Secularist group wants Air Force colonel punished for mentioning Christ

(REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Michael Battles/Handout)A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Aviano Air Base, Italy, is seen at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, after being deployed, in this U.S. Air Force handout picture taken August 9, 2015.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a complaint against an Air Force colonel for mentioning Christ during an interview with the 39th Air Base Wing's public affairs office.

In the interview published on September, Lt. Col. Michael Kersten, who was stationed at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, invoked Christ when he was asked which leader had the most influence on him.

"As a Christian, my example is to be like Christ," said Kersten. "He is my guide and affects all of my decisions. He teaches to do all things as unto the Lord and I believe this is synonymous with integrity first and excellence in all we do," he added.

Last Thursday, MRFF president Michael Weinstein sent a demand letter to Col. John C. Walker, commander of the 39th Air Base Wing, complaining that the time, place and manner of Kersten's expression of his faith was unconstitutional.

The letter cited an excerpt from the Air Force Instruction which was quoted as saying, "They 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 claimed that Kersten's statement was proselytizing and the group also took issue with the colonel's remark that his Christian faith aligned with some of the Air Force official core values.

"We find Lt. Col. Kersten's statement of Christian exceptionalism to be extremely egregious, defiant and violative of Constitutional, judicial and DoD regulatory mandates," Weinstein wrote.

The letter also pointed out that Kersten made his remarks inside an Islamic-allied country. Weinstein claimed that the MRFF office has received numerous complaints from the Incirlik Air Base following the publication of the interview. He asserted that Kersten's Christian bias casted doubts among junior airmen who do not share the colonel's beliefs whether they will be treated fairly.

The MRFF demanded the Air Force to reprimand and punish Kersten publicly and apologize to the other men as well as the members of the Turkish military for Kersten's statement.


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