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Air Force Removes Posters at Langley AFB Following Sexism Complaints

(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Military Religious Freedom Foundation)
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Military Religious Freedom Foundation)

Several posters that had been on display for at least six years were removed from a wall at Langley Air Force Base after the National Organization for Women and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained that they were sexist, according to the Air Force.

The foundation at first filed a complaint by itself about two of the posters with the Air Force on behalf of 16 clients, including Air Force enlisted personnel, officers and civilians, that initially focused on language from a 1955 Air Force manual that repeatedly referenced "faith."

"Men cannot live without faith except for brief moments of anarchy or despair," one poster read. "Faith leads to conviction -- and convictions lead to actions. It is only a man of deep convictions, a man of deep faith, who will make the sacrifices needed to save his manhood. ... It is obvious that our enemy will attack us at our weakest spot. The hole in our armor is our lack of faith. We need to revive a fighting faith by which we can live, and for which we would be willing even to die."

The Air Force dismissed that complaint because "the display does not endorse, disapprove of, or extend preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief," Air Combat Command said in a statement.

But soon after the Air Force dismissed the complaint, the National Organization of Women joined the foundation by writing to Air Combat Command on Feb. 9 calling for the posters' removal.

"What message does that send to young women who currently serve, or want to serve, in the military?" NOW President Terry O'Neill wrote. "What do you say to the women in your command who make the same sacrifices to protect their country as do men? General, there is simply no compromise when it comes to fighting the bigotry of sexism nor the prejudice of religious triumphalism. Women are just as patriotic, just as dedicated and just as worthy of our nation's trust as their male counterparts."

Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said in an email: "With additional time to review all seven posters outside the narrower, primarily religious context of the original complaint about two of them, we concluded the gendered language used in the display interfered with intended messages about personal integrity.

"We've chosen to update the display with something that reflects the diverse and inclusive force we are today," Singleton wrote.

Singleton said it's unclear when a new display will be up.

On Monday, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said it had been told by one of its clients that the posters had come down.

Mikey Weinstein, the foundation's president and founder, called the posters' removal a win for the Constitution.

"We're obviously happy, but they're clearly sore losers," Weinstein said after not being informed by the Air Force itself about the posters' removal. "We're not going to give a gold star to the Air Force for doing the right thing."

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