Documents Show Conservative Leader Was ‘Uninvited’ From Military Event for Opposing Obama Policies
(CNSNews.com) – U.S. Air Force officials wanted to keep Family Research Council President Tony Perkins from speaking at a National Prayer Luncheon in February because his organization is opposed to Obama administration issues, according to internal Air Force e-mails.
The Air Force chaplain invited Perkins to be keynote speaker at the National Prayer Luncheon earlier this year at Andrews Air Force Base, where the president boards Air Force One. After Perkins accepted, at least one person complained, which caused an unnamed general to be concerned, according to the e-mails.
“Pastor, General [name redacted] came by a few moments ago and asked me to go to www.frc.org,” a Jan. 29 e-mail said. “That is the website for Mr. Tony Perkins who is to speak at the National Prayer Luncheon on 25 February 2010. The webpage has numerous Obama issues to which the organization is opposed. The organization can oppose initiatives, but the Command-in-Chief (sic) is named. CONCERN: Suppose the media gets a hold of this story.”
The 14 pages of Air Force documents, including e-mails, were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group. The group filed the request in April. The Air Force produced the documents this week.
The Jan. 29 Air Force e-mail corresponded with the FRC's online criticism of President Barack Obama’s call to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military, Perkins said.
“I am sympathetic to the military leaders,” Perkins, an ordained minister and former Marine sergeant, told CNSNews.com. “This administration is pushing the military in a direction of political correctness. This is one example. My position is consistent with current law.”
Perkins said he did not even consider talking about politics or public policy at the prayer luncheon and does not believe it would be appropriate to do so. But, he added, a qualified speaker – from the right or left – should not be prohibited from speaking to military on the grounds of their public policy positions.
Perkins believes such actions could have a chilling effect on free speech. "I am a veteran and have experience in ministry and in public policy,” he said. “The policies of someone should not disqualify their other qualifications.”
The military tries to avoid speakers who are political or controversial for military sanctioned events, regardless of what they advocate, according to U.S. Air Force spokeswoman Linda Valentine.
“I think anybody should ask themselves how one instance on one installation equates to the entire Department of Defense being politicized,” Valentine told CNSNews.com. “This was not based on any political desires. It was not based on any lobbying of anybody.”
Rather, she said some airmen complained because of the political nature. She did not know how many complained.
“When you have somebody who is polarizing on either side of the political spectrum – and I would say Dr. Perkins is a fundraiser and a political figure first, and a preacher second,” Valentine said.
“Joyce Meyer, who is also a very well known minister, is a minister first. She does not politicize her views. But, because Mr. Perkins has taken to politicizing his views and standing up for one party over another, he made a lot of our airmen uncomfortable,” Valentine added.
An e-mail at 4:43 p.m. on Jan. 29 detailed one complaint.
“This morning about 0900-1000 I received a call from a lady in regards to our NPL speaker Tony Perkins,” the e-mail said. “She said she was going to call the Prince Georges County Executive and her congressman as soon as she got off the phone. She was very upset and would not allow me to get a word in. I then told her I would get our Senior Protestant Chaplain on the phone for her as soon as possible. [Redacted] spoke with her after that.”
A military staffer sent invitations to numerous ministers with a military background, Valentine said. Perkins was included in that round of invitations, she said, without looking into whether he was politically active.
“Nobody thought to check,” Valentine said. “It was a mistake, in retrospect, to invite him.”
But Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton believes disinviting Perkins as keynote speaker was a scandal.
“This shows the military is being politicized,” Fitton told CNSNews.com. “The thought that invitations rise and fall on whether you are critical of the Obama administration is troubling. It was a prayer luncheon. The idea that that venue is subject to politics is scandalous.”
Even though none of the documents indicate the White House was involved, Fitton believes the decision was clearly political.
“Generals can be as political as anyone else in the administration,” he said. “They all serve at the pleasure of the president.”
A White House spokesperson did not respond to inquiries from CNSNews.com.
On Oct. 2, 2009, the Air Force chaplain sent Perkins a letter that said, “On behalf of the 316th Wing Joint Base Naval Air Facility Maryland, I invite you to be our keynote speaker for the 2010 National Prayer Luncheon. This year’s theme is ‘Getting Back to the Basics.’ As you know, the country was founded on the basics of honoring God, and our military core values herald and reflect these principles.”
But Jan. 29, 2010 proved to be a frantic day for e-mails going from one office to the next. In all the e-mails provided in the documents, the names in the From and To sections were redacted.
At 8:41 a.m., an e-mail said, “Chaplain, can you stop by this morning to discuss the prayer breakfast speaker? Thanks.”
At 8:45 a.m., the e-mail was sent that talked about a general’s concern and said, “The webpage has numerous Obama issues to which the organization is opposed. … Suppose the media gets a hold of this story.”
At 11:07 a.m., the chaplain sent an e-mail that said, “unfortunately, while he will be attending, he will unable to speak. We are actively working other speakers. Attached is a draft letter I propos to send to Mr. Perkins.”
A reply at 2:27 p.m. said, “Chaplain, after a second look, I’d say we don’t need to get specific on the quotes and just highlight the incompatibilities as you do in paragraph 1. If he asks for more detail, we can pass that on to him.”
A letter, dated Jan. 29, was sent from the chaplain’s office at Andrews AFB to Perkins.
“Dear Mr. Perkins: I wish to thank you for accepting our initial invitation to speak at our national prayer luncheon on Feb. 25,” it stated. “(H)owever, we must rescind the invitation due to statements posted on the Family Research Council Web site which are incompatible in our role as military members who serve our elected officials and our commander-in-chief.”
“As a former Marine officer, I’m sure you understand the situation in which we find ourselves,” the letter continued. “As military members, we are sworn to support our commander-in-chief, and are forbidden to make or support statements which run counter to our roles in the armed forces.”