Remember that story earlier Thursday about the Air Force telling security forces they couldn't greet visitors by telling them to have a "blessed day"?
Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is allowing guards to say "have a blessed day" again after briefly stopping the greeting following a complaint from Mikey Weinstein, founder and CEO of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Weinstein told Air Force Times he had heard from 13 airmen and civilians, nine of whom are practicing Christians, about security forces airmen wishing them a "blessed day," but they were too afraid to report the matter. After a recent phone conversation, a security forces commander agreed to have airmen say "have a nice day" instead.
But then the story that airmen had been told they could not use the word "blessed" went viral, and the Air Force took a second look at the matter.
"The Air Force takes any expressed concern over religious freedom very seriously," Robins Air Force base spokesman Roland Leach said in a statement on Thursday. "Upon further review and consultation, the Air Force determined use of the phrase 'have a blessed day' as a greeting is consistent with Air Force standards and is not in violation of Air Force Instructions."
The security forces airmen "portray a professional image that represents a base all of Middle Georgia can be proud of," the statement says.
Weinstein said he was not surprised by the Air Force's decision, but he feels bad for the security forces commander for having his authority undermined by the service.
"Whenever the Air Force is pushed to the test, they will crater to the religious right," he told Air Force Times. "This an example where it's fine to say, 'Welcome to Team Robins,' but, as I said before, what are you going to do if the gate guards say: 'Welcome to Team Robins, hail Satan!'"
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation will consult with its legal counsel to see if any of its clients are prepared to sue the Air Force in federal court about this matter, Weinstein said.
"They talk about, 'It's a military base all of middle Georgia can be proud of;' unfortunately, the Constitution to these people – and Air Force regulations – do not apply simply to 'middle Georgia.' They also don't apply to Middle Earth. They apply to the United States of America and this is a vicious savaging of the constitutional protections that are afforded by the First Amendment along with Department of Defense regulations. The Air Force has not heard the last of this."