writing on behalf of myself and 5 other AF officers today. Although I am not an Academy grad my spouse’s family has several members who are grads of USAFA. I have served with many USAFA grads here in the CONUS and in the AOR and of course I have alot in my SOS Flight here at Maxwell. Two of the other 5 AF officers for whom I am writing this are USAFA grads and all of us are Christians. Specifically, I happen to be (Protestant denomination withheld), my spouse teaches Sunday School at our church in (city and state withheld) and my father-in-law is an ordained Baptist minister in (town and state withheld). We all wanted you to know some good news that came out of a major event we had there today. It’s rare to hear a senior AF leader back up a postion which the MRFF has worked hard to establish for everyone.

We have about 800 AF officer-students enrolled in SOS here. Today all of us had a mandatory mass briefing by our USAF Chief of Chaplains, Maj Gen Howard Stendahl. None of us were too sure what to expect given the potentially inflammatory subject matter. Throughout the course of his speech he emphasized that a chaplain’s job is to see to the needs of ALL troops regardless of their faith or lack thereof. We were pleasantly surprised by the inclusive and secular way in which he saw his leadership role as the Chief of Chaplains in the USAF. Even more surprised as to how he saw other AF members’ roles.

After his prepared speech he opened it up to questions from all of us in the audience. Given the latest news flood about it, it figured that the first question that was asked was about the hot issue currently surrounding the Air Force Academy’s latest religious battle. This is the one with cadets posting Bible scriptures on whiteboards in the Academy’s public hallways or dormitories. We were curious to see how Maj Gen Stendahl would handle this question. The way in which he chose to answer it was more or less “would you post a picture of the last political candidate you voted for outside your office”? He then implied that of course you wouldn’t. “Would you post a political speech outside of your office”? Once again he made it clear that of course you wouldn’t. He stressed to us all that “the Air Force is a military organization, not a religious organization”. While this is not a verbatim transcript this was the general basis of his answer. We all felt that he stressed the point that as officers of the United States military we voluntarily give up some rights enjoyed by our civilian counterparts when we swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. I and many of my fellow officers here at SOS think that the majority of American civilians fail to realize that as members of any branch of the U.S. military we can’t publicly endorse a candidate while in uniform. Neither can we publicly endorse one religion (or lack thereof) over another while in uniform. It also seems that many senior AF officers and enlisted fail to realize this standard of behavior. In the AF we have these standards for everything we do. Especially in the rated (flying) community. And the outward display of religion or nonbelief must conform to AF standards in the same way that all other parts of AF life do. Standards are standards. Maj Gen Stendahl definitely seemed to understand this point and drove it home in his response to the aforementioned question. All of us were very happy to hear him do so and we just thought you and the MRFF would like to know about it since that is the MRFF’s position too.

One more thing. We also were very surprised when the final question was asked to Maj Gen Stendahl. It was from a “Captain Curtis Weinstein”. Your son, Mr. Weinstein? We knew you had children in the AF and, if he is one of them, it was great to find out that he is here attending SOS alongside the rest of us.

(USAF Officer’s name, AFSC, duty title, duty unit and assigned base all withheld)

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