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Thread: Air Force won't punish general for speech about God

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    Senior Member Bos Mutus's Avatar
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    Air Force won't punish general for speech about God

    Air Force won't punish general for speech about God

    By Jeff Schogol, Staff writer 5:45 p.m. EDT May 21, 2015

    The Air Force has determined that Maj. Gen. Craig Olson did not violate an Air Force instruction preventing leaders from endorsing religion. (Photo: Screenshot.)



    The Air Force has rebuffed a civil liberties group that demanded a two-star general be court-martialed for making a speech in uniform crediting God for his career successes.
    Maj. Gen. Craig Olson gave a 23-minute speech at a May 7 National Day of Prayer Task Force event in which he said God enabled him to fly aircraft, manage programs worth billions of dollars and sell weapons systems to the Iraqis.
    He also asked the audience to pray for Defense Department leaders, who "need to humbly depend on Christ," and to pray for troops preparing to deploy again so they can "bear through that by depending on Christ."
    Mikey Weinstein, CEO of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote a May 13 letter to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh demanding that Olson be court-martialed for violating an Air Force instruction prohibiting Air Force leaders from endorsing a particular belief. The letter included a link to Olson's speech, which was live-streamed by GOD TV.

    "General Welsh, as the old saying goes, 'a picture is worth a thousand words," Weinstein wrote in the letter. "Thus, please take a good, hard look at this link below and tell me that you're just not sick to damn death seeing an active duty Air Force General Officer boastfully proselytizing and freely witnessing his personal brand of his own fundamentalist flavor of his evangelical Christian faith to literally a worldwide television audience and, concomitantly, streaming over the World Wide Web on "GOD TV."
    Weinstein cited Air Force Instruction 1-1, which covers Air Force Standards.
    "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," the instruction says. "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."
    But the Air Force has decided that Olson did not break Air Force Instruction 1-1 by speaking at the "congressionally-supported event," said service spokesman Lt. Col. Pete Hughes.
    "His remarks were his own personal opinions and do not represent the views of the United States Air Force," Hughes said in an email Thursday to Air Force Times.
    A spokesman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force told Air Force Times on May 15 that Olson spoke at an event hosted by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.
    That doesn't matter, said Chris Rodda, senior research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Olson's remarks still violate Air Force Instruction 1-1.
    "Olson was very clearly endorsing – in uniform – and extending preferential treatment to Christianity and the specific brand of Christianity promoted by the event," Rodda told Air Force Times on Thursday. "It makes no difference who it was sponsored by. Either way, that Air Force Instruction 1-1 applies."
    Weinstein said the Air Force's decision that Olson was expressing his personal views at the event shows that the separation of church and state in the Air Force is now "nothing but smoke and debris," especially considering that Olson spoke on international television.
    I can't say I see an issue with this General sharing his personal testimony at the prayer breakfast...

    Weinstein, I think, way overstates his case on this one...he if just said "Hey, this is a broadcast event, is it appropriate for him to be in uniform?" He might have gotten a better reception...

    While I'm a big believer in the idea of a separation of Church and State...and I think that for many many years, the Officer corps, especially, had a strong and inappropriate Christian Club mentality to it, I think we've gotten past a lot of that...the idea isn't to completely prevent people from talking about their lives and if religion is part of that, so be it....just keep it about your own personal story.
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    I don't get the complaint here. It's a PRAYER BREAKFAST. This is the kind of stuff that gives the impression that there is a "war against religion".

    Now, a more appropriate action, IMO, would be to have military members stop going to these things in uniform in the first place. We aren't allowed to attend many things in uniform for this very reason.

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    Senior Member technomage1's Avatar
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    To me, it was his appearance in uniform that crossed the line. If I talk about how much I like Pepsi in uniform, then the appearance is that the Air Force is endorsing Pepsi, and it's no different in this example.

    I agree with Weinstein in that this proves the AF policy is nothing but smoke and mirrors. AFIs obviously don't apply to everyone equally. I have a feeling if I ever spoke at an Athiest event in uniform my butt would be in the CCs office with the article 15 paperwork so fast the front door wouldn't even have time to shut behind me.
    Last edited by technomage1; 05-22-2015 at 06:19 AM.

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    My only gripe is how was this ok, but that incident with that chaplain a few weeks back wrong when he used his position as a councilor to chastise someone for their sins?

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    Senior Member Bos Mutus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garhkal View Post
    My only gripe is how was this ok, but that incident with that chaplain a few weeks back wrong when he used his position as a councilor to chastise someone for their sins?
    In bold you answered your own question.

    The chaplain case wasn't clear to me if he was chastising people during private counseling, or if he was basically running around the unit making comments to people. If it was the first, then I don't agree with this punishment, if the second...then he deserves whatever he got.

    If this same General had given this same speech at Commander's Call or a Staff meeting...then he would have been completely wrong in doing so.
    Last edited by Bos Mutus; 05-22-2015 at 02:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by garhkal View Post
    My only gripe is how was this ok, but that incident with that chaplain a few weeks back wrong when he used his position as a councilor to chastise someone for their sins?
    There is a difference between a voluntary prayer meeting and a mandatory meeting. The Chaplin had a captive audience. If you have the right to ignore ot walk away without consequences I, as a atheist< have no problem with it. Most Chaplins will leave you alone if you tell them you don't want to here what they are preaching,only a few idiots fail at their duty by refusing.

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    And now Whinystein is getting on the "this general needs to be punished bandwagon".

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    Edit from moderator: last warning on embedded links.

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