08/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

O'Reilly Needs To Get His Facts Straight About Flyover Denial

Earlier this week, I wrote, on behalf of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), about the Air Force's decision to deny the request for a flyover at the Nampa, Idaho "God and County Festival." After two years of exposing the military's practice of providing support for blatantly sectarian events, MRFF saw the decision to deny this request as a signal that the military might finally be starting to follow its own existing regulations, and congratulated the Obama administration and the Air Force for making the right decision. Well, needless to say, FOX News didn't see this as the right decision, and, in typical FOX fashion, painted it as an egregious attack on religion by Obama.

First there was Gretchen Carlson's Fox and Friends segment with Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition lying through his teeth about the festival not being a promotion of Christianity (see video below).

Then came the use of the event by Bill O'Reilly in his little rant about Obama's secularism:

O'Reilly, who apparently did no more research than watching Gretchen Carlson's segment before shooting off his mouth, bloviated:

"...But to diminish spirituality by denying the folks in Idaho a flyover is simply stupid. There is no specific religion in play at that festival. ..."

No specific religion in play?!?!? Obviously, O'Reilly didn't bother to visit the event organizer's website and actually read the mission statement of the festival.

Our mission is primarily about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. We believe this Festival, started in 1967, is an incredible tool to share this Good News by strengthening the fabric of our society through our connection to family and country.

We want to encourage believers everywhere to get out in their communities, not just to strengthen each other, but to encourage family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to learn more about who Jesus Christ is and what He's done for each and every one of us.

To borrow a phrase from Michael Boerner of Mission Media,

In order to witness to people, you have to do the following:

  • Bless people
  • Fellowship with them
  • Meet their needs
  • Present the Truth

This, in a nutshell, is what the Treasure Valley God and Country Festival attempts to do. The stated purpose of the Festival is to meet the following goals:

  1. Develop a sense of community spirit in a relaxed, social atmosphere, making all citizens of the Treasure Valley feel welcome in friendship.
  2. Present a safe, pleasing, and inspiring fireworks display to commemorate our country's independence.
  3. Dedicate a significant portion of the program to emphasizee, particularly to young people, the precepts on which our country was founded: Individual rights, belief in God, a representative form of government guided by an assemblage of laws created by elected individuals, sanctity of human life, and all other rights outlined in the Constitution and its supporting documents.
  4. Present the Good News of Jesus Christ in a clear and concise manner.
  5. Avoid any pretense or appearance of a political rally.
  6. Remind those who attend of their good fortune to live in a free society and also their responsibilities to maintain the freedoms which they enjoy.

We are attempting to meet steps one and two, to bless people and fellowship with them, through music, kids' activities, and teens' activities.

After we have done that, we attempt to accomplish step three, to meet their needs, by promoting community activities such as "Communities in Action," and other organizations whose goal is to meet peoples' needs with a Christian heart.

At the end of the evening, we move to step four, presenting the Truth. Each year, we ensure that the message of the Gospel is presented, and information is provided for those who have heard and want to know more about Jesus Christ.

Right, Mr. O'Reilly, an event whose mission statement begins with "Our mission is primarily about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ" doesn't have any "specific religion in play."

Event director Patti Syme was also very clear in her statement to the Idaho Press-Tribune that this was a Christian event.

"Yes, it's about as Christian as you can get -- we believe in promoting Christianity," Syme said. "And we have no plans to change that."

Here's the Fox and Friends segment with Rev. Patrick Mahoney. (When Mahoney refers to the Daily Kos praising the Obama administration for the decision, he's talking about my post from earlier this week, linked to above, which was cross-posted at Kos and stayed on the rec list all day.)