A religious freedom organization is calling upon the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to investigate an officer who left a Bible open in display upon his desk, and his superiors.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a retired Air Force lawyer, told Air Force Times that the display is a violation of service regulations that prevent officers from using their rank and position to advocate for a certain religious viewpoint.
"This was a blatantly clear example of proselytizing," Weinstein said. "Anybody that wants to come to talk to you … you're making it real clear: Here's where I stand on everything."
According to a letter Weinstein sent to the IG, Maj. Steve Lewis with the Reserve National Security Space Institute at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, left a Bible open on display upon his desk, with certain passages underlined and highlighted.
"We don't care if someone pulls out a Bible and wants to read it on their own time, even at their desk, but his wasn't that. This was a static display," Weinstein said. "What if it had been open to the page that calls it a sin if you're gay? What if it was the page of the Bible that supports slavery, or talks about ethnic cleansing? ... You can imagine the blood in the streets if that was a copy of the Koran or a Satanist book or Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion.' "
However, Dr. Ron Crews, a retired colonel and military chaplain, told Air Force Times that Lewis did not violate any service regulations.
"Major Lewis did nothing wrong," said Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. "He was simply living out his faith in a quiet and personal way. No one was required to notice his Bible, much less read it."
Crews pointed to congressional testimony from Air Force leadership that there shouldn't be a ban for airmen having Bibles on their desks.
But Weinstein wants the IG to take action, not just against Lewis but his superiors, Col. Lisa Johnson, the commander of Lewis' unit, and Col. Damon Feltman, commander of the 310th Space Wing.
Feltman tasked Johnson with investigating the Bible display, something Weinstein compared to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being asked to investigate the "Deflate Gate" scandal he was himself implicated in.
"We're looking for discipline because discipline changes behavior," Weinstein said. "If this is not an example of an absolute. quintessential poster-child violation of [Air Force religious freedom regulations], then there are none."
Weinstein said the IG has contacted MRFF and requested documents related to the case.
Crews said he believes that Feltman and Johnson reached the correct conclusion when they ruled that Lewis was not breaking any rules.
"There are many things that offend me, but that does not mean I have to be protected from them," Crews said. "Surely, these airmen and airwomen are mature enough to allow someone to live out their faith. If a Bible on a desk offends, then do not look at it."