Friday Afternoon, September 10, 2021
MRFF VICTORY!!!
MRFF EXPEDITIOUSLY STOPS
"HAVE A BLESSED DAY" EMAILS
FROM AIR FORCE TEAM LEADER

In blatant violation of Air Force regulations on emails, which
clearly state "Do not add slogans, quotes or other personalization
to an official e-mail/social media signature block,” and Air Force
Instruction 1-1, which states that "Leaders at all levels ... must
ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to
be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief," a team leader
at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska was closing all of his official emails with the religious phrase "Have a blessed day."

On behalf of its 13 clients (7 of whom are Christians) who objected
to constantly having to see this I'm-a-Christian phrase in official
emails from their superior, MRFF contacted base officials and put
a stop to this team leader's regulation-violating behavior.
Hands typing on computer keyboard
After a phone call to Lt. Col. James Collins,
Director of Operations at Eielson Air
Force Base, MRFF Founder and President
Mikey Weinstein sent him the following email:

From: Michael L Weinstein <mikeyw4444@icloud.com>
Subject: Our Phone Call
Date: September 1, 2021 at 2:36:53 PM MDT
To: James.Collins

...Lt. Col. Collins, call sign “Face”, thank you very much for the substantive phone call we just had a short while ago as a result of our multiple MRFF client complaints (the majority of whom are from practicing Christians) regarding the unconstitutional use of “Have a Blessed Day” by GS-12 USAF civilian Mr. James Lazenby, the Red Flag Team Chief of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron at Eielson AFB, Alaska, on ALL of his official USAF E-mails…

..Mr. Lazenby’s clear attempt to proselytize his sectarian Christian faith by using his official USAF E-mail as a force multiplier, if you will, is PRECISELY the type of opprobrious behavior prohibited by AFI 1-1, Section 2.12…

…...AFI 1-1 (Emphasis added):

2.12. Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief. 

…Face, Mr. Lazenby's persistent use of his E-mail in this illegal fashion is also blatantly violative of the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, its construing Federal caselaw, other DoD and USAF Directives, Instructions and Regulations as well as the Core Values of the USAF and key provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

….please kindly specifically address this matter expeditiously and direct Mr. Lazenby to immediately cease and desist from this repugnant unconstitutional proselytizing of his Christian faith to his otherwise helpless subordinates and others…such nefarious activity is extremely antithetical to the optimal good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron!

……indeed, as you and I discussed on our call, can you imagine the unbridled uproar which would surely ensue if other USAF personnel started using phrases such as “Have a Godless Day”, “Have a Satanic Day”. “Have a Day with Allah” etc.on their respective official USAF E-mails??!!…you get the point, eh?!

…..Face, please kindly advise me ASAP as to the disposition of this critical matter….

……with thanks in advance and much respect for all you do, 

….MIkey Weinstein……(USAF Academy, Class of 1977 and the father of 3 other USAF Academy grads)...Founder and President, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)…..505-250–7727

Mikey Weinstein’s subsequent September 8 email
to Col. Gage Evert, commander of the 354th Operations Group at Eielson Air Force Base:

………Col. Evert, I just spoke with your 1st Shirt…as the 354th Group Commander this unconstitutional matter falls under your responsibility ....sir, would you please call me ASAP?!…thank you!!…Mikey Weinstein…Founder and President, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: militaryreligiousfreedom.org) ...standing by at 505-250-7727
Even as the wheels of MRFF were still turning and the issue was not yet resolved, one of MRFF's
13 clients sent this email thanking Mikey:

From: (MRFF Client’s name and USAF job title withheld)
Date: September 8, 2021 at 12:19:28 PM MDT
To: Mikey Weinstein
Subject: Thanks Mikey

I have spent most of my life in and around the military as a dependent, active duty airmen, Guardsman and as a (USAF job title withheld). I've seen countless times where people in leadership roles use their position to advocate their faith, force group prayers, even force church attendance to young and impressionable troops at boot camp. 

For the past couple of years I have been receiving work related emails from a team chief in the unit I work at as a (USAF job title withheld) who placed the phrase "Have a Blessed Day" in his signature block. It bothered me quite a bit but I didn't think there was much I could do about it since the same emails are sent to everyone in the organization including the unit commander so I let it go. 

Then I found the Military Religious Freedom Foundation through twitter and decided to make contact to see what my options were. Within an hour I received a reply from Mikey Weinstein asking me to call him personally for more details about the matter. I provided the details and within 24 hours Mikey had made phone calls to the team chiefs direct supervisor and has kept in contact with me to provide updates. 

It is very refreshing to know there is an organization who takes on these types of cases to keep religion and the government separate. In this day and age it is not guaranteed that one is shielded from reprisals for stepping forward and doing the right thing. My name was kept out of the matter so I have no fear of reprisals for my actions.

Mikey is truly fighting the good fight for those of us who experience the forced indoctrination from christians who use their leadership roles to proselytize their beliefs. It may seem like a small thing to add "Have a blessed day" to an official email but as I was taught in the military, there is no such thing as a small potato when it comes to conflict of interest. There can be no leeway when it comes to freedom from religion in today's military. Thanks Mikey and keep up the good work, we need more like you.

Sincerely, (MRFF Client’s name withheld)

Success!!! This morning MRFF received another
email from the same client informing us that the team leader is no longer using the offending phrase:

From: (MRFF Client’s name withheld)
Subject: Success!!
Date: September 10, 2021 at 10:20:57 AM MDT
To: Michael L Weinstein <mikeyw4444@icloud.com>

Mikey, I just now received an email from James Lazenby and low and behold the offending phrase is gone. Congratulation my friend, you did it. This is a small but important victory for those who see the need to separate the church from the state. Other like minded military members should take solace in knowing that there is someone out there who is willing and very capable of righting these type of wrongs no matter how small they may seem. Keep fighting the good fight Mikey, your work is reaping rewards. 

Sincerely, (MRFF Client’s name withheld)

MRFF OP-ED
ON DAILY KOS

Trending story on Daily Kos

When a military member wears their
religion on their sleeve – literally

By: MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda

Friday, September 10, 2021
Chris Rodda
An email received by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) a few days ago began:

“I have spent most of my life in and around the military as a dependent, active duty airmen, Guardsman and as a (USAF job title withheld). I've seen countless times where people in leadership roles use their position to advocate their faith, force group prayers, even force church attendance to young and impressionable troops at boot camp.”

Many emails that come in to MRFF express similar personal accounts of what the email writer has seen or experienced regarding the pushing or even forcing of religion on themselves or other military members. Why is this important? Because it explains why so many service members are very sensitive to what might seem like minor things to those on the outside. A Bible on their commander’s desk; religious language in an official email; a superior inviting them to a Bible study or their church or opening staff meetings with a prayer. What these seemingly little things do is identify their superior as a Christian – and not just a Christian, but a Christian who wants to make sure that everyone else knows they’re a Christian. And that makes many service members, both non-Christian an even many Christians, uneasy. Will their commander or superior treat them differently if he or she finds out they’re not a Christian? Will he or she treat them as less than if they are Christian but not the right kind of Christian? Will they be retaliated against if they don’t join in their commander’s prayers or show up at their commander’s Bible study? How will this affect their career? No service member should have to have these worries in a country that separates church and state. But many do.

So, let’s look at a couple of these seemingly little things that make so many service members uneasy.

Over the years, MRFF has successfully gotten several military units to change their unit’s patch after complaint’s from service members about the patch’s Christian supremacist imagery or slogans, and recently one such patch was reported to MRFF. This one didn’t come from a service member who was required to wear the patch, but was sent to MRFF by a very unlikely source – someone from one of the many fundamentalist Christian organizations that we’re usually at odds with, saying “we might agree on this one.” What this normally adversarial person sent was a link to a video of a military combat training exercise a few weeks ago in which the US Marine Corps Forces Pacific and other military commands torpedoed an old out-of-service ship. They told us to look at the 0:23 mark in the video, writing “there's an ensign in the foreground with a shoulder patch directly facing the camera, which is a slightly stylized version of the ‘He>I’ meme that is a popular Christian bumper sticker/tee shirt logo, meaning that Christ is greater than I,” and said they were “a bit dumfounded” when they saw it. Here is a photo of the patch:
Close up of patch on Marine's uniform sleeve
(The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual
information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.)
After some investigation, MRFF determined that the service member wearing this unmistakably Christian patch — literally wearing their religion on their sleeve — is not a Navy ensign but a Marine first lieutenant from the US Marine Corps Forces Pacific. Being an officer means that the Marine wearing this patch is the superior of all enlisted Marines under them. 

Marine uniform regulations for the flight suit uniform that the first lieutenant is wearing say (emphasis added):

“The flight suit will be worn with flight boots, green/black cushion—sole socks, green crew—neck undershirt, garrison cap, black leather nametags, and no more than two unit/squadron (CNO/CMC approved) patches. …”

So, a unit/squadron patch, according to regulations, must be approved by the Chief of Naval Operations or the Commandant of the Marine Corps, but in MRFF’s experience we have found that such patches aren’t always approved at this level. Unit and squadron commanders often allow patches that aren’t properly approved, and this “He>I” Christian slogan was probably not approved at the high level that regulations dictate. But it was approved by somebody in the chain of command, unless this first lieutenant is the sole Marine in his unit or squadron wearing a completely unauthorized patch. MRFF is currently trying to get to the bottom of this, but the point for the purposes of this piece is the effect this blatantly Christian message on the arm of a military officer has on others in their unit. It sends them the clear message that someone in their chain of command is a Christian of the variety that feel the need to advertise their religion on the uniforms of their unit. What does this mean? It means that anyone in this unit who has a complaint about religious proselytizing or bullying will be afraid to take that complaint to their chain of command, knowing that someone in that chain of command is the person who approved this sort of Christian advertising for their unit’s patch. This is a big reason that so many service members come to MRFF with their religious issues instead of taking them to their chain and going through military channels to resolve them.

[...]
MRFF heartily applauds President Biden's removal
of KellyAnne Conway from the U.S. Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors as strongly as we opposed her appointment by the former guy.
(The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual
information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.)
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