Without Concrete Action, New USAF Regulations on Church-State Separation Will be as Useful as a “Football Bat”
At the very beginning of August 2012, I blasted outgoing (now-retired) Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (CSAF), Gen. Norton Schwartz, for his lackadaisical and utterly impotent attitude toward the unconstitutional epidemic of coercive proselytization and innumerable religious violations within the United States Air Force (USAF). Referring to Schwartz as the “Joe Paterno” of the USAF for his truly despicable role in covering up of this cascading torrent of spiritual molestation, predation, and abuse, I cited the years-long, disingenuously cordial and utterly inconsequential string of meetings and telephonic communications between him and me. With great regret and no small amount of frustration, I noted that the General’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.” This dystopian description was in reference to the dire national security repercussions of the ongoing Christian fundamentalist takeover of what constitutes the most formidable and lethal aerial war fighting force devised in human history.
Our criticism of Schwartz’s track record as Chief of Staff hasn’t fallen on entirely deaf ears. As regular readers of this column well know, one of my favorite maxims is a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Once again this approach has been universally validated. How? In the form of a new official USAF document. This mandatory USAF directive was issued mere days after my Op-Ed condemnation of Schwartz’s term as CSAF was published. Entitled “ Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards,” this document establishes a uniform standard of conduct within the USAF and serves to underscore the fatally obscure and confusing series of instructional guidelines that had previously been haphazardly spewed across the entirety of the USAF chain of command. The guidelines laid out within Air Force Instruction 1-1 (AFI 1-1) govern various aspects of the conduct expected of all USAF airmen and cadets in the field of culture, conduct, values, discipline, and performance. According to an Air Force press release, “Having a one-stop shop for standards-related guidelines, while not unprecedented, has long been absent in the Air Force.”
The cover sheet of this 27 page document bears former CSAF Schwartz’s certification, and reads in big, black, and bold type: “COMPLIANCE WITH THIS PUBLICATION IS MANDATORY.” Far more importantly, the cover further explains, “failure to adhere to the standards set out in this instruction can form the basis for adverse action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). An example would be a dereliction of duty offense under [UCMJ] Article 92.” This invokes the draconian possibility of trial by courts-martial faced by armed forces members who willingly or unwillingly fail to obey orders or regulations.
Of particular significance for those of us who value the Constitutional guarantees that prevent us from falling into the grip of fundamentalist Christian tyranny is Section 2.11 of AFI 1-1:
2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Airmen, especially commanders and supervisors, must ensure that in exercising their right of religious free expression, they do not degrade morale, good order, and discipline in the Air Force or degrade the trust and confidence that the public has in the United States Air Force.