When it comes to religion, the Air Force really is the picture of intolerance. A California-based artist who was shocked to discover that one of his prints, the fifth in an inspirational “Heroes” series, was considered too offensive for an Idaho military base.
The portrait, which — until last week — hung in the Mountain Home Air Force Base dining hall, was first released after 9/11 in honor of the brave sacrifice of America’s law enforcers. Apparently, the brief tagline, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” from Matthew 5:9 makes the piece “repugnant” and “odious” to objectors, who demanded its removal. With the word “Integrity” stenciled across the bottom, the image is an innocent portrayal of a modern-day policeman with a faint picture of a white knight behind him.
Ron DiCianni, the artist behind the portrait, says he was stunned — first to hear the print was on the installation, and then to hear that it had been torn down. He and his son, Grant, who oversees Tapestry Productions, never dreamed that the Heroes series would be controversial. In their first public statement since the incident, Ron explains how “deeply saddened” they are by the military’s censorship.
It’s regrettable, he says, “to see the apparent hostility of Pentagon leadership to a message that is clearly in keeping with the foundation of this country and the Air Force — and whose communication is clearly protected by the First Amendment.” Although the DiCiannis didn’t send the artwork to the base, they understand why someone would think a piece called “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” would be appropriate. “The military is an embodiment of the ultimate peacemaker, a pursuit blessed in Scripture. It would seem this is a message that the Air Force should be willing to foster, not censor.”
Since Fox’s Todd Starnes broke the story on Friday, Ron has repeatedly reached out to the Air Force base, in part to ensure the artwork isn’t destroyed. “This act of religious censorship appears to reflect the assurances that senior Pentagon officials provided to anti-Christian crusader Mikey Weinstein during a recent meeting at the Pentagon, that they would begin [regulating] religious expression in the military.” In a message to supporters, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation bragged that “the Pentagon most certainly is listening to Mikey Weinstein” — a not-so-veiled reference to Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen’s statements last month, attempting to distance officials from Weinstein.
If the Pentagon isn’t taking orders from the Foundation, why did it snap to attention when Mikey called? The wing commander at Mountain Home scurried to do Weinstein’s bidding, ushering out the painting “in 56 minutes” as if it were the single greatest threat to national security.
Talk about a double standard. Congress should continue to push until the DOD adopts a department-wide policy ending the attacks on Christianity and allowing service members to freely practice their faith. Join us in calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (703-692-7100) to stop this cycle of religious suppression and lead the military back to America’s core values.
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