Good Riddance to the Air Force's Religious Intolerance Enabler in Chief
The brilliant and courageous abolitionist Frederick Douglass once rightfully asserted, "Power concedes nothing without a demand.” How very true. I demanded that Norty live up to his oath, in which he swore to support and defend the United States Constitution. Given the imperative of the obvious national security implications, this sworn oath especially includes enforcing the separation of church and state in the USAF. I was far from alone in this demand. Amidst such stomach-turning outrages as the “ ’Jesus Loves Nukes’ speech” and other mandatory training programs of a decidedly unlawful, sectarian nature, several thousands of Norty's fellow airmen who are MRFF clients also demanded the same thing, as did the American people. He ignored us all, and took us for chumps by mouthing and lip-syncing the words needed rather than lending his actual command voice to our wholly legitimate demands. Mere pretty words are only whimsical, gossamer echoes when recognizably solid deeds fail to back them up. Pathetically, in this case, there were none. The situation is far worse now that Schwartz has issued that one little memo and failed to manifestly stand behind it. Indeed, the memo means nothing without an accompanying directive ordering its comprehensive transmission to every airman at every "hill and dale" location in the USAF. Schwartz’s term of service as USAF Chief of Staff has epitomized a tortured, gutless legacy that’s now being left behind for the rest of us to wretchedly wallow in.
In an interview given to the press a few days ago, Schwartz was asked about the religious intolerance scandals within the USAF that plagued his time as Chief of Staff. Schwartz, brazenly lying through his teeth, answered with those same pretty words he thought we all wanted so badly to hear. He told the reporter that he thought that the Air Force has "sensitized our commanders to their obligations in this regard." Alfred Tennyson said, "A lie that is a half-truth is the darkest of all lies." Norty, you’re not just a liar. You’re a damned liar.
Norty Schwartz, you were the Air Force, just as Joe Paterno was Penn State. It was your solemn duty to protect the men and women under your command from unconstitutional religious bigotry, denigration, marginalization, dehumanization, hectoring proselytization, and spiritual molestation at the hands of the myriad “Jerry Sanduskys” among your hundreds of thousands of compliant subordinates. Enjoy your retirement in the full knowledge that, having failed to protect countless USAF men and women from the fundamentalist religious predators within USAF ranks, they will forever remember you as their very own Joe Paterno. Your lack of any cognizable semblance of empathy for the innocent victims of this ubiquitous, unconstitutional scourge of "Old School" prejudice enabled and empowered this conflagration of scandals to occur. Your wanton attempts to whitewash these civil rights crimes have trumpeted a clear message that the USAF will abide, aid, and abet these systemic violations of the precious Constitutional rights of its personnel.
We had trusted you. You betrayed that trust. Et tu, Norty?
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein is president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He previously served as White House Counsel in the Reagan administration and general counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corp. He is the author of the recently released book, "No Snowflake in an Avalanche: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Its Battle to Defend the Constitution and One Family's Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places" (2012, Vireo).