Gretchen Carlson of Fox and Friends was all worked up this morning over something she read off the Christian Newswire -- and in typical Fox fashion, proceeded to report on only the religious right's spin of the event.
The story involves the Pentagon's decision not to have its Air Force jets do their annual flyover at the "God and Country Family Festival" in Nampa, Idaho last weekend. She had on Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, which is constantly on the lookout for "anti-Christian" activities on the part of whatever miscreants it can manufacture. It produced this exchange:
Carlson: So when I first read this story, I actually found it hard to believe. Because for 42 years, at this rally in Idaho, the Pentagon has authorized a flyover. Suddenly this year, a new president in office, and a new policy. What do you make of it?
Mahoney: Well, we're stunned, actually, and it's a reminder that our Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. I think the viewers need to understand, the flyovers that were held for 42 years were not to endorse or promote any religion, but to honor the military, who was there in force.
Actually, the promoters of the event told the local paper otherwise:
Organizers don't deny the explicitly Christian nature of the annual patriotic rally.
"Yes, it's about as Christian as you can get — we believe in promoting Christianity," Syme said. "And we have no plans to change that."
Regardless, Mahoney charged on:
Mahoney: I think it causes one to pause and say, 'What changed? After 42 years, what changed?' And Gretchen, the only indicator we have is that we have a new commander in chief.
And I think that we are wondering, when we look at President Obama: Is there a culture of hostility toward expressions of faith in the public square -- particularly Christian?
Let's put this in context. Several months ago, the president spoke at Georgetown University; when he spoke there, he covered a cross, and he covered a sacred symbol for the name of Jesus. He did not celebrate the National Day of Prayer at the White House, had no events at the White House, and yet just a couple of weeks ago we had a major reception to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June.
So we need to move -- we right now are filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the American Center for Law and Justice, and we want to get to the bottom of this to ensure that no American citizen and no group is denied access to the public square because of their faith tradition.
Of course, I've never heard that "sucking up taxpayer dollars by employing the military for your entertainment" was a matter of having "access to the public square" before. It's a novel concept, but not one likely to fly in court.
But Carlson notes that of course the eeeeeevil Daily Kos endorses the Pentagon's enforcement of its longstanding policy. So I went looking and discovered that she was referring not to a front-page piece but rather a diary by Chris Rodda -- and a very good one at that, which explains that the Pentagon was actually finally responding to complaints filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. And what happened was that the Pentagon finally agreed to enforce its longstanding policy against permitting military participation in religious events:
Looking into this issue for MRFF (in what I wrongly thought was going to be a very temporary job), I found that the Stone Mountain event was far from an isolated incident. The military was regularly providing flyovers at countless evangelical Christian events all over the country, not only violating the regulations prohibiting military participation in religious events, but spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money in the process.
MRFF began exposing these events, which included flyovers on the five holidays when flyovers at civilian events are permitted, and even a few at National Day of Prayer events, and began to see some decline in their frequency, but we weren't sure if the number of flyovers at these events was really decreasing, or if the military and organizers of these events were just being more careful not to make the nature of the events so obvious.
Well, needless to say, the following letter denying, for the first time in 42 years, the request for a flyover at one Christian rally, released on many websites in conjunction with a Christian Newswire article titled "Pentagon Denies Flyover of Patriotic 'God and Country Rally' in Nampa Idaho Because of its Christian Content," was the best 4th of July present MRFF could have asked for.
The letter read in part:
Your Air Force aviation support request doesn't fall into either approved category, as such, we are unable to approve it. Air Force and DoD policy prohibit support for events which appear to endorse, selectively benefit, or favor any special interest group, religious or ideological movement.
With an increasingly high operations tempo and limited resources to meet our training and operational commitments, we are required to take a hard look at all of our requests and carefully follow our policies and guidelines. In denying your request, we are not questioning the worthiness of the event, but rather enforcing DoD and Air Force policy to preserve the operational and training requirements of our aviation units and to practice the prudent stewardship of taxpayer-financed resources.
Of course, one of the ways you can tell whether or not these kinds of "issues" have any validity is by looking at the people who are raising a stink about them. One name that keeps popping up is that of Brandi Swindell:
Christian activist Brandi Swindell sent a text message about the lack of the flyover from Wednesday night's event at the Idaho Center amphitheater. She followed up with another message Thursday.
"This is unbelievable and deeply troubling," Swindell wrote. "The Pentagon does not have the authority to discriminate against Christian groups or events. This type of religious bigotry is unconstitutional. How sad to see this lack of respect and level of blatant bias surrounding the 4th of July celebration."
This is the same Brandi Swindell who ran for Boise City Council on an explicitly (and rabidly) anti-abortion platform, replete with bizarro antics and insane pronunciamentos. She was also kicked out of the Idaho House after she had one of her patented anti-abortion meltdowns in the office of the Republican Speaker.
Hearing a complaint about "anti-Christian bias" from the same people who are most aggressively trying to shove their "Christian nation" ideology down everyone else's throat is only mildly amusing. Seeing them attack President Obama as anti-Christian is pretty disturbing.