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Invitation or command? A group is upset over Scott Air Force Base prayer breakfast

Invitation or command? A group is upset over Scott Air Force Base prayer breakfast

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A group that pushes for religious freedom for military families requested Scott Air Force Base's commander rescind an invitation he sent the families about a prayer breakfast later this month.

Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, president of the New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said Monday that military culture means that an invitation, especially one requiring an R.S.V.P., is essentially interpreted as a command.

"The prayer breakfast isn't benign; it's meant to be a massive proselytizing," Weinstein said. "You can't use your position as commander to force (this). In military culture, you're being told to go there."

Weinstein said the invitation from commander Jeremiah "Scot" Heathman was posted on social media. Weinstein said Heathman should rescind the invitation and have it come from base chaplain instead. Heathman is the commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at the base. 

On Monday morning, the wording on the invitation was changed to take out the commander's name. Weinstein said he considers that a win.

Heathman

Post-Dispatch file photo of Col. Jeremiah "Scot" Heathman, the commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base.

The breakfast is scheduled for Feb. 25. A woman at the base chapel, which is sponsoring the event, referred calls to the public affairs office. No one from that office was immediately available for comment Monday. 

Weinstein said he represents 15 families at the base who are a mix of Christians and non-Christians. He would not make them available to a reporter for an interview, saying they are frightened about retribution by the military.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was in the news last month when it requested that the commander of Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island investigate those responsible for promoting a discussion series that urges Navy personnel to "Lead like Jesus."

Weinstein said his group has been fighting over various military prayer breakfasts about 15 years but that the Scott Air Force invitation was particularly blatant.

Scott Air Force Base is about 25 miles east of St. Louis.

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