The Air Force's two-star chief of chaplains, his deputy, and an Army chaplain, violated service regulations by attending, in uniform, an event sponsored by the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, according to Mikey Weinstein, the controversial leader of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
In a letter to acting Defense Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, Weinstein demanded an investigation of the chaplains' actions.
Maj. Gen. (Chaplain) Dondi Costin delivered the benediction at the July 12 event, in which outgoing Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., was presented with the organization's Torchbearer Award. Forbes has consistently opposed allowing gay and lesbian people to serve in the military, and members of the alliance have also advocated for a renewed ban on LGBT people serving in the military, based on their religious beliefs.
By appearing in uniform and delivering the benediction, Costin "blatantly violated both Air Force and DoD regulations prohibiting the endorsement of a non-federal entity," wrote Weinstein, president of the group that has waged an aggressive campaign for separation of church and state in the armed services.
Weinstein said that the actions of Army Maj. (Chaplain) John Scott, who delivered the invocation, and the Air Force deputy chief of chaplains, Brig. Gen. Steven Schaick, both of whom attended in uniform, also amount to an endorsement of the alliance.
The Air Force chaplains, Weinstein argues, violated part of Air Force Instruction 1-1, which stipulates that leaders "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."
Weinstein questioned what the reaction would be if the chaplains had attended an event on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
"Can you imagine what utter chaos would have transpired had uniformed field grade and flag officers openly participated in and publicly attended, for just one example, a lavish Planned Parenthood awards event … recognizing only pro-choice members of Congress?" he wrote in a letter sent to the DoD inspector general.
Asked whether the chaplains had violated Air Force policy by appearing at the event in uniform, service officials sidestepped the question.
"The AF Chaplain Corps provides or provides for the free exercise of religion to all Airmen and cares for Airmen of every faith including those who have no faith at all," wrote Capt. Brooke L. Brzozowske in an email. "Spiritual care and advisement to leaders on matters related to religious, spiritual, ethical, moral, and morale concerns means that Chaplain Corps members advise military leaders and civilian religious leaders, who endorse chaplains, across the full spectrum of religious beliefs."
In petitioning the IG to investigate the incident, Weinstein argued that if Costin and the other chaplains were found to be in violation of Air Force and DoD policy, they should "be very visibly punished for their deliberate, willful and wanton transgressions.
Read the full letter below: