COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. — An Air Force major who had been criticized by a church-state separation activist who wanted him “aggressively punished” for long displaying an open Bible on his desk has been officially cleared of wrongdoing.
“We have concluded that no abuse of liberties has occurred,” Lt. Col. David Fruck told reporters on Tuesday. “Therefore, Maj. Lewis is allowed to have his Bible on his desk if he wishes.”
As previously reported, Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) recently sent a letter to Col. Damon Feltman, the commander of the 310th Space Wing at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, to issue a complaint about the Bible displayed by Maj. Steve Lewis, a supervisor at the Reserve National Security Space Institute.
“For years, [Lewis] has kept an open, yellow-highlighted Christian Bible displayed front and center, quite prominently, on his official USAF work desk in an open office work environment,” Weinstein said.
“The egregious constitutional and DoD regulatory violations of such a brazen display of sectarian Christian triumphalism and exceptionalism have been noted by many USAF members through the years,” he asserted, but none have expressed objection due to “fear of reprisal and retribution.”
Weinstein demanded that the Bible be moved out of sight, and kept to his own personal use.
“MRFF now demands that you order this Major Steve Lewis to immediately take down his Christian biblical display
from his official USAF desktop,” he said.
Weinstein further requested that Lewis be investigated and “aggressively punished” for “poisoning” the environment at the institute with the biblical display.
“MRFF demands that … pending the results of the investigation, both he and his direct supervisor, Colonel Lisa Johnson, be swiftly, visibly and aggressively punished for allowing this long-running, repulsive violation of USAF regulations and bedrock Constitutional law to fatally poison the Command Climate in the RNSSI,” he wrote.
Lewis removed the Bible from his desk while the matter was investigated, but he is now allowed to restore the Scriptures to their previous position if he so desires.
Weinstein says that he is disappointed in the outcome, and has now filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain all internal documents surrounding the matter. (Read here.) He also plans to submit a letter to the Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general to request a review of what he called a “fatally flawed process which was a travesty from the very beginning.”
However, some opined from the beginning that Lewis had committed no wrongdoing.
“I want to personally thank Major Steve Lewis for displaying his Bible replete with yellow highlighted verses, as I do all of the time,” Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force chaplain assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, wrote in an article last week about the matter. “Major Lewis has a constitutional right to embrace his sincerely held theological convictions without anyone abridging his free exercise of religion.”
“His devotion to Scripture is evidence of being a Christian (Ps. 1), which is why it is important for the military to ensure that anti-God, anti-Christian hate groups do not subdue his rights that many soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Airmen have died defending,” he continued. “Supporters of religious liberty should be defending the Constitution, not denigrating Christians, which is why Weinstein should be ignored.”
Editor’s Note: Hernandez’ opinions are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military or religious organization.