Sat Nov 10, 2012, 12:08 PM
rug (64,630 posts)
AF Academy's Orwellian "Religious Respect Conference" Indicates Clear Bias Against Non-Religious
Saturday, 10 November 2012 11:31
By Mikey Weinstein, AlterNet | Op-Ed
The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado is an institution of inestimable worth to the United States military. In addition to being a service academy graduate and son of a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, I'm also the father of two sons, a son-in-law, and a daughter-in-law, each of whom are proud alumni of USAFA. Even my brother-in-law is a proud alum of USAFA. As such, I know well the top-notch standards of stellar professionalism to which most faculty and staff adhere. Unfortunately, I'm also intimately aware of the nightmarish side of USAFA - one that entails ongoing ordeals of blatantly unconstitutional marginalization, humiliation, degradation and abject brutality for large segments of the military personnel on the academy's installation. The stomach-turning knowledge of this grim reality is backed up by the testimony of literally hundreds of cadets and staff at USAFA spanning a period of at least a dozen years now. My own family's torment at the hands of the sickening fundamentalist Christian presence at the academy was pivotal in compelling me to establish the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org). Thus, it was with great skepticism and no small amount of disgust that we greeted the latest "Religious Respect Conference" at USAFA. Clearly this event was to be a proverbial "dog-and-pony show" foolishly meant to assuage those of us who have been blowing the whistle on the ongoing religious civil rights abuses at USAFA for many years now. Sadly, our expectations of the dubious nature of the "Conference" were fully realized even before it began. One would need to hire a seasoned private investigator to decipher the Byzantine complexity and bureaucratic camouflage of the USAFA e-mails and related "public" announcements of this stealth "Religious Respect Conference." George Orwell's dystopian society of Oceania, and its lexicon of duplicitous "doublespeak," could not possibly be more accurately portrayed than in the reprehensible manner in which USAFA designed, announced, and conducted this specious spectacle.
The idea of USAFA blaring its triumphant horns at having "reformed" itself in the field of "Religious Respect" is an odd and uber-ignominious one – folly, indeed. The overtly theistic flavor of the "conference" was belied by the fact that the ever-expanding demographic of agnostic, atheist, humanist, and secular cadets on campus (collectively self-identified as "Freethinkers") was initially and comprehensively written out of the proceedings of this "respect" conference. It was only through a combination of chance and MRFF's loud advocacy in the local press that a literal 11th-hour invitation was callously extended to a cadet representative of the academy's Freethinkers. This "invitation" was classic ass-covering by USAFA and nothing more. According to trusted MRFF sources, in addition to being low-key to the point of achieving a "Where's Elmo?" level of total obscurity for most academy cadets and staff, the conference was all sizzle and no steak. Its treatment of religious liberties issues internal to USAFA was enormously superficial and utterly meaningless. It accomplished nothing in terms of challenging the prevailing tsunami of ambient fundamentalist Christian religiosity on campus.
The hideous spectacle of USAFA's head chaplain, Col. Robert Bruno, Dean of Faculty Dana Born (who we just learned will be retiring!), and Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould taking any cognizable part in a "religious respect conference" is absolutely akin to a trio of intransigent felons celebrating time served in a penitentiary, effusively clapping one another on the back for "reforming" themselves despite all salient evidence to the contrary. Such a display is insultingly absurd on the face of it and indicates a crude and willful attempt at pedestrian deception.
Please permit me to provide merely one of a plethora of illustrative examples of this malicious malfeasance. I, along with many of MRFF's clients at USAFA, were literally thunderstruck when we read that Retired Col. Frank Clawson, representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church), actually noted his concern that USAFA would "become a secular university with no opportunities for religious respect, and those who wanted to exercise their faith would be so looked down on that there would be no religious discussion at all." Huh? Come again, Colonel? Secular is now synonymous with "bad?" Exactly which Constitution and its construing case law have you been reading lately?
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein is president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He previously served as White House Counsel in the Reagan administration and general counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corp. He is the author of the recently released book, "No Snowflake in an Avalanche: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Its Battle to Defend the Constitution and One Family's Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places" (2012, Vireo).
6 replies, 683 views
AF Academy's Orwellian "Religious Respect Conference" Indicates Clear Bias Against Non-Religious (Original post)
Response to rug (Original post)
Sat Nov 10, 2012, 12:15 PM
cbayer (138,392 posts)
1. It's not an accident that it is in Colorado Springs.
Have you ever been there? It's a scary place.
Glad to see some light being shined on this. They need badly to evolve.
Response to cbayer (Reply #3)
Sat Nov 10, 2012, 12:40 PM
rug (64,630 posts)
4. Lol, no I went out there with the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1973 during the Wounded Knee siege
Porcupine, in the Pine Ridge Reservation, was the staging area to backpack supplies into Wounded Knee. I never got there because A.I.M. was giving small arms training to people who were hiking in supplies. I thought it would be inconsistent to be carry a rifle when I was there with a pacifist organization. So I hung around Porcupine helping out there until it was over.
Response to rug (Reply #4)
Sat Nov 10, 2012, 12:54 PM
cbayer (138,392 posts)
5. We went through there on our last road trip.
While the Badlands were stunningly beautiful, the Lakota reservation was tragic and despairing.
The roads looked like they had been shelled. The homes were falling apart and the land around them full of discarded vehicles, appliances and other trash. I had not seen anything like this in the US outside of urban areas. The hopelessness was palpable.
It surprises me that you have not traveled more. There is nothing quite like a long meandering road trip through the US. We plan another this spring. Two months, no highways and no chain establishments.
Response to cbayer (Reply #5)
Sat Nov 10, 2012, 01:00 PM
rug (64,630 posts)
6. It's covered with poverty like deep snow.
It was like that then. I'm sorry to hear that not much has improved in all this time. The Sioux in particular were crushed. Genocide is the absolutely appropriate word.
I don't know why I haven't traveled more. Whenevever I do take a trip, and there have been a handful, it's usually for a reason or to see family. Oh, well.