MOUNTAIN HOME, Id.– An Air Force base in southwestern Idaho has removed a Scripture-based painting from one of its dining halls after a complaint was submitted by an activist group that seeks to keep religion out to the U.S. military.
Last Friday, the Pentagon received a letter of complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which urged Air Force officials to remove a particular painting from the Mountain Home Air Force Base. MRFF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It believes that the nation’s Armed Forces should be strictly nonreligious in nature.
“No religion or religious philosophy may be advanced by the United States Armed Forces over any other religion or religious philosophy,” the MRFF’s mission statement reads. Furthermore, “No member of the United States Armed Forces may be compelled in any way to witness or engage in any religious exercise.”
The painting to which the MRFF objected is titled “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” and features images of a modern day policeman standing in front of a medieval crusader, with “Integrity” and “Matthew 5:9” written on the bottom. The artwork was created by Ron DiCianni of Tapestry Productions Inc., and until last week had been hanging in one of Mountain Home Air Force Base’s dining halls.
According to reports, a non-commissioned officer from the Air Force base sent an email to MRFF last week, alerting them of the painting. In the email, which was obtained by The Huffington Post, the unnamed officer said he has been “extremely disturbed and shocked” by the artwork, which he described as “unconstitutional,” “a matter of outrage,” and “a clearly Christian picture of religious supremacy.”
“This picture made me feel terribly uncomfortable, disheartened and disappointed,” the officer continued. “I and countless other Airmen were forced to look at this ‘Crusader/USAF’ painting while we ate. We had no other choice. I believe the Department of Defense and the USAF shouldn’t be shamefully promoting a specific religion.”
Later in the email, the officer made it clear that several of his fellow airmen were also offended by the painting, and suggested that removing the painting would be “one small step in overcoming the epidemic of out-of-control Christian religious extremism in our U.S. military.”
After receiving the email, the MRFF immediately jumped to action, urging Pentagon officials to get rid of the questionable artwork. Less than one hour later, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” was removed from its display position at the Air Force base.
The Pentagon’s remarkable suddenness in obeying these demands has led to some concerns over the level of influence the MRFF wields with military officials. This comes a month-and-a-half after MRFF’s founder, Mikey Weinstein, told The Washington Post that religious proselytizing by military superiors is “a national security threat,” “sedition and treason” and “spiritual rape.”
Meanwhile, the president of Tapestry Productions, Grant DiCianni, told Christian Newswire that he was “deeply saddened” by the Pentagon’s decision to have the inspiration painting removed. He also pointed out that the artwork’s message “is one that the modern day military should be proud to embody—the idea of integrity in the service of peace.”
“We want to be clear that here at Tapestry Productions, we have the utmost respect for the men and women of this great country who wear the uniform of our Armed Forces and who have sacrificed so much to defend America,” DiCianni stated.“I am certain that religious censorship does not reflect their values nor does it reflect the beliefs upon which this nation was founded. However, given the events of the last few months, it appears that the Pentagon, under the leadership of Defense Secretary Hagel, has undertaken a censorship campaign to rid the military of any vestige of Christianity.”
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