Accused of being a witch, an Air Force contractor working at a dental clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland, has been fired. Seriously.
Deborah Schoenfeld, a dental technician at the clinic, and a Hindu, was fired on September 2, immediately after filing a formal complaint about the religious harassment she was being forced to endure, which included being accused of witchcraft, bringing demons into the office, and being admonished that practicing yoga is “satanic” and will “cost (her) her soul.” The alleged reason given for her firing was that she was accused of using profanity in the workplace. She was told, however, that she did not have the right to know who her accusers were.
According to the Air Force Times, two of Schoenfeld’s former co-workers have confirmed her account of the workplace harassment she was subjected to by the devout Christians there, with one saying that she was referred to as a “Hindu witch.”
Schoenfeld, who wishes to return to her job, has turned to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which has sent the following letter to the commander of this modern day Salem, where we hope they aren’t also using the dental practices of 1692 on our troops.
October 5, 2015
ATTN: LTC Dennis Holt
Clinical Dentistry Flight Commander, 579th DS
238 Brookley Avenue, BLDG 1300
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
Washington, DC 20032
CC: COL James M. Howell
Commander, Fort Meade Dentac
8476 Simmonds St.
Ft. Meade, MD 20755
Are you and your staff quite out of your Constitutionally derelict minds?
It has been brought to the attention of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), that an incredibly volatile, hostile and toxic evangelical Christian work environment under your direct command has resulted in the pernicious harassment, disenfranchisement, and firing of a once valued member of your team, Ms. Deborah Schoenfeld. We are writing you today in order to inform you that we will be immediately providing aggressive advocacy services for Ms. Schoenfeld as a MRFF client pursuant to her resolute quest to obtain a just resolution to her shocking complaints which have now been officially filed through the appropriate military Equal Employment Opportunity (EO) channels.
For the record, Ms. Schoenfeld practices the Hindu religion and has interest in Wiccan practices. A brief summary of her complaints follows:
• In her time at Epes Dental Clinic she was actually and specifically accused of “witchcraft” and “bringing demons into the office.” She has been officially advised that she is not allowed to know who her accusers are.
• She has been openly disparaged for not having the same religious views as her superiors (evangelical Christian) and being “uninterested in taking part” in Christian rituals or the rampant and rapacious, workplace-based, evangelical Christian proselytizing which is outrageously and comprehensively supported by her former command.
• She has been admonished that practicing yoga is “satanic”, and will “cost (her) her soul”.
• She was advised by her chain of command to pray against the recent Supreme Court ruling against same sex marriage, as it is “an abomination to their religion”. (an employee in the office wanted all the civilians to pray against the legalization of same sex marriage at a clinic meeting)
• She was chastised for playing Indian music in the workplace as it was “not Christian”, while Christian music was commonly played throughout the entirety of this armed forces dental clinic.
• After filing an EO complaint, as anyone in her perilous situation of abject persecution should and would have done, she was swiftly fired from her job for false and scurrilous accusations from unknown persons asserting that she allegedly used profanity in the workplace.
• She was advised that she was accused of wrongdoing, and that she did not have the right to know her accuser(s).
• Her career has been unjustly and abruptly derailed and terminated by a literal “witch hunt” within your command.
We have spoken with witnesses at the clinic under your command who have universally confirmed that, not only did this horrid harassment take place, but ever since the execution of her punishment for failing the religious test imposed by the leadership of Epes Dental Clinic, a particular offending party has effusively celebrated her replacement by a Catholic woman by saying publicly that “It’s good to see we got an angel, since last time we had the
devil.” One witness has reported to MRFF that the clinic NCOIC responsible for Ms. Schoenfeld’s firing has issued specific and detailed instructions, warnings and threats to remaining personnel to make no efforts in supporting Ms. Schoenfeld’s return to duty lest they face similar consequences of employment termination and related personal disparagement.
Sir, this is by far the most ludicrous, scandalous and outrageous treatment of a valued member of our military team that I have come across in my decade-plus of fighting these religious intolerance issues. Ms. Schoenfeld’s basic Constitutional civil rights have been obliterated and ripped asunder. Her administrative due process rights have been wretchedly desecrated. What has happened here under your command is precisely why we at MRFF
refer to such bigotry as “spiritual rape”.
The astonishingly egregious behavior of those afflicting our MRFF client under your direct command is wholly unconstitutional. It viciously violates a vast sea of DoD and USAF Directives, Instructions and Regulations. Indeed, Air Force Instruction (AFI) 1-1, Section 2.12 makes it crystal clear that leaders at all levels in the Air Force, such as for example YOU, Lt. Col. Holt, “must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief or absence of belief.” Violations of this specific AFI are fully and potentially punishable as a felony under the Uniform Code of Military Justice pursuant to inter alia Article 92. I am confident that you recognize the value of the positive changes we have made as a society regarding religious freedom since Salem, 1692. Witch hunts are now illegal, sir.
Ms. Schoenfeld is Hindu, not Christian. That fact should have no bearing whatsoever on her ability to perform her duties as a civilian contractor with the United States Air Force. Clause 3, Article VI of the United States Constitution outlaws any “religious test” in the federal government such as the test those under your direct command have clearly utilized to torture, terrorize and torment our MRFF client. The No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution absolutely forbids the exact same type of practices which are so commonplace under your command in the brazen establishment of evangelical Christianity as the only approved solution for religious belief in the 579th DS of the Epes Dental Clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Ms. Schoenfeld desires to expeditiously return to duty in good standing at Dental Clinic 3 on Fort Meade as soon as possible and to see swift and appropriate justice served against all of the offending parties who have either directly or indirectly eviscerated her Constitutional civil rights; including you, Lt. Col. Holt, as her erstwhile commander.
Please let MRFF know immediately what you intend to do to timely remediate this scandalous, actual “witch hunt” and all of its associated transgressions of law and regulation.
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq.
Founder and President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
General Martin E. Dempsey – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Deborah L. James – Secretary of the Air Force
General Mark A. Welsh III – Air Force Chief of Staff
John M. McHugh – Secretary of the Army
General Raymond T. Odierno – Army Chief of Staff
Randal G. Mathis, Mathis & Donheiser P.C. – MRFF Lead Trial Counsel
by Chris Rodda