The Air Force mixed up the 1st and 5th amendments to the U.S. Constitution in a widely distributed test to airmen.
That's according to Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who noted that as a result, the online training program incorrectly said religious freedom is a "commonly violated civil liberty."
"It's extremely disconcerting to see this happening, from the perspective of screwing up the Bill of Rights and emphasizing as a fact that [religious freedom] is a commonly violated civil liberty in the Air Force," he said. "This plays right into the narrative of the extreme right wing of fundamentalist Christians." Weinstein, who was alerted to the mistake in an e-mail from an officer, said he has complained about the error to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Howard Stendahl and other leaders. He said none has yet responded.
Military.com was unable to reach a spokesperson for the service at the Pentagon. Government agencies in Washington, D.C., were closed Thursday due to a snowstorm.
Known as the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are covered in any secondary civics course. The 1st amendment protects the free exercise of religion while the 5th protects against the abuse of government authority in legal cases.
The Air Force test claims that "the most widely violated civil liberty protected by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution" is "the free exercise of religion."
Beyond the "insidious" attempt to use a test question to tell airmen that religion is under attack in the Air Force, the test requires airmen to provide a wrong answer in order to get it right, Weinstein said.
Weinstein said he was alerted to the issue by an Air Force captain who took the multiple-choice test on Wednesday. Since then, he said he has heard from about two dozen other airmen with the same complaint.
Weinstein wouldn't identify the captain. He routinely withholds the identities of clients or others who pass along complaints to his group because they fear retribution.
A redacted version of the captain's email, which Weinstein provided Military.com, includes screen captures of the test question.
Under the category of Knowledge Advancement, it asks, "What commonly violated civil liberty is protected by the 5th Amendment of the Constitution?"
The answers are: Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion; No person shall be held to answer for a capital crime unless indicted by a Grand Jury; In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; and The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizure.
The captain said he first checked off the second answer, since the question referenced the Fifth Amendment.
The program responded that he was wrong and then provided guidance on understanding the question. He said he then knew the system wanted the wrong answer.
"I answered according to what I knew the system would mark ‘correct' even though it was not true," he wrote in his e-mail. "As you can see, I was rewarded with a "Correct! Well Done!" You can challenge my integrity for answering a question I know to be wrong, incorrectly, in order to complete training. Then you can ask yourself, ‘How many people did the exact same thing just to pass this test? And why hasn't it been fixed?'"
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