Alexander's Column

Obama's DoD v The Constitution

Suppressing 1st Amendment Religious Expression in the Air Force

By Mark Alexander · Mar. 19, 2014

“God who gave us life gave us Liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” –Thomas Jefferson (1774)

Yet another case of BO’s D-O-D v G-O-D…

During the rancorous debates that preceded passage of the 2014 Defense budget – the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 – one of the proposed amendments was designed to protect the First Amendment rights of members of the Armed Services.

The NDAA as signed by Barack Hussein Obama in December of 2013 included an amendment based on the protective rights language proposed by Rep. John Calvin Fleming (R-LA). Regarding that amendment, Fleming noted: “The conscience rights of our men and women in uniform and their chaplains must be protected. While existing protections have focused on their beliefs, my amendment will extend that protection to the liberty granted by the U.S. Constitution, namely the freedom to exercise those beliefs in speech and actions. This amendment is aimed at stopping the unjust threats and reprimands against service members who have been speaking or acting in accord with their deeply held beliefs, while ensuring that military necessity and readiness are not compromised.”

Indeed, Section 532 of the NDAA, the “Enhancement of protection of rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces and chaplains of such members,” was implemented as a first step toward achieving that goal.

Last week, however, the Air Force Academy, with a little help from perennial atheist agitator Mikey Weinstein, tested the protection of those rights. Recall that Weinstein heads the “Military Religious Freedom Foundation,” or what would be more aptly named the “Military Freedom From Religion Foundation.” (Other Service Academies are not burdened with Weinstein because he has made the AFA his testing ground for atheist challenges.)

One of Weinstein’s resident cadre of campus atheists complained to the Academy’s Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, about a Bible verse posted on a Cadet’s dorm door whiteboard: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20) Those erasable whiteboards are on all Cadet doors, and they are used for personal messages and statements. There is no AFA restriction on what can be posted on them, and Cadets have a respectful understanding of what might be offensive to others – which most assuredly should not include a Bible verse.

That notwithstanding, it was promptly “suggested” to the Cadet that he remove the Bible verse, even though such posts are common.

Johnson claimed in an official statement, “The scripture [on the Cadet’s door] could cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality.”

Really?

On Tuesday of this week, a Cadet with the same leadership rank and position in his squadron as the Cadet who posted the Bible verse on his dorm door, invited the entire Cadet Wing, both in a public announcement to the Wing assembled and by official AFA email, to the “Ask and Atheist Day” event. The event flyer was advertised all week on Academy bulletin screens.

So, are we to believe then that promoting atheism to the entire Cadet Wing through official channels does not raise doubts about “the leader’s religious impartiality”?

The Cadets who contacted me about the atheist event indicated that they were not objecting to the promotion of that event, but to the hypocrisy of that promotion, versus a fellow Cadet being asked to remove a Bible verse from his door. Obviously, only the Christian expression of faith is the target of AFA discrimination, and it is Johnson’s “religious impartiality” which should be in contention.

Of note, Johnson’s press release stated, “While we swear an oath to Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States, Airmen are also bound by [Air Force Instruction 1-1].” (Shouldn’t that read “Airpersons”?) Instruction 1-1 is a regulation put into place in 2009 by Obama’s DoD administrators to suppress religious speech.

Johnson’s reference to “swear an oath” is ironic, given that, as The Patriot Post first reported last year, somebody at the AFA removed the words “So Help Me God” from the Officer and Enlisted Oaths in the AFA’s official handbook. Those words were removed in 2010 and are still AWOL from the current handbook – in violation of federal statutes and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

My column, “End Run on ‘So Help Me God’,” details this omission, and the matter is now the subject of a Freedom of Information Act inquiry to determine who removed those words and why. (I bet Mikey Weinstein’s name pops up.) Suffice it to say that removing “So Help Me God” from official oaths is a far more egregious offense than the current dispute over the Bible verse, but both fall into the same category of faith suppression. However, we may never get an answer given that “the most transparent administration” has stonewalled far more FOIA requests than any other administration.

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Regarding the whiteboard Bible verse, Weinstein told Fox News that it “clearly elevated [fundamentalist Christianity] over all others at an already virulently hyper-fundamentalist Christian institution.” He added, “It massively poured fundamentalist Christian gasoline on an already raging out-of-control conflagration of fundamentalist Christian tyranny, exceptionalism and supremacy at USAFA. You cannot put a picture in front of your room of a white person whipping a black person. You can’t put a picture of anything that’s denigrating outside your room.”

Got that? Posting a passage from the Bible on one’s personal whiteboard is akin to posting a picture “of a white person whipping a black person.” (Shades of Joseph Goebbels in Weinstein’s über -hyperbolic rhetoric.)

Former spec ops commander Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin (USA Ret.) says, “The very troops who defend our religious freedom are at risk of having their own taken away. The worst thing we can do is to stop Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, especially the chaplains, from the free exercise of their faith. … If a scripture scares [the AFA administrators] this much, then [some of those they are training] may not be very effective when confronted by a committed enemy who is willing to die for his or her beliefs. This academy should be training warriors. Scripture is hardly a threat.”

James and Welsh

The AFA’s leadership malfeasance spilled over into Air Force budget testimony before Congress last Friday, with both Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh being asked for a detailed explanation of why the AFA is suppressing religious expression. Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Michael Turner (R-OH), Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Randy Forbes (R-VA) pressed for answers.

Lamborn noted, “The Air Force Academy is in my district, and … I’m very disturbed by what happened with this Cadet. I think it’s a suppression of religious rights.” He has written a letter of protest to Johnson, noting, “We are asking future officers to perhaps give even their very lives to protect and defend the Constitution and yet denying them rights from that same Constitution.”

As Forbes put it to Sec. James, “Can you imagine a young Cadet when he’s forced with the entire chain of command coming in there and telling him basically this is inappropriate?” He objected further, “Perhaps most offensive, the Air Force said this was a teaching moment, that the Cadet’s action of putting the Bible verse on [the whiteboard] was inappropriate based on leadership principles.”

Forbes then asked Gen. Welsh, “What other inspirational quotes have Cadets been forced to remove from their personal whiteboards other than verses from the Bible?”

Welsh insisted the “single biggest frustration I’ve had in this job is the perception that somehow there is religious persecution in the United States Air Force.” He added, “We remove hundreds of quotes from those boards. … You have to get the facts right on every one of these cases.”

Now, I’ve met Gen. Welsh, and I found him to be in possession of strong character and leadership qualities – and a devoted Christian. But if he’s been told that the AFA has removed “hundreds of quotes from those boards,” I for one would like to see the evidence of those removals, preferably without issuing another FOIA request. According to a response I received from Gen. Welsh regarding the issue of “So Help Me God” being removed from the AFA’s official handbook, he was told that was “a printing error on a wall calendar,” not an obvious omission from the handbook.

Memo to Gen. Welsh: You can’t “get the facts right” if somebody at the AFA is feeding you misinformation.

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So what now?

To ratchet up the stakes, some AFA Cadets are standing their ground in protest by posting this offensive note on their door whiteboards: “IN GOD WE TRUST”

By “offensive,” I mean an offensive strategic move to challenge the culture of religious suppression at the AFA. (The Patriot Post is offering 4"x6" stickers with our flag over the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” free of charge to Cadets at any service academy. E-mail GodTrust@PatriotPost.US to inquire about obtaining quantities of these stickers.)

Of course, Mikey Weinstein is furious: “This is an absolutely horrible, shameful disgrace. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an open rebellion like this happening at any military academy. It’s like they’re sticking their middle finger up at what the academy did.”

Will AFA Superintendent Johnson demand our National Motto be removed from her Cadets' doors?

If so, a religious Liberty coalition, including the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Liberty Counsel, the Liberty Institute and the Thomas More Law Center, announced they will provide legal defense for any Cadet brought up on charges.

Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry believes the AFA actions are a direct violation of Section 532 of the NDAA as noted previously, saying, “If the Cadet didn’t violate any rules, then why was the quote removed? … This is not only morally wrong, it’s illegal. … We met with Col. Paul Barzler, the Air Force Academy Staff Judge Advocate [and] pointed out that under the Constitution, federal law, and military regulations, Cadets have the right to religious exercise. I was shocked when he responded that [according to Obama’s DoD policy] the term ‘religious exercise’ does not include written or verbal speech.”

Personally, I’m not sure why anyone would be shocked at any directive from the Obama administration.

Under the pretense of “religious tolerance,” Obama’s administration has been advancing his mandate to remove all expressions of faith from government forums. This eradication serves the Left’s strategic objective of replacing Rule of Law with the rule of men – because the former is predicated on the principle of Liberty “endowed by our Creator,” while the latter asserts that Liberty is the gift of government.

Stand your ground, Cadets!

Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis

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62 Comments

Christy in Tennessee said:

Via a comment left on The Patriot Post's Facebook page in response this essay (https://www.facebook.com/PatriotPost):

"When I served in the U.S. Navy, there was a Chief Petty Officer who was a believer and follower of Christ. He wasn't obnoxious about his faith, he just led by example and speech. He related an experience that I've remembered ever since. Allow me to share. He was serving in Hawaii and received a summons to appear before the Commanding Officer. When he arrived, the C.O. said that he'd been receiving complaints about the Chief's speaking about Jesus and God to people on the base, and he asked that he refrain from doing so in the future. The Chief asked permission to speak and was granted so by the C.O. The Chief said "as soon as you get everyone else on the base to stop talking about "God" and "Jesus", I'll be glad to comply." Somewhat confused, the Commanding officer asked him to elaborate. The Chief said that, "everywhere I go I hear sailors, officers and enlisted, cursing and saying "Oh, Jesus Christ! . . . and God Da**d . . ." The Commanding officer withdrew his request and dismissed the Chief. Point made, point taken."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Capt. Bob in Medina, OH said:

I recently attended a training seminar that included a "mock trial" in Columbus, Ohio where a sitting Common Pleas Court Judge swore the witness removing " so help Me God" and replacing it with "under pain of perjury." I have recently testified elsewhere and the language was not altered in those proceedings. Good news, though, this Judge is up for reelection. Duty, Honor, Country.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Korea Vet in Bedford, NH said:

So, apparently "Air Force Instruction 1-1" supersedes the US Constitution?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 2:54 PM

PhilipM in California said:

I think Mikey Weinstein's name might be misspelled. Perhaps it should be "Whine"stein? That's all he seems to spend his life doing--whining about this or that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Hamilton in IL replied:

Weinstein said the whiteboard bible verse, "clearly elevated [fundamentalist Christianity] over all others at an already virulently hyper-fundamentalist Christian institution.” I say what's wrong with that? We've all seen Jewish men wearing those tiny caps on their heads. That means they hold their religion in the highest esteem. What about Indian women with those red dots on their foreheads? That indicates their respect for their religion. In a country with religious freedom, this should be accepted practice.

Weinstein also compared whiteboard bible posts to posting "a picture of a white person whipping a black person" - the comparison being that both are "denigrating". So I go back to the Jew wearing his cap and the Indian with the red dot. Is that denigrating to others who see them on the street? Would a whiteboard picture of either of these common sights be denigrating?

I say these statements by Weinstein reveal his warped mind. He must have some sort of demented chip on his shoulder, the size of Mt. Everest. He must be the atheist's atheist - intolerant of any religion. His logic is completely wrong, and if we were to follow his views to their protracted conclusion, no one would be free to practice their religion and society would likely be crippled and assaulted by perpetual intolerance. We would be like the Islamists.

Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 10:54 AM

billy396 in ohio said:

I have no doubt in regard to the bravery of the cadets at our military institutions. I would do anything within my personal power, including providing those flag stickers, at my cost, to EVERY cadet who wanted one. These cadets MUST NOT fold under this authoritarian regime. Our federal fovernment, in particular the executive branch, is completely and utterly out of control and MUST be stopped. No matter what it takes, no matter what it costs, and no matter who suffers. Unfortunately, now is the time for that tree of liberty to be watered. If we fail to stop Obozo and his car full of clowns, then I fear that Hillary the Ugly is next in line to continue the destruction of our freedoms and our Constitution. If the GOP doesn't pull a rabbit out of their proverbial hat, this nation is doomed. Those of us left alive will literally be telling our descendants what it was like when this actually was a "free country".

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Ben in Indiana said:

Common knowledge in the intelligence community, regarding motivation of any individual to rise to some occasion and do their duty (or your desire), is to consider what will motivate them to do what you want them to do. For that, you look for a way to classify the person you want to serve you. For this, you have M.I.C.E. Mice stands for 1: Money, 2: Ideology, 3: Compromise, and 4: Embarrassment, Ideology is superior to the other inducements, because they will have a common goal with you, and will work to make your objective successful. Strip away ideology, and you are left with the unreliable mercenary reasons found in the other three. Compromise and Embarrassment are based on blackmail. They do your bidding, but hate you and will turn on you if such opportunity presents itself. Money motivates most traitors and spies. It takes a lot of money to buy their loyalty and the price can easily go up. Just ask anyone who has had to bribe a congressman or senator. You only get self sacrifice and very deep rooted loyalty from a person motivated by ideology. It is incomprehensible to me, why the Air Force would want to destroy the very best motivator they have (easy to instill or destroy) in any young Cadet, who is there by personal choice. I would encourage our young people to cultivate the ideology in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The other motivators are expensive and not very cost effective by any measure. The greatest threat this government faces is an ideological enemy. It cost the moslems very little to virtually cripple our country financially. M.I.C.E., of these four, the big "I" is vastly superior. Why would these so called leader teachers try to destroy that? Are they also our National ENEMY?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Kurtis Davis in Braggs, Oklahoma replied:

Well said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:37 PM

mugbucket in VA said:

I wonder how the Air Force Academy atheists who are so offended at a Bible quote on a whiteboard would act by putting quotes of Former Presidents and Founding Fathers instead…

For example:

“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”
- George Washington

Food for thought.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:17 PM

Jsmith in Fredericksburg said:

While you are completely correct in everything you say, King Barack has broken the law consistently since he became president, just as Eric Holder has told Attorneys General they should not enforce the law. It's futile to expect Barack to begin obeying the law now unless a way can be found to compel him to do so.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Ben in Indiana replied:

The only way to compel him to obey our law is to hand cuff him, and put him in Fort Leavenworth, as a "guest visitor".

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:35 PM

revivevirtue in Iowa said:

Prediction: Command's next step will be to issue a rule that outlaws posting anything on the door.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Kurtis Davis in Braggs, Oklahoma said:

If our military cannot allow individual freedom of religion, then the Medal of Honor must be re-designed---currently, it depicts the Roman goddess of war.
Likewise, if religious expression is to be banned, then all military insignia depicting Islamic mosques, and other Islamic symbols, must be banned as well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Ben in Indiana replied:

Be careful friend. Regimes like obama and gang hate with irrational passion, any logical and educated person. Consider the Cambodian killing fields, and the Iranian slaughter of educated people after the fanatical moslems took over there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Ed in Boulder City said:

The cadets should post writings from the Koran and see what happens.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:37 PM

howiem in Bangkok said:

Why do all these atheists have Jewish names?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:39 PM

PaulRod in Kansas City MO replied:

Simple, Howiem...Because God has a sense of humor...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 6:59 PM

jobardu in Annandale VA said:

How much do you want to bet that if a Muslim posted a Koran Quote on his white board the same people would be jumping up and down asserting that it is his right to do so and denouncing all those who objected?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 4:10 PM

PK in SC said:

That is the Administration's way of avoiding telling the truth and it apparently trickled down to this sniveling officer. A real leader would march up to the AFA and get the facts and evidence first-hand. Obama his ilk will just say "I've been told..." and that way they can't be blamed when some nameless, faceless, person feeds them the lies. Shame on this guy. You may think he is a leader with character, but his actions speak otherwise.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Joseph B. L. in Valley, NE. said:

Weinstein really should stop calling himself "Mikey." It's the reason the Godless one has been getting the crap kicked out of him all his life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Honest Abe in North Carolina replied:

Good ol' Mikey must be proud of his genealogy since he can trace his direct line back to Judas Iscariot. Use prayer, the weapon of righteousness on this poor lost soul.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 5:25 PM