UPDATE: In contrast to reports of an Air Force officer being told to remove a Bible from his desk, Air Force spokesperson Laurel Tingley told me that Air Force personnel are allowed to have religious materials in their desks. In answer to my question about the unnamed Air Force officer and his Bible, Tingley said in an email, “While we cannot verify this story, I can tell you that military members are allowed to have religious materials on their desks.”
Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty wrote to say that he is the source for the story Starnes reported. He said a veteran officer contacted him to say a superior office told him to remove the Bible from sight due to a complaint. If true, the incident sound like the work of an overzealous superior officer. However, it appears that the Air Force policy is to allow such materials to be in view on a desk. To me, it seems like a statement from an Air Force spokesperson should carry at least as much weight than an incident involving one member. If one member having a bad experience is worth a headline, it seems to me that an assurance from an official spokesperson should be worth one as well.
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This statement was just sent to me by Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley on behalf of the Air Force:
“Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization). If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis.The Air Force is dedicated to creating an environment in which people can realize their highest potential without any consideration of one’s personal religious or other beliefs. We work to ensure that Airmen are free to exercise their Constitutional right to practice their religion — in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline; and that do not detract from accomplishing the military mission.”
This is very much like the DoD statement and draws a distinction between simply speaking about one’s faith and coercion.