Air Force Base in Illinois Removes Commander’s Name from Prayer Breakfast Invitation After Complaint from Secular Group

Military Religious Freedom Foundation

A U.S. Air Force base in Illinois has removed a commander’s name from a prayer breakfast invitation in response to a complaint from one of the nation’s leading secular legal organizations. 

Last Thursday, the New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a demand letter to Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County on behalf of 15 unnamed Air Force officers, enlisted personnel and civilians.

The letter was sent to Col. Jerimiah Heathman, objecting to a mass email he sent out to those stationed at the installation. The email included an invitation to the “National Prayer Breakfast” scheduled to take place on Feb. 25 at the base’s event center. The invitation was sent under Heathman’s formal title of commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing.

Because Heathman urged recipients to send in their RSVPs, MRFF argues that the invitation signified a “command priority.”

MRFF also contends that Heathman violated the constitutional rights of subordinates under his command by “establishing religion” in a manner that violates the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

“You have additionally created a de facto ‘religious test,’” MRFF President Michael Weinstein said in the letter.

MRFF further argued that Heathman “blatantly breached the bounds” of several Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force directives, instructions and regulations. The letter cites Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12, which states that “leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith