Sep 14, 2011

USAF Chief Affirms No Religious Test Policy for Military

 Clause 3, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution

In the wake of an exclusive report in Truthout [Leopold] last July revealing that for two decades the Air Force used Bible passages, religious imagery and NAZI citations to instruct nuclear missile officers on the morality of launching nuclear weapons, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz issued a policy memorandum sent Tuesday to all major commands that affirms the No Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, as well as Clause 3, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibiting a religious test for public office and trust.

The policy is a victory against the efforts of a pervasive force in the military, political-religious dominionism, a Chistitian nationalist movement seeking to institute its version of authoritarian Christianity, that endorses theocratic visions of "biblical law," codified in major spheres of American society, most troubling in the U.S. military."

Mikey Weinstein, the President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that works to ensure religious freedom for all U.S. service members broke the story with writer, Jason Leopold, with a religiously-oriented PowerPoint training presentation and Air Force documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Weinstein, perhaps dominionism's most visible enemy for his dedication to civil rights and pluralism, is known as the "constitutional conscience of the U.S. military," and is recognized as the MRFF site notes as "the undisputed leader of the national movement to restore the obliterated wall separating church and state in the most technologically lethal organization ever created by humankind: the United States armed forces," a designation that brings his family, friends and Weinstein routine death threats, or mundanely prayers that he be killed or consigned to hell.

Weinstein reacted to Gen. Schwartz' memorandum, "Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion" with the following statement:
General Schwartz deserves significant kudos and comprehensive congratulations for being THE most senior Pentagon official to date to ever send this strong a mandate of Constitutional religious compliance to our United States armed forces members. While MRFF wishes that such a letter had been sent by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force a very long time ago, the old adage 'better late than never' most certainly applies. While this letter may not be a home run, it is a damn good line drive single to potentially start a rally of Constitutional religious freedom compliance, which has been scandalously lacking in the entire Defense Department for decades. Gen. Schwartz has the U.S. Air Force at least now 'talking the talk.' Whether the USAF can 'walk the walk' will depend upon many factors, not the least of which is whether ANYONE in the Air Force is EVER punished for violating its clear mandates of Constitutional recognition for BOTH the No Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the Bill of Rights' First Amendment. To that end, we must all remember that while the First Commandment says, 'You can't have any other Gods before Me,' the First Amendment says, 'Oh yes you can!'
Below is the text of Gen. Schwartz' memorandum.


1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670

SUBJECT: Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion

Leaders at all levels must balance Constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and its prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, 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. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline.

Chaplain Corps programs, including activities such as religious studies, faith sharing, and prayer meetings, are vital to commanders’ support of individual Airmen’s needs and provide opportunities for the free exercise of religion. Although commanders are responsible for these programs they must refrain from appearing to officially endorse religion generally or any particular religion. Therefore, I expect chaplains, not commanders, to notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs.

Our chaplains are trained to provide advice to leadership on matters related to the free exercise of religion and to help commanders care for all of their people, regardless of their beliefs. If you have concerns involving the preservation of government neutrality regarding religious beliefs, consult with your chaplain and staff judge advocate before you act.

General, USAF
Chief of Staff

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