MRFF exposes violation -
Readers respond to incident
covered in last
Stars and Stripes article:
Click here to read article
February 11, 2009
Power can be imposing
Regarding the article "AF colonel accused of imposing religion" (Feb. 10, Europe edition): I am saddened that an Air Force commander allegedly used poor judgment in sending an e-mail to her subordinates, encouraging them to watch a proselytizing video on a Roman Catholic Web site. I am also greatly disturbed this same Web site depected our president in a Nazi uniform, declaring him a baby killer. I recommend U.S. Air Forces in Europe commanders take immediate action in reviewing this incident.
While on active duty, many of those I supervised were of different faiths and beliefs from my own. I understood imposing my faith on anyone would introduce doubt in my objectivity to evaluate their duty performance and promotability. Unfortunately, the 501st Combat Support Wing has possibly introduced doubt on this commander.
Master Sgt. Michael L. Martin (retired)
February 12, 2009
'Witch hunt' of commander
The genius of America is our ability to argue in a free, open society. The freedom of speech — though oft-neglected — is treasured, especially by those of us who defend it daily ("AF colonel accused of imposing religion," article, Feb. 10, Europe edition).
The separation of church and state has been severely misunderstood by those in the American Civil Liberties Union who profess it. Nowhere in our Constitution does it state the government must not make mention of religion; it just can't make laws in regard to one — positive or negative. To illustrate, displays of the Ten Commandments in our courthouses, printing "In God We Trust" on our currency, and even President Barack Obama taking the oath of office on Lincoln's Bible were absolutely legal. What we can't do is make it illegal to deviate from those customs.
If you Google "Kimberly K. Toney" you'll find a few blogs have begun to unfairly savage the commander. Though these blogs print her message to the 501st Combat Support Wing in its entirety, they completely skew the story to suggest Toney was either advocating we attend Catholic Mass or associate Obama with Adolf Hitler. Toney's message was to simply give a bit of inspiration to her wing. She didn't recommend we seek Jesus; she only wanted to provide perspective toward someone else's life challenges.
I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, not a 7-year-old street urchin from a Dickens novel. I am quite capable of detecting good intentions from misinformation. I wonder how different this media witch hunt would be if Toney's e-mail had contained a link to a book for sale on Amazon.com. Further down the page there could have been an advertisement for an anti-Obama or pro-Catholic book. The complainant's angle is valid [in the story], but the media's isn't.
I'm not shilling for Toney, but please put down the torches; this is a nonissue.
Tech. Sgt. Ken Gentner
RAF Alconbury, England
February 17, 2009
Witch hunt an overstatement
First, let me begin by saying that I sincerely hope that the actions of Col. Kimberly Toney ("AF colonel accused of imposing religion," article, Feb. 10, Europe edition) were a legitimate mistake. On that, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that her apology was genuine.
Still, commanders have a lot of power over their command, and even an innocent e-mail can carry the weight of rank. It can easily be mistaken for the official views of the command.
Contrary to the comments of the writer of "'Witch hunt' of commander" (letter, Feb. 12), however, I find little that suggests a "witch hunt" of the colonel is occurring. Googling her name, as suggested, revealed only three relevant links out of a total 10. One was the Stripes article, and the other two were written after the letter was published.
Also, against the letter, Ten Commandments displays in courthouses have been removed for being unconstitutional endorsements; the courts have ruled that "In God We Trust" on currency (which was only a standard since 1957) is legal only because it has lost its distinct religiosity due to "sheer repetition"; and the Constitution does not require an oath of office to use any text at all.
Finally, I'm surprised that the letter writer would make a comparison to Amazon.com's book recommendations. Those recommendations are generated using customer data, and are not endorsed as the official views of Amazon.com. If anything, they are likely to represent the views of the viewer. In contrast, the owners of the Roman Catholic Web site fully endorse the "anti-Obama" and "pro-Catholic" views present on it.
Capt. Ryan M. Jean
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
February 17, 2009
Thank you for your effective efforts
I wanted to explain the reason I felt compelled to donate again to your
foundation. I was immensely impressed with your article 2-9-09 on Col.
Kimberly K. Toney's email directing subordinates to a Christian Taliban
website. The way that colonel backtracked when she received an MRFF letter
from the master sgt., shows how effective your efforts have been. A few
more incidents like this and the Talibanic Evangelist colonels will be
afraid to retaliate against subordinates. It's very encouraging so I had to
Sunday, February 15, 2009
President Obama fulfilled one campaign promise and violated another recently with an executive order revamping the White House office for religion-based and neighborhood programs.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama made clear that he would extend the faith-based initiative started by former President George Bush to help social service programs run by religious and other charitable groups obtain federal grants and contracts. But he also pledged that unlike Mr. Bush, he would provide meaningful safeguards to avoid the blurring of church-state boundaries, including a firm rule barring discrimination on the basis of religion. The rule is notably missing from his new decree.
February 20, 2009
USAF Officer: "Fundamentalist Christian
Influence Ever Present"
I first off wanted to thank you and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation for all of your hard work fighting for
the rights of every day military members. I know it's not an easy job,
as I've seen your courageous cause tarred and feathered in a number of conservative media
outlets. I wanted to express to you my disappointment in the actions (or
inaction) of a new administration that I actively supported. Before I do
that I should introduce myself.
I am a [rank withheld] in the United States Air Force, graduate of the United States Air Force
Academy, and son of an Air Force officer. I was raised in a Catholic
household, and while I retain some of those fundamental values I
consider myself to be somewhat non-practicing, and I certainly do not
let my religious beliefs ever come into play in the workplace. And it's
not just for the sake of "political correctness". Any good officer knows
that trying to inject religious teachings into our diverse military is
detrimental to morale and good order and discipline. Demanding
responsibility and an adherence to the Air Force Core Values is more
than enough. Yet I'm astonished to see that many in our profession do
not feel the same way. Let me assure you that a fundamentalist Christian
influence is ever present in our Air Force, whether I witness it
personally or I hear stories from other Air Force members. Whenever I
bear witness to these instances it's always disappointing, and sometimes
downright uncomfortable. In fact, often it can be terrifying.
February 14, 2009
To: Kathryn Kolbert, People For the American Way
Re: "Rumors of their death ... "
One person fighting a continuing battle against the religious far-right "amerikan taliban" wing-nuts and it's ayatollahs robertson, dobson, f. graham, weidmon, et al., is Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which he founded expressly for the purpose of combatting these zealots and their return to the methods of Torquemada.
It would be gratifying if you as President of People for the American Way, could help by speaking to him, reading his book, viewing his web site, and publicizing his efforts, as well as bringing this to the attention of Rahm Emanuel and President Obama.
For clarification, my name is [name withheld]. I am an alumnus of the U.S. Naval Academy, a veteran, and a retired Federal employee [place of employment withheld], a member of PFAW, and a most-concerned citizen.
February 15, 2009
A female officer I know who had found me through facebook, sent me an invitation to her organization. She has recently left the military to do this with her life:
Military Ministry Website
[USAF officer's name withheld] working with Military Ministry -
Supporting our troops!
Below is the email I sent to her...
[USAF officer's name withheld], I want to commend you for putting forth so much energy towards a cause that you believe in - especially one that helps the military. However, I need to add some concern about your cause. I do understand that you believe whole-heartedly in your faith and the importance it brings to your life, but that is your belief. Unfortunately, the military has recently fostered an environment that shows an unfair bias towards christian beliefs. Have no doubt in your mind - the military is a government entity and falls under the laws of the Constitution of this great country. The constitution spells out that the government will not embrace a religion in government dealings. There are several real dangers of this situation: Often soldiers feel as though they are treated poorly and in many documented cases not given the same opportunities as christian believers. It is fundamentally wrong for superiors to judge their subordinates based on religious beliefs. The other issue is that military members are often a captive audience, who's exposure to many beliefs, issues, news, etc can be easily swayed. Religious beliefs are a personal issues. The military needs to provide it's members with the ABILITY to practice their religion, or non religion, as they see fit - not to push them towards a religion. I know that your organization is not a military entity, however with your access to members of the military, I would caution you to limit your reach into the military community as one of supporting those who already have christian beliefs, and not of a mission to change the military into a christian force. Again, make no mistake about it. The idea of a military who's actions are dictated or even guided by a religious vein (christian or otherwise) is unconstitutional and only brings contempt amongst it's members. A military's actions and the members' religious beliefs are two very separate things. I would love to talk to you more about this if you are interested. As well, I can put you in touch with one organization in particular that deals with the legal matters as they pertain to religion in the military.
All the best,
[name, military rank, and combat unit withheld]
Click here to read USAF Officer's response,
and MRFF's supporter's reply
February 17, 2009
I finished reading your book yesterday, and it brought back a recollection I have after the release of The Passion in the UK in late 2004. I arrived at [base installation withheld] and the chapel was running a program where they were giving away free tickets to active duty (and I believe their family members too) to go see the film. Interestingly, Chaplain Cecil Richardson's son, also Chaplain Richardson, was also stationed at [base installation withheld] around that time. The whole scenario struck me as odd that the chapel would sponsor such a program because of the controversy that had surrounded the film and also that I could not imagine the chaplains sponsoring free movie tickets for any films of other faiths.
The difficult part of the whole religious accommodation issue is that converting others is such a basic tenant of the fundamentalist versions of Christian faith (I know from the inside because I was raised in a Southern Baptist church) so it is difficult for adherents of the conversion-faiths to act secularly in a military environment when they are grounded in their own faiths. This of course begs the question "Is it okay to proselytize if doing so is part of one's religious obligation?" My opinion is no; certainly not in a military setting where pressuring a potential convert too easily crosses the line to become abuse of rank or position. But the fundamentalist, especially those who are passionate about their faith, cannot see that it is wrong. And you have to keep in mind that their allegiance, above all else (to include our Constitution), is to God as they perceive God by their own version of faith.
I personally believe that a DoD directive is needed ordering the suspension of religious practice in military settings because of the power yielded to commanders and supervisors by our rank structure. I am not saying we should do away with chaplains, but they certainly need to be reigned in and they need to re-focus their support role to get away from trying to convert others to their opinion of which spiritual path is absolute. Because the problem is that these types of people do not see it as opinion, but rather a fact that they are clued in on truth and that members of other faiths are not. Thinking that is fine, but when they act on it, they have fouled.
The National Prayer Breakfast event is coming up soon. It is being advertised here at [base installation withheld] with a quote from the Christian Bible's chapter of Psalms. And here is the interesting part...the guest speaker? Chaplain Cecil R. Richardson. I will send you a copy of the slide.
MRFF's Mikey Weinstein
portrayed in major theater production
at Vineyard Theatre in NYC
February 3rd - March 15th
MRFF President and Founder Mikey Weinstein's Federal lawsuit against the United States Air Force in October 2005 was an igniting spark to uncover the unconstitutional religious infiltration of fundamentalist evangelism in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. This play features Mikey’s struggle as part of the larger tapestry of events occurring in and around Colorado Springs.
Click here for more information
A mesmerizing, fiercely intelligent portrait of Colorado Springs.
The Civilians, the OBIE-Award winning theatre company from New York City known for their boldly theatrical snapshots of the human psyche, brings its newest project to the Vineyard Theatre.
In this new play with music, they tackle the fervor behind the Evangelical movement, the effect its growth had on its unofficial U.S. capital, Colorado Springs, and the confusion of a community in crisis following the scandalous fall of pastor Ted Haggard.
Created from interviews with actual persons and featuring music by the award-winning composer of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, This Beautiful City is a fiercely intelligent, explosive and ultimately sincere exploration of a uniquely American phenomenon and its passionate followers.
This Beautiful City is a fascinating and timely look at faith and how it affects the American landscape. The Civilians’ work has been called "superb" by the NY Times and "clear evidence of evolution in the world of modern theatre," by Time Out New York.
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The constitutional violations occurring in our military are so numerous and widespread that we can't possibly find all of them ourselves. MRFF counts on its supporters and volunteers -- the indispensable "eyes and ears" who alert us to everything from the most egregious of constitutional violations to articles we might be interested in.
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