July 18, 2008 – The Jewish Observer reports on new accusations of unconstitutional religious activities at Wright Patterson Air Base in Ohio. The report is based on work done by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which has received 100 complaints from people who’ve worked at that air base over proselytization and worse going on by military officers. Here’s a story from one person on that base:
At public speaking engagements, Mikey Weinstein says he often reads a letter he received in July 2006 from a former contractor at Wright-Patt. Back at home in Albuquerque, he reads from the letter on the phone:
“I worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for just over a year as a civilian contractor…Staff meetings were prefaced and closed by fundamentalist Christian prayer sessions, and the senior NCOs who led the prayer sessions made it clear to the military trainees that they were judged on whether or not they enthusiastically participated. The trainee air persons were given the choice of attending fundamentalist Christian religious prayer ceremonies on Sunday or being assigned to particularly onerous substitute duties. It was made very clear to them that decent evaluations and a successful training period leading to a tolerable term of enlistment or a career in the Air Force included completely embracing fundamentalist Christianity…I was appalled to find groups of senior officers praying as a decision-making aid…Once I got to know people and heard more conversations, I realized that for many officers, the war in Iraq is not at all politically motivated, but religiously motivated. It is a fundamentalist Christian jihad that will bring on the apocalypse and rapture, which is what they want…Hearing this from people who hold destructive atomic and nuclear weapon systems is terrifying to me…immediately after I renewed my contract, I was repeatedly and aggressively proselytized and told to ‘get with the Jesus program and help spread the word of Jesus.'”
And here’s a statement from Mikey’s son, who was stationed at the base himself:
Casey Weinstein describes the atmosphere when he was stationed on active duty at Wright-Patt in 2005.
“I had an issue early on with mandatory prayer at a mandatory Thanksgiving luncheon given when I first got to my unit,” Casey Weinstein says.
He says that a prayer at the luncheon was offered in Jesus’ name, a violation of Air Force guidelines.
“I was told I could go and address the issue with one of the unit members…I addressed the issue in a very calm manner. I said, ‘I just want to let you know there are new guidelines about this.'”
Another issue that came up, Casey Weinstein says, was religious content sent out through official base e-mail.
“It was called The War on Christmas (an excerpt from the book by former Fox News anchor John Gibson) and it was sent out to a bunch of people using official e-mail that just trashes on people who have problems with Christmas being in the workplace.”
Casey Weinstein went to his direct supervisor to discuss this e-mail.
“Now apparently, he heard that I had complained about the Christian prayer in Jesus’ name on Thanksgiving, which was supposed to be a secular prayer,” he says. “So he flipped out. He started yelling at me, with the door open, in front of subordinates, basically just ruining my credibility in the squadron. I got back up and got in his face and showed him the regulations and showed him the regulation about not being allowed to use e-mail for those purposes, here’s the appropriate prayers, and he backed down really quickly.”
“In the military, they want complete and team players,” Mikey Weinstein says. “Anyone who says, ‘That’s great, but you’re in violation of the bedrock principle of our country, which is our Constitution — It’s asking too much of a young trooper to stand up. And it’s very hard to say, ‘No sir, no ma’am, you can’t do this.'”
All of this is part of the lawsuit they’ve filed. One of the most interesting things about the MRFF is that the vast majority of the complaints they’ve received from military personnel – and we’re talking over 8000 complaints – are from Christians.