The Military Religious Freedom Foundation reposted a Huffington Post article on its website with the title, “The Pentagon Most Certainly is Listening to Mikey Weinstein.” The atheistic group, which seems to have a particular axe to grind with evangelical Christianity, is led by Weinstein, an Air Force Academy graduate. Just this past April, Weinstein had a private meeting with Pentagon officials regarding religious proselytization in the military – a matter which he calls a “national security threat.” Weinstein likened religious dialogue to “spiritual rape,” a matter which he considers equivalent to “sedition and treason” that “should be punished.” He pushed for the Pentagon to court martial anyone guilty of religious proselytizing. His remarks generated national outrage, leading the military to downplay his influence, yet the recent episode at Mountain Home Air Force Base should cause Americans who cherish freedom of religion to question why Weinstein suddenly has so much influence in the military.
An inspirational painting that featured a crusader and referenced a Bible verse – Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” was removed from the dining hall at Mountain Home just fifty-six minutes after Weinstein called the Pentagon. Apparently, a non-commissioned officer (NCO) from Mountain Home acted as a spokesperson for a group of 22 Airmen (supposedly seventeen of whom are Christian – both Roman Catholic and Protestant) who wanted the artwork removed. None of the Airmen have been named. Completely disregarding the chain of command – an overly egregious matter which was heinously overlooked by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and other leaders in the Pentagon – the picture (which had been hanging in the facility for several years) was removed. The MRFF called the painting “repugnant.”
Colonel Christopher Short, Commander of the 366th Fighter Wing, informed Fox News that the painting was removed as soon as he was made aware of it. He received calls from both the Pentagon and Weinstein. Short added, “We make reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrate the religious diversity of our Airmen.” He remarked the picture was removed in order to comply with the Air Force’s position outlined in the Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force. “The document states that we will remain officially neutral regarding religious beliefs – neither officially endorsing nor disapproving any faith belief or absence of belief,” He noted.
The commander told Weinstein “that he will be ordering another inspection to rid his base of anything else like what had been hanging in the dining hall,” according to Chris Rodda, MRFF’s senior research director. Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (US Army, ret.), vice-president of the Family Research Council, stated that the removal of the picture raises serious questions about Weinstein’s influence within the military, and remarked that this incident also raises serious questions about the Pentagon’s attitude towards religious liberty.
The proper course of action for the NCO and other Airmen, in following the chain of command, would have been for them to contact their local Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) office. The primary objective of the MEO program is to improve mission effectiveness by promoting an environment free from personal, social, or institutional barriers that prevent Air Force members from rising to the highest level of responsibility possible. Air Force policy is to conduct its affairs free from unlawful discrimination against military members, family members, and retirees based on race, color, gender, national origin, or religion. The MEO office at Mountain Home would have then been able to investigate the matter with input from proper sources, such as the Chaplain Corps and Judge Advocate General, to determine the proper course of action. Instead, Weinstein – an individual – was essentially granted authority over the Air Force’s chain of command. That is frightening for not only people of faith, but also for Americans who cherish both the Constitution and military members who need the lawful structure of the military to keep matters from becoming chaotic. Structure exists not only for the well-being of military members, but for the retaining the framework necessary for dealing with matters of life and death in times of war. The influence granted to Weinstein and the MRFF pose a threat to Constitutional rights and to national security (by undermining the chain of command). All lovers of liberty should be alarmed at what transpired at Mountain Home AFB.