In an angry letter sent to General Mark A. Welsh III, the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, demanded a general court-martial for Maj. Gen. Craig Olson, Fox News reported Sunday. His alleged crime? He mentioned God during a speech given at the National Day of Prayer Task Force event held earlier this month.
Moreover, he credited God for his military accomplishments, and referred to himself as a “redeemed believer in Christ.” According to Weinstein, that act violated Air Force regulations that prohibit airmen from endorsing a particular faith or belief.
Not only does Weinstein want Gen. Olson “aggressively and very visibly brought to justice for his unforgivable crimes and transgressions,” he wants “any and all others who assisted him with his NDPTF speech of fundamentalist Christian supremacy be likewise investigated and punished to the full extent of military law.” Olson, the Air Force Times said, “is program executive officer for C3I and Networks at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.”
During his 23-minute speech, Gen. Olson spoke of “flying complex aircraft; doing complex nuclear missions — I have no ability to do that. God enabled me to do that.” He also said God “put me in charge of failing programs worth billions of dollars.”
“I have no ability to do that, no training to do that,” he added. “God did that. He sent me to Iraq to negotiate foreign military sales deals through an Arabic interpreter. I have no ability to do that. I was not trained to do that. God did all of that.” Olson concluded by asking those in attendance to “pray for Defense Department leaders and troops preparing to be deployed,” Fox reported.
Weinstein characterized Gen. Olson’s speech — which was broadcast on “GOD TV” — as “brazenly illicit and wholly unconstitutional.” He also called it a “brutal disgrace to the very uniform he was wearing and the solemn oath he took to support and defend the United States Constitution.”
He also cited a portion of Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12. The portion of the instruction he quoted read: “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. 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.”
The portion of the instruction Weinstein did not quote, however, says airmen have a right to religious freedom. Moreover, the instruction says airmen “should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.” Given that Gen. Olson was speaking at a Christian event, it is quite likely most of those in attendance agreed with his statements.
Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said the Air Force “places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religion or to observe no religion at all.” Additionally, he said the Air Force is “dedicated to maintaining an environment in which people can realize their highest potential.”
Reaction to Weinstein’s letter was fast and furious as many expressed their displeasure with the idea of punitive action for expressing belief in God. Of the 26 pages of comments, only one person supported the letter.
A general court-martial, Military.com explained, “is often characterized as a felony court, and may try all persons subject to the UCMJ, including officers and midshipmen.” Those convicted in a general court-martial could receive the death penalty, “when specifically authorized.”