Military personnel at an Air Force base in Georgia were briefly banned from saying a customary greeting to its visitors or other members of the armed forces on Thursday after a humanist organization filed a complaint. Just hours after the ban went into effect, it was promptly rescinded.
On Monday, an unnamed member of the military filed a complaint with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization that aims to guarantee the Constitutional right of religious freedom for those in the United States Armed Forces. In total, 13 people reportedly complained about the greeting to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, according to 41 NBC. Nine of those people were allegedly of Roman Catholic or Protestant faith.
In a statement on the organization's website, one service member identified himself as an active-duty Air Force member at Robins Air Force Base.
He said over the course of two weeks, military personnel greeted him with the phrase "have a blessed day" more than a dozen times, Fox News reports.
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The complainant added that he thinks it is inappropriate to greet people with that phrase because not everyone believes in a higher power.
“I found the greeting to be a notion that I, as a non-religious member of the military community should believe a higher power has an influence on how my day should go,” the complainant said in his statement.
Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey Weinstein said he thinks it violates the Constitution to use the word "blessed" because it draws allusions to organized religion.
"Think for a second if the gate guards were all saying 'allahu Akbar' or 'Satan rules' or 'there is no God' every time you go through the gate, it's clearly a violation of the no establishment clause of the Constitution,” Weinstein said, according to 41 NBC.
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Robins Air Force officials initially said that while gatekeepers would change their greetings, they think "have a blessed day" is a greeting consistent with Air Force standards.
Others said they think the organization overblew the religious implication of the phrase.
"If you're a Christian, of course, it has a different connotation, but if the person is not a Christian, they shouldn't be offended by somebody telling them have a good day," Reverend Charles Nall said, 41 NBC reports.
Nevertheless, as soon as the story went viral on Thursday, officials were forced to take back the ban and tell everyone that it is now okay to tell people to have a blessed day again.