The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), headed by Mikey Weinstein, filed a formal demand letter today addressed to to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz by its attorneys at Jones Day law firm on behalf of the following complaint we received from an Air Force officer. The letter summed up by saying,
“[…] The quoted language above of “Three Important Documents” is in violation of the U.S. Constitution and should be immediately removed. MRFF also demands that the Air Force immediately conduct a review of all its training materials to ensure that similar language be deleted from the mandatory reading materials.
Accordingly, we demand the Air Force’s prompt assurances and written undertaking, within fourteen (14) days from the date of this letter, that will cease and desist any and all use of the above-quoted language from “Three Important Documents” and that the Air Force open a review of mandatory training materials to identify and remove other similarly unconstitutional language. If this request is not honored, we shall consider other such legal action as may be deemed advisable to protect our client’s interests.”
Here is an initial email that we received at MRFF about this practice of proselytizing through the command chain wherein he refers to some of this specific language in “Three Important Documents” document used to train officers from a Christian who understands the dangers of Dominionist Christians in our military. (Emphasis added by me)
From: USAF Officer’s E-Mail Address Withheld March 27, 2012 10:31:32 PM MDT To: Information Weinstein <email@example.com>
Subject: Seeking Help From The MRFF
“I am a United States Air Force Officer, a CGO (“Company Grade Officer”; meaning 2Lt, 1Lt. or Captain ) born and raised in an evangelical household. I am writing this statement because I feel compelled to tell people about this. I am horrified and shocked at the blatant violation of the Constitution, and what I feel is a direct attack towards me and officers like me.
Why I write anonymously:
I never thought I would write anything anonymously. I am straight, white, and male. I never experienced being in the “out-group,” the minority. When I imagined whistle blowing about a possible corruption in the government, I imagined I would do so openly; after all, what could they do? Spending these years in the Air Force has taught me the answer to that question. You simply do not know whom to trust when it comes to these particular Christian fundamentalists. The forces at work behind the scenes easily obfuscate themselves, and they they can be brutal. The last person, who spoke out about this on the record, had his career ended, and his service dog poisoned; right in the middle of the faculty offices of the Air Force Academy. It is sad but true I must remain anonymous for the sake of my USAF career and those I love. I hope that someday soon, at least in the 21st century, officers like me can feel safe without fear of reprisal, for fulfilling my oath to support and defend the Constitution.
And so I write, but do so anonymously. This is not the first time, just the most blatant. I have felt this way before, many times. Perhaps not this intensely, because its’ never been so blatant. The instruction to go to chapel was just the last straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve wanted to tell someone about these abuses. Someone who would care. I think I’ve found that person now in Mikey Weinstein. So here goes…”
Selected Letter Excerpts:
• I am a United States Air Force Officer, a CGO (“Company Grade Officer”; meaning 2Lt, 1Lt. or Captain ) born and raised in an evangelical household. I am writing this statement because I feel compelled to tell people about this. I am horrified and shocked at the blatant violation of the Constitution, and what I feel is a direct attack towards me and officers like me.
• Often, in one’s career, you hear that it is an unwritten rule you need to be the right type of Christian to be a good officer. But it turns out it IS written! Not in some obscure corner of the Air Force library but front-and-center in the Squadron Officer School (SOS) curriculum. Unit 1, Module 1, the required reading assignment called “Three Important Documents.”
• The real problem, the one that chills me to the core and gave me flashbacks to my 2nd LT days and being pressured by my superiors, came a few sentences later. In order to be a good ethical officer, according to the example in the text, you should attend chapel regularly and make sure your subordinates know you attend chapel. Otherwise, your command would be seen as ethically lax, and the morality of the unit will deteriorate. There, in black and white, what I always heard being said with winks and nods, and read between the lines, there clear and crisp, as the ink printed on the paper, is the enshrined Air Force Policy – Attend chapel, or be a deviant officer with questionable ethics. There, in my required reading, I read I would be considered not up to the standards of an officer unless I went to church.
• Evangelicals, as a whole, are not the problem. It is those who are deliberately plotting to convert the Air Force to their Version of Christianity; by planting proselytizing material in the textbooks of AETC, pamphlets in break rooms, and plan mandatory chapel events in units across the DoD. They violate our Constitution, marginalize Air Force members, and if left unchecked, could usher in a time where being their type of Christian will determine whether or not you may serve your country.
• I personally have been told by a Major, two Lt Colonels and numerous CGOs, that it would be good for my career to be obviously Christian. One Lt Col. recommended I should play Christian Contemporary music in my office loud enough for people to hear – as he was doing at that very moment – when I arrived at my first duty location as a young impressionable 2nd LT.
• When my fellow Company Grade Officers (CGOs) and our even higher-ranking leaders begin proselytizing, it creates an uneasy pressure for me; a seasoned CGO. I can’t imagine the pressure a young Airman, straight out of high school, might feel upon being exposed to such fervency.
What this officer is sharing from the heart is vitally important and to hear the bulk of his story drives that home. You can read his entire letter by clicking here. In the name of full disclosure, I am on the Executive Board with Mikey Weinstein and former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson IV. We all take seriously these backdoor attempts to “harvest souls” using our military as the breeding ground for conversion in an authoritarian environment ripe with fear, sense of mortality and a longing for meaning. This is parasitic proselytizing at its worst and in the most dangerous institution of all – our military. (About the Author, Leah L. Burton)
Activist, Researcher, Writer against extremism of any kind. An advocate of Separation of Church & State and everyone’s right to have freedom of faith or non-faith.
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