Cheers for Air Force investigation


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is welcoming an investigation into a possible violation of the Air Force’s policy of 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," reported the New York Times. 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. Furthermore, the Catholic website on which the video was located,, included an image entitled "ObamaHitler." Apparently intended satirize President Obama’s support of abortion rights, the president was pictured wearing 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 Web site contained "inappropriate material," reported the Times.

The incident comes about five years after the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was accused of religious bias, and in response came up with religious guidelines that advised against religious conversations between superiors and subordinates and put a system in place to file complaints.

Here’s the RAC’s statement on the matter from RAC director Rabbi David Saperstein:

We commend the Third Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove, for opening an investigation into Col. Kimberly Toney dissemination of a video housed on a website with both religious content and offensive equations of President Obama to Adolf Hitler and “the Antichrist.” By encouraging personnel to view the video, Col. Toney’s action appears to be an endorsement of a particular faith and a potential violation of the right of individual service members to abide by their own faith traditions. The military’s policy of religious neutrality exists to respect the diversity of religious beliefs and protect the religious liberty of both those who serve and those who are protected by our great armed forces. 

As Jews and as Americans, we understand the importance of the separation of church and state that protects the liberty of Americans of all faith and of no faith alike. The ability of our armed forces to provide for the security of this country should not be contingent upon the real or perceived need to pass a religious test.

While we appreciate Col. Toney’s subsequent email of apology for her action, we welcome the Air Force’s attention to this troubling incident. We look forward to a full and thorough investigation that will yield greater awareness and protection of the military’s policy of religious neutrality.



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