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Friday, March 20th, 2009

New York Times Logo
Sunday Edition

Air Force Looks Into
‘Inspirational’ Video

By Eric Lichtblau

Sunday, March 15, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Air Force has begun an investigation into whether an e-mail message from an Air Force commander in Europe directing air personnel under her command to an “inspirational” story on a Catholic Web site violated the military’s official position of religious neutrality.

The commander, Col. Kimberly Toney, who leads the 501st Combat Support Wing in Europe, sent the thousands of air personnel in her wing a message last month recommending that they “take a few minutes to enjoy the attached video and meet a truly inspirational individual.”

The video highlighted the life story of Nick Vujicic, now 26, who was born without arms or legs and who credited his faith in Jesus with helping him overcome his physical limitations.

Some Air Force personnel who watched the video said they believed that it breached the military’s ban on endorsing particular religious views. Some viewers said they were even more bothered by articles and commentary on the Catholic Web site,

One image on the site satirized President Obama’s support for abortion rights by showing him wearing a Nazi uniform and waving a flag with a swastika in an image labeled “ObamaHitler.” Another article, also critical of Mr. Obama’s stance on abortion, called him “a veritable forerunner of the Antichrist.”

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog group that monitors possible religious bias in the military, said it had received about 60 complaints from military personnel about the colonel’s e-mail message.

The Public Record Logo

Air Force to Probe Whether
E-Mail Endorsing Religious
Website Broke Rules

Sunday, March 15, 2009

By Jason Leopold

The Air Force has launched a formal investigation to determine whether an e-mail distributed to thousands of Air Force personnel in Europe directing them to visit a far-right, Catholic website where President Barack Obama was compared to Adolf Hitler and the Antichrist violated the military’s position on religious neutrality.

Last month, The Public Record broke the story about a Jan. 16 e-mail Air Force Col. Kimberly K. Toney’s sent to eight different Air Force installations in the United Kingdom and Norway which included the subject line: “Inspiration of the day - A Giant of a Man - Meet Nick Vujicic,” who was born without limbs.

“Every day, all around us, we meet people who make a difference in our lives,” said Col. Toney’s e-mail that directed personnel to the website “Please take a few minutes to enjoy the attached video and meet a truly inspirational individual who will provide you with an opportunity to think about life and how we handle challenges in our personal and professional day-to-day lives. Keep doing the GREAT things you do and don't ever let the challenges get you down. Live, learn and enjoy! Thank you!”

The electronic communication pointed Air Force personnel toward a five-minute video clip about 25 year-old Vujicic whose story of hope and courage is rife with religious overtones. A synopsis of the video says,  “God has given [Vujicic] the strength to surmount what others might call impossible. Along with that, the Lord has placed within him an unquenchable passion to share this same hope and genuine love that he's personally experienced with more than two million people all over the globe."

Stars and Stripes Logo

Air Force weighs e-mail’s
religious neutrality

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Air Force is investigating whether an e-mail sent by a commander in England to airmen under her command violated the military’s stance of religious neutrality, officials confirmed Monday.

The e-mail, sent Jan. 16 by Col. Kimberly Toney, commander of the 501st Combat Support Wing at RAF Mildenhall, referred airmen to an "inspirational" video on a Catholic Web site.

The video featured the life of Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. In the video, Vujicic says he finds his "greatest joy in this life is to introduce Jesus to those he meets and tell them of his (Jesus’) great desire to get to know them personally by allowing him to become their Lord and Savior."

Investigation of
MRFF-Exposed Incident
Draws Cheers From
Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism

JTA Logo

Capital J

Cheers for Air Force Investigation

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By Eric Fingerhut

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is welcoming an investigation into a possible violation of the Air Force's policy of religious neutrality.

Col. Kimberly Toney, who is based in Europe, sent the thousands of personnel in the 501st Combat Support Wing an e-mail message last month urging them to "take a few minutes to enjoy the attached video and meet a truly inspirational individual," reported the New York Times. The video detailed the life story of a man who was born without arms or legs and said his faith in Jesus had helped him overcome his physical disabilities. Furthermore, the Catholic website on which the video was located,, included an image entitled "ObamaHitler." Apparently intended satirize President Obama's support of abortion rights, the president was pictured wearing a Nazi uniform and waving a flag with a swastika. Another article called Obama "a veritable forerunner of the Antichrist."

Toney has since sent another e-mail apologizing for sending out the link "to what I believed was an inspirational message about hope and encouragement" and adding that she was unaware that the Web site contained "inappropriate material," reported the Times.


This week's article comes from Buckley Air Force Base
in Colorado, and was written by Master Sgt. Stephen Love of the 460th Space Wing Equal Opportunity office
-- the very office where an airman would go for help
if they had a complaint about inappropriate
religious activity on the base.

Air Force Print NEws Today Logo

In his March 18, 2009 article "The Opportunity to follow is afforded to us all" Master Sgt. Love presents:

"... a tremendous biblical illustration of the ever-present duplicitous nature of followership between leading and accepting and executing orders"

and explains how:

"This compassionate military leader knew that even though he was not a religious man, demonstrating his willingness to follow Jesus' command without question would save his follower's life."

Click here to read entire article.

MRFF's Inbox

March 18, 2009

Hi Mikey,

Here is the email communication that I have sent to Senator Carl Levin,
(Ch. of Senate Armed Service Commission) as his constituent, today.

Yours for the Separation of Church and State,
[name withheld]

Dear Senator Levin,

As a former U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain as well as enlisted veteran, with two honorable discharges, I am concerned about the spiritual abuse and harassment of our military personnel and the violation of their First Amendment religious rights by fundamentalist Christian dominionists who have managed to ingratiate and ensconced themselves as both military chaplains as well as officers, both commissioned and non-commissioned, in all of our armed forces and are using their privileged and command positions to overthrow the separation of church and state and make their religious views the dominate one in the military.

I would urge you to meet and talk with Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the Air Force Academy and former assistant general counsel in the Reagan administration, and a lifelong Republican, who has devoted the last several years of his life to battling what he has come to regard as a fundamentalist takeover of the Air Force Academy and the U.S. military at-large. This he initially discovered when his son at the Air Force Acadamy was suffering persecution and harrassment at the hands of fundamentalist cadets and faculty. He subsequently has established the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to work to expose the violations of church and state that are occurring in our military forces and restore freedom of religion to our military personnel. He has written a book about his experiences entitled, “With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military” (St. Martin’s Press).

Many publications have written articles about him and the work of his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, with the New York Times being one of the most recent with its 1 March 09 article “Questions Raised Anew About Religion in Military

As your constituent and as a fellow Democrat I would urge that you have your Senate Armed Forces Committee or appropriate sub-committee hold investigative hearings into this problem of the violation of religious rights in the U.S. Armed Forces. Mikey Weinstein would make an excellent witness.

By the way, I shared this concern with you when you were the guest speaker at our Isabella County Democratic meeting back in October 08, just prior to the general election.

[name withheld]

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"I just saw James Carroll's film and it was so powerful.
Thank you for being one of the inspirations for it.
All of us well remember your powerful words
at University Synagogue this year."
- A MRFF Supporter


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You be our researcher

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.

So, keep the emails coming, and never think that anything is too insignificant or assume that we might already know about it. You never know -- you might have stumbled into the next bombshell of a story and not even realize it.

Please report anything that
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