A group of U.S. Air Force officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees are calling for an investigation into the installation commander of Edwards Air Force Base in California, accusing him of violating Defense Department policies on religious proselytizing.
On Sunday, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation demanded that Defense Secretary James N. Mattis “immediately and comprehensively” investigate Air Force Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert.
The foundation, which seeks to maintain the separation of church and state in the military, provided reporters with a copy of the demand Monday.
At issue is Teichert’s website, called Prayer at Lunchtime for the United States, in which the commander says he encourages “Bible-believing Americans to take time to specifically pray for our nation at lunchtime every day.”
The foundation has asked the Defense Department to determine whether Teichert’s conduct “interferes with or violates the civil liberties of service members and civilians under his command” or “the diversity or equal opportunities of service members and civilians under his command.”
Michael Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said his organization represents 41 “client complainants,” most of whom are practicing Christians. The group also includes Muslims, Jews, Hindus and atheists, he said.
In the group’s demand letter, foundation attorney Donald Rehkopf accused Teichert of “using both his military rank as well as his position and status as an Air Force officer to aggressively promote his brand of religion — clearly giving the appearance if not outright impression that he, in his official status, is endorsing if not outright proselytizing” his religion.
Teichert’s publicly posted remarks “demonstrate his discriminatory animus and overt condemnation of all personnel under his command who do not share his personal and particular dominionistic brand of Christianity,” the complaint letter said.
Teichert commands the 412th Test Wing and is also the installation commander, according to the Edwards website.
On his religious website, Teichert goes only by “John,” and writes that he is an active duty brigadier general who has served in the Air Force since 1994, “and who was saved by grace through faith in Christ in 2004.”
“The Lord has blessed his career while burdening his heart with the need for our nation to return to its Christian foundation,” his biography on the website says.
The website includes a prayer list, which includes “President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the Trump administration,” “a return to our Biblical foundation,” “recognition of God’s preeminence in our lives and in our land” and “the unborn,” among others.
The website also links to a 2014 interview that uses Teichert’s full name and discusses his military career. In it, he says, “We have allowed our country to slip away from its founding Christian principles while it has become increasingly intolerant of Christianity.”
Requests for comment by representatives of Edwards Air Force Base and the Pentagon were not answered Monday.
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