The reference – “Jeremiah 29:11” – prompted Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, the controversial head of the Albuquerque-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to “demand” that the Air Force “re-send the solicitation email with all unconstitutional, sectarian, proselytizing material specifically removed.” The email did not include the text of the biblical verse. Acknowledging that the notation – which was part of the automated email signature of a civilian employee in the contracting office of the Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland – violates Air Force policy, the emails were resent Tuesday without the biblical reference, base spokesman Carl Grusnick said Thursday.
Jeremiah 19:11 reads, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
The original notifications, emailed on Oct. 3, are part of Kirtland’s efforts to encourage small businesses to apply for government contracts, Grusnick said. The businesses receiving the notifications have previously requested that they be contacted when a contract germane to their business is put out for bid, he said.
The biblical reference did not sit well with Weinstein, a former Air Force judge advocate whose 2005 charges against the U.S. Air Force Academy led to an investigation that found religious “insensitivity” toward non-fundamentalist Christians at the academy.
Weinstein has waged war against what he sees as a culture of Christian proselytizing in the uniformed services.
Chris Rodda, the foundation’s senior research director, says on the organization’s website that 43 individuals contacted Weinstein about the biblical reference contained in the Oct. 3 emails.
Grusnick said Weinstein contacted Air Force officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio – the headquarters of Air Force Materiel Command, which oversees the Air Force Research Lab – on Sunday.
Wright-Patterson officials then contacted Air Force Research Lab officials here, Grusnick said.
“Officials here reviewed the matter, and a corrected email went out Oct. 7,” he said.
“Airmen are restricted from adding slogans, quotes or other personalization to an official signature block,” he said. “In this case, unit leadership is re-emphasizing the requirement to adhere to established guidance governing official signature blocks.
“Obviously, the matter is being addressed with the employee,” Grusnick said.
Weinstein said Thursday that he had asked Air Force officials to resend the email minus the biblical reference, to discipline anyone responsible, and for an apology. He said all three were accomplished, although he received only a verbal apology so far.
“We view this as a victory for the Constitution and for the Air Force directives that are out there,” Weinstein said. “… But if we can’t get a fairly low-level contracting specialist to know not to put biblical citations on their official Air Force emails … then what else is going on?”