An atheist known for attacking expressions of faith in the U.S. Armed Forces has convinced the Air Force to remove a newsletter contribution from a colonel because he mentioned his faith.I was having a bit of difficulties with this story, understanding exactly what the issue is and why the Reich is freaking out so much. Enter Hemant Mehta who does a nice job in clarifying the issue(s) at hand.
Mikey Weinstein, who leads the so-called Military Religious Freedom Foundation, complained after an Air Force colonel wrote about his faith in a newsletter called “The Stinger.”
The colonel is Florencio Marquinez, a medical group commander in the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard. Among other observations, the colonel wrote in the newsletter that his faith has sustained him throughout his military career.
Ron Crews, executive director of The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says the Ohio Air National Guard cannot censor the protected speech of one of its members based on the content of that speech.
“When we found out about this,” says Crews, “we drafted a letter to the commander to give him the constitutional reasons why this good colonel has every right to say that faith is what has sustained him in his military career.”
Weinstein has congratulated himself in the past for how quickly military leaders respond to his complaints – even counting the minutes – and this time was no different.
“After merely speaking with me once over the phone,” Weinstein wrote, the “amazing and caring” Col. Baker “immediately recognized the seriousness of this egregious Constitutional and Air Force regulation violation.”
Crews, however, calls the colonel’s decision “just one more egregious example” of the Air Force denying officers and airmen the right to exercise their faith.
Point 1::"On the surface, it doesn’t sound like he’s proselytizing or saying everyone else needs to agree with him. The problem is that he’s definitely promoting his faith, not as a private citizen, but as a military leader using his title, uniform, and publication space,,,."
To which Mehta points us to Section 2.11 of the Air Force Standards: ",,,they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion."
It is the same point that Mikey Weinstein makes when citing Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733 in his letter to Colonel Craig R. Baker Commander, 180th Fighter Wing (OHANG) :
This Court has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society... While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. ... The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it... Speech [to include religious speech] that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command. If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.Point 2::"Weinstein also told me this decision would never have been questioned by the Religious Right if Marquinez was promoting Islam or atheism instead of Christianity. He said, 'It’s not a small thing. It strikes to the very core of who you are as a human being.'"
As Mikey states in his letter, "It is a fair question to ask what Ron Crews and his attorney advocates would say if Colonel Marquinez's online letter had professed a belief in Allah, the Prophet Mohammad, and the Holy Koran, or from any other non-Christian text and/or belief system. Beyond any doubt, if that had occurred, I’m betting that then, and ONLY then, would they have told you about Parker v. Levy and advocated strict adherence to the non-proselytizing standards in AFI 1-1, quoted above.
And just to note, Mikey Weinstein is NOT an atheist, he is a Jewish Agnostic.
One call, that's all: Atheist picks up phone, Air Force surrenders again