Cannon Air Force Base officials deny accusations of promoting religion

By KEVIN WILSON | Clovis News Journal, N.M. (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 26, 2015

Cannon Air Force Base officials say an accusation that supervisors are using their ranks to promote religion is untrue.

On Thursday, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation posted a story regarding Cannon Air Force Base personnel and the distribution of an Aug. 15 “Gospel Explosion” event that will take place at the base’s chapel.

The MRFF said seven people at the base contacted the civil rights foundation with emails of the event, first sent by a master sergeant and then distributed by first lieutenants, requesting they “please post everywhere and spread the word.”

The foundation said the action violated Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12, which requires leaders at all levels “ensure their words and actions cannot be reasonably construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief or absence of belief.”

Lt. Erin Recanzone of the base’s public affairs office said the “Gospel Explosion” flier was distributed in the same manner as one for any activity at the base, like a standup comic or a golf tournament.

“Cannon Air Force Base is definitely dedicated to an environment where Air Commandos can feel comfortable observing the tenets of their personal religious beliefs,” Recanzone said. “Because of that, we do thoroughly investigate concerns of religious freedoms or accommodations.”

Attendance at the event is optional, and Recanzone said the base encourages airmen to seek guidance if necessary through the base’s chaplain corps and equal opportunity office.

The MRFF said it is happy to offer advice on promotion of religious events on military installation to avoid any implication of superiors dictating religion to subordinates.

“Our fight isn’t to remove all vestiges of religious faith from the ranks of the United States Armed Forces,” the post read. “Our fight remains one for democracy, fairness, equal protection and justice in the face of those who viciously abuse our service members and the sanctity of the oaths taken by those sworn to protect and defend our Constitution.”

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