Menu JTA Search

Air Force probes religious neutrality case

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Air Force is investigating whether one of its commanders violated its position on religious neutrality.

Col. Kimberly Toney, who is based in Europe, sent the thousands of personnel in the 501st Combat Support Wing an e-mail message last month urging them to "take a few minutes to enjoy the attached video and meet a truly inspirational individual," The New York Times reported.

The video detailed the life story of a man who was born without arms or legs and said his faith in Jesus had helped him overcome his physical disabilities. The Catholic Web site hosting the video, 4marks.com, included an image titled "ObamaHitler." Apparently intended to satirize President Obama’s support of abortion rights, the image depicted the president in a Nazi uniform and waving a flag with a swastika. Another article called Obama "a veritable forerunner of the Antichrist."

Toney has since sent another e-mail apologizing for sending out the link "to what I believed was an inspirational message about hope and encouragement," and adding that she was unaware that the site contained "inappropriate material," the Times reported.

In 2004, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was accused of religious bias, and in rersponse came up with religious guidelines that advised against religious conversations between superiors and subordinates and established a system to file complaints.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which tracks religious bias in the military, said it received about 60 complaints about the e-mail.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism welcomed the investigation.

"While we appreciate Col. Toney’s subsequent e-mail of apology for her action, we welcome the Air Force’s attention to this troubling incident," said the center’s director, Rabbi David Saperstein. "We look forward to a full and thorough investigation that will yield greater awareness and protection of the military’s policy of religious neutrality."

NEXT STORY