Air Force security forces at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia are once again permitted to use the phrase, “Have a blessed day,” when greeting visitors, following a brief period of prohibition.
The phrase was banned for a short time as a result of action taken by Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) president and founder Mikey Weinstein.
WMAZ reported on Thursday that an unidentified member of the Air Force complained to Weinstein about being greeted “no less than 15 occasions over the last two weeks” with the phrase, “Have a blessed day.” The complainant’s letter to Weinstein, dated March 9, said the Air Force active duty member wanted to make known “a possible church/state separation issue.”
The letter read:
I am an active-duty Air Force member/employee currently assigned to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia for the purpose of training. I have been entering through what is known as the “Russell Gate” since the 23rd of February. On no less than 15 occasions over the last two weeks, I have been greeted by the military personnel at the gate with the phrase “Have a blessed day.” This greeting has been expressed by at least 10 different Airmen ranging in rank from A1C to SSgt. I found the greeting to be a notion that I, as a non-religious member of the military community should believe a higher power has an influence on how my day should go.
I apologize that I cannot provide recordings of these incidents as I feel I would be endangering my position and family by doing so. I’m sure sending an authorized representative of MRFF to enter the gate with a government id will be immediately greeted with the same message of faith.
I prefer to keep my name withheld as I know I would be discriminated against in my workplace if it came to light that I “complained.”
Weinstein sent this response:
…Spoke with Maj. (name withheld), Commander of the (Unit Designation Withheld) Security Forces at Robins AFB, Georgia at 9:18 am this morning MDT…..explained the outrage of our 13 MRFF clients stemming from his security force airmen saying “Have a blessed day” to all who enter the Robbins [sic] AFB gates…..explained AFI 1-1, Section 2.12…..he asked me how MRFF would feel if he had his troops stop saying that sectarian “greeting” and replaced it with “have a nice day”, would that be ok?…I replied that that would be perfect….he confirmed that he would take this action and the call ended….duration: 3 minutes and 10 seconds….
According to the initial news report, base spokesman Roland Leach confirmed that Robins employees had been directed not to use the greeting that includes the word “blessed.”
The Air Force Times, however, observes that when the story of the ban on the word “blessed” went viral, the Air Force reconsidered its action.
“The Air Force takes any expressed concern over religious freedom very seriously,” Leach said in a statement later on Thursday. “Upon further review and consultation, the Air Force determined use of the phrase ‘have a blessed day’ as a greeting is consistent with Air Force standards and is not in violation of Air Force Instructions.”
The security forces airmen “portray a professional image that represents a base all of Middle Georgia can be proud of,” the statement adds.
Weinstein, however, disagrees.
“Whenever the Air Force is pushed to the test, they will crater to the religious right,” he said. “This an example [sic] where it’s fine to say, ‘Welcome to Team Robins,’ but, as I said before, what are you going to do if the gate guards say: ‘Welcome to Team Robins, hail Satan!'”
Weinstein added that MRFF will consult with its legal counsel to see if any of its clients are prepared to sue the Air Force in federal court about the issue.
“They talk about, ‘It’s a military base all of middle Georgia can be proud of;’ unfortunately, the Constitution to these people – and Air Force regulations – do not apply simply to ‘middle Georgia,’” Weinstein said. “They also don’t apply to Middle Earth. They apply to the United States of America and this is a vicious savaging of the constitutional protections that are afforded by the First Amendment along with Department of Defense regulations. The Air Force has not heard the last of this.”