Are you and your staff quite out of your Constitutionally derelict minds?
With that best-ever opening to a church-state separation letter, attorney Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation notified Air Force officials that it’s time for them to get out of the witch-hunting business and give Deborah Schoenfeld back her her dental technician job.
The Air Force Times reports:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is representing a former Air Force contractor who says she was fired from a dental clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland, after complaining that her co-workers discriminated against her because she was Hindu. She claims they then accused her of being a witch.
Within hours of Schoenfeld filing a formal complaint about the harassment, she was fired in a total coincidence that absolutely was not retaliation for her complaint. No, the reason she was given was that an unnamed coworker complained she had used profanity. This no doubt produced the normal office concerns over hexes wafting through corridors.
(Ms. Schoenfeld, if you’re reading this, please know we’re not laughing at you, but at your management and co-workers.)
Reached by Air Force Times, Deborah Schoenfeld said that her co-workers at the Epes Dental Clinic harassed her over her Hindu faith, claiming she was satanic for wanting to practice yoga and meditating.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of her former co-workers confirmed Schoenfeld’s account to Air Force Times and said that other employees at the dental clinic are devoutly Christian and deeply suspicious of Hinduism. One of them confirmed that she was referred to as a “Hindu witch.”
One co-worker, who Schoenfeld said prayed for her to find Jesus, told her that meditation summons demons, adding that “all the soldiers who are doing meditation and yoga to help their PTSD, they are getting infected also,” Schoenfeld said.
Oh, well if they were infectious demons…
Weinstein’s letter is a model of demure restraint:
It has been brought to the attention of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), that an incredibly volatile, hostile and toxic evangelical Christian work environment under your direct command has resulted in the pernicious harassment, disenfranchisement, and firing of a once valued member of your team…
For the record, Ms. Schoenfeld practices the Hindu religion and has interest in Wiccan practices. A brief summary of her complaints follows:
• …she was actually and specifically accused of “witchcraft” and “bringing demons into the office.”…
• She has been openly disparaged for not having the same religious views as her superiors (evangelical Christian) and being “uninterested in taking part” in Christian rituals or the rampant and rapacious, workplace-based, evangelical Christian proselytizing which is outrageously and comprehensively supported by her former command.
• She has been admonished that practicing yoga is “satanic”, and will “cost (her) her soul”.
• She was advised by her chain of command to pray against the recent Supreme Court ruling against same sex marriage, as it is “an abomination to their religion…”
• She was chastised for playing Indian music in the workplace as it was “not Christian”, while Christian music was commonly played…
The letter claims that after her firing, Schoenfeld’s coworkers were threatened with their own firings if they supported her return.
Air Force District of Washington spokesman Maj. Joel Harper responded:
The Air Force thoroughly reviews all instances in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedoms or accommodations… Mutual respect is an essential part of the Air Force culture. Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to maintain an effective team.
If employees weigh more than a duck and properly sink during regulation witch testing.
In closing, Weinstein wrote in equally measured tones:
Sir, this is by far the most ludicrous, scandalous and outrageous treatment of a valued member of our military team that I have come across in my decade-plus of fighting these religious intolerance issues. Ms. Schoenfeld’s basic Constitutional civil rights have been obliterated and ripped asunder. Her administrative due process rights have been wretchedly desecrated…
…Witch hunts are now illegal, sir.
Man, I couldn’t cope in a military setting. At least where I work, I’m allowed to bring my demons to the office if I don’t let them go too crazy.
Let’s hope not only that Ms. Schoenfeld wins, but that every staffer involved in this mess convinces themselves they’ve been turned into newts.