Air Force Base Fires Hindu Woman After Accusing Her Of Being Witch, Bringing ‘Demons’ Into Office

Fort Meade, Maryland may be quite a distance away from Salem, Massachusetts, but the experiences of one woman working as a dental technician on the Fort Meade Air Force base would fit right in during a 17th century Salem witch hunt.

Deborah Schoenfeld, a dental technician contractor, and a Hindu, endured relentless harassment from her co-workers, whom resented her for not being a Christian. They eventually fired her under suspicion of being a “Hindu witch”, practicing “Satanic” yoga, and inviting demons into the dental office. A letter sent by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), informing the Defense Department that its Air Force base, appears to have been overrun by Christian zealots is startling in its scope.

Here are some of the things occurring at the base, as told by Schoenfeld, and confirmed independently by both the MRFF and a military newspaper:

  • 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”.

And finally:

“Her career has been unjustly and abruptly derailed and terminated by a literal ‘witch hunt’ within your command.”

If that sounds like it can’t possibly be true and just something a Satanic, yoga exercising, Hindu witch would say, well not according to several more witnesses the Air Force Times found, who more-or-less confirmed the story.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of her former co-workers confirmed Schoenfeld’s account to Air Force Times and said that other employees at the dental clinic are devoutly Christian and deeply suspicious of Hinduism. One of them confirmed that she was referred to as a “Hindu witch.”

Making matters worse, Schoenfeld was then given a religious “test,” which she failed by virtue of not being an Evangelical Christian, so she was fired. In her place, witnesses say, a Catholic employee was hired, to which her former bosses openly stated, “It’s good to see we got an angel, since last time we had the devil.”

It should come as no surprise that none of these documented instances of blatant religious discrimination are even remotely constitutional. As the MRFF points out, the First Amendment is pretty unambiguous about people not being allowed to run a religious cult out of a military base and that includes not labeling your co-workers as witches and firing them for not believing in the same god you do.

The military has long had an uncomfortable position where religion is concerned. Despite the U.S. Constitution explicitly stating that no religion should be given favor over the rest, officers have been known to bend the rules. There’s also the matter of the Air Force’s requirement that all enlistees swear, “so help me God” before they are allowed in. With that in mind, it is unsurprising that Schoenfeld’s appeals to her superiors to intervene to end her harassment were met with an indifferent silence. Only after she had been fired and the MRFF sent them a letter, did the Air Force say they were “looking into” the allegations.

It seems like repeatedly calling a Hindu dentist a “witch” and then firing her is pretty cut and dry, but we’ll see how the Air Force responds.

Image via Air Force Times