Vladimir Putin may be known as Russia's president in 2014, but if you ask United States Air Force Academy cadets recently caught up in a religious suppression controversy, he might as well be ruling here. They feel their dorm hallway is becoming as bad as the Iron Curtain ever was, according to a Fox News March 13 report.
But while the "Iron Curtain" sought to suppress the influence of the West on the Soviet Union and beyond, the threat to America's military religious freedoms is far more insidious a curtain to deal with according to many familiar with the case.
Suppressing religion is wrong whether it is done behind an Iron Curtain or in a dorm hallway," said Gary McCaleb. "Certainly, such raw anti-religious discrimination has no place in America's Air Force."
McCaleb is affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom, but they are not the only religious freedom group to take issue with a cadet being asked recently to remove a Bible verse he wrote on his personal whiteboard located outside his dorm room.
Joining them is The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, which includes the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, Liberty Institute and the Thomas More Law Center. And they are all willing to defend any cadet brought up on charges for daring to place Bible verses on their Air Force dorm whiteboards after one cadet leader was told to take his down.
Mikey Weinstein is at the heart of the issue, serving as the director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). But the group's name is a bit deceiving, as it is his organization that is attempting to silence the religious freedom of one particular cadet leader; not protect it.
According to Weinstein, the issue with the Galations 2:20 Bible verse, which reads--"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."--is due to the cadet putting it on his dorm room hallway whiteboard when he also happens to be a leader in the Air Force cadet program. Weinstein thinks the written expression of faith on the wall outside the cadet's dorm room may cause some subordinate cadets passing by in the hallway to think he is unable to be impartial about their faith.
The argument is a poor one if you ask some of the cadets who are subordinates of the singled out cadet, as he has no history of suppressing anyone else's faith expression in his leadership role. And if one considers the fact that many leaders in the military and other career fields are open about their faith (yet also able to respect that of others), so it makes no sense to penalize one cadet leader for expressing his faith through a Bible verse placed on his dorm room hallway wall. It is akin to hanging a sign on the outside of your home door, essentially, like "Welcome, dog lovers live here."
Had it been in his room--not a problem,' Weinstein told Fox News, as he says 'It is not about the belief. It's about the time, the place and the manner."
But that does not appear to be the position Weinstein took in a video appearing on his organization's website. In that video, titled "Religion at war: American soldiers taking it to an extreme," Weinstein tells his audience that Christian American soldiers are the new radical extremists because some of them are "putting Jesus verses on their M16" (like the John 3:16 Tim Tebow used to write under his eyes before a game) or "painting their fighting vehicles with Christian crosses" as the soldiers go into battle on foreign soil.
And he's serious, really believing that this in some way makes them unable to tolerate or respect another person's faith merely because they express their own in life and death combat. No one has asked him about the red-colored crosses that adorn Red Cross vehicles that go to aid others on foreign soil. But maybe that is the next attack on religious freedom; the work of the charitable organizations.
Federal, state and local government employees, including the military, never prevented expressions of faith by their employees in the workplace in the historical past. One was able to see calendars containing scripture verses alongside photos of nature's beauty on office walls, for example. And you could see worn Bibles laid out on top of many a desk during a person's lunch break, if your business took you to one of those offices at that time. And even the wearing of a cross necklace by a secretary or two, or cross cufflinks by their male boss, visually showed religious affiliation without threat of penalty.
And lest one forget, the dutiful military chaplain was always ready to broach the subject of faith in the past, even in the public setting, and as late as a decade ago. But that has been changing in this new climate of hate and intolerance for fundamental Christianity, which began to grow stronger in recent years. In fact, according to an Oct. 2013 report by Fox News, the Air Force Academy considered dropping "God" from their oath "So help me God" because of the threat of a lawsuit by Weinstein's MRFF organization then.
Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, the Air Force Academy Superintendent, rushed to soothe Weinstein's feathers "a mere 68 minutes later" according to him. And the framed poster containing the Honor Oath was immediately taken down he says that she told him in that call. Johnson, in a bid to stave off a lawsuit, also made the final clause in the cadet Honor Oath "optional" according to the USAFA on October 25, 2013.
Now it appears the very ability to write a Bible verse outside one's own dorm room (especially if one is in the military), is becoming a point of contention worthy of the threat of legal action, too. And why? If God is good enough to be asked to protect America from her enemies, then isn't he good enough to be written about on one dorm room hallway wall by an Air Force cadet who lives there? And who is Mr. Weinstein to object to what someone else puts on their respective house door, even if it is in a military community?
Michelle Johnson obviously feels that Mr. Weinstein is entitled to dictate who can express their religious faith and who cannot, ordering that the Bible verse be erased from the cadet's whiteboard a mere two hours and nine minutes after being contacted by Weinstein.
When Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain Speech, he talked about America, her military men and "the fear of the Lord." And he said that war and tyranny were the two giant mauraders to be feared when it come to freedom, along with wicked men who seek to dissolve the framework of civilized society. Churchill neglected to consider the role one woman can play in helping that framework reach a demise, unfortunately. And now Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson is showing him through her eager actions to appease one lone man's threats, that America may no longer stand at the "pinnacle of world power" much longer, as she is being dismantled from within. And her servicemen don't even have the right to their religious beliefs anymore, at least not publicly.