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FROM MRFF ALLIES
Editorial from Wayne Laugesen, Editor Colorado Springs Gazette, supporting former Lt. McClary’s Invitation to Speak at USAFA:
Gen. Gould, don’t let wrongheaded religious censors get you down.
Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wants Lt. Gen. Mike Gould removed as superintendant of the U.S. Air Force Academy because he will host retired Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary to speak at a February prayer luncheon.
McClary, a legendary war hero, was critically wounded during his 19th reconnaissance mission in Vietnam. For selfless bravery, the president awarded McClary the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. He has three Purple Hearts. As one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the country, he has addressed more than 7,500 audiences — some in auditoriums of 10,000 or more. Only retired Gen. Colin Powell, who had a scheduling conflict, was higher on Gould’s invitation list.
McClary offends Weinstein, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, because he is Christian. Weinstein complains that Billy Graham respects him. He doesn’t like that this retired Marine, living with permanent combat disabilities, calls himself a member of the “Lord’s Army.”
For McClary’s religious beliefs, Weinstein and the ACLU want him effectively censored by punishing the person who invited him. They want prior restraint of a speech. They want to trample on academic freedom. They want Gen. Gould’s head because he would dare invite a speaker who loves Jesus.
Yet somehow, Weinstein shows up in news articles as the leader of a “religious-rights group.” Religious rights? Not for McClary. The ACLU continues to call itself a defender of civil liberties. No civil liberty could be more important than a person’s right to speak on public property regardless of that individual’s religious convictions.
The First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion. It also forbids laws that establish religion, which a speech cannot do. Besides, no one is required to attend the luncheon.
When Gould was identified as a likely contender for the academy appointment, Weinstein opposed him on the basis of his Christian beliefs. Gould flew to visit with Weinstein in New Mexico, and the two decided they were friends who should work together. Gould has made great strides to welcome all varieties of speakers. At times he has altered his schedule to attend to Weinstein. Gould encouraged and oversaw construction of a worship area for pagans. Weinstein was rightly irate when some nincompoop left a cross at the site. He called the act a “hate crime,” and Gould worked aggressively to resolve it.
Despite Gould’s efforts to help Weinstein’s cause, it has become increasingly clear that Gould cannot win. Weinstein’s fans — some of whom froth at the mouth if a Christian speaker steps foot on academy grounds — want the old Weinstein back. They don’t want resolution; they want a blood sport.
Sometimes Weinstein’s organization has legitimate points, which Gould addresses. Weinstein should be pleased with the progress the general has made toward creating a welcoming atmosphere for people of all religions.
Weinstein’s gloves-off effort to get Gould canned raises suspicions. Is he trying to create an environment of tolerance, or one of division? If a hero the caliber of McClary should not speak, because of his faith, it’s hard to see the academy as a place that tolerates freedom of speech, freedom of religion or academic freedom.
Those who claim to defend our inherent and constitutionally protected rights are acting as those who would oppress them.
Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word.
This survey was included in the Colorado Springs Gazette webpage for this article. There’s no option for “McClary is not an appropriate speaker.” Users are forced to decide between voting against Christians or voting for McClary.
CLICK ON THE LINK TO JUMP TO THAT LETTER
GORDON DUFF, Veterans Today
MIKE FARRELL, MRFF Advisory Board
ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR, Freedom From Religion Foundation
ANDY KASEHAGEN, MRFF Development Staff
ELIZABETH SHOLES, California Council of Churches/California Church IMPACT
PASTOR JOAN SLISH, MRFF Advisory Board, Assemblies of God
AL STEFANELLI, The United Atheist Front
PAUL SULLIVAN, Veterans for Common Sense
VALERIE TARICO, WisdomCommons.org
JASON TORPY, Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
BRUCE WILSON, Talk To Action
WALTER PLYWASKI, Ex “native” of the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and Dachau
… and many more MRFF Supporters
MRFF Board Member, God’s Own Party
Not only do I support Mikey Weinstein, I am honored to sit on the Board of Directors for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation along with Mikey and former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson. Without a doubt we fight this battle against extremism with passion – the whole environment brings high emotions out on both sides. As a result, there are times when we all let our emotions take our tongues and our critical thinking into uncharted territory. But this is a battle against extremism, sir. EXTREMISM. Not Christianity or any other religious body or faith. It is a simple matter of freedom. And those who take an oath to join our armed forces swear to uphold our U.S. Constitution – to defend and protect. That is a very inarguable fact.
We are not saying – nor have we EVER said – that religious worship and freedom of speech are to be censored. This is what I meant by emotionally charged uncharted territory. The hyperbolic use of the word “censors” may give you moments of adrenalin filled satisfaction, but it is a call to action to a whole host of fringe fanatics out there that are Molotov cocktails waiting for someone like you to fling an irresponsible verbal match their way.
Take a moment to read the few, but hateful comments that have been drawn to your post like a magnet. These are not new to us. These same individuals obsessively follow us by using a very simple tool in their web browsers to follow key words – in this case, ‘Mikey Weinstein’, ‘MRFF’, ‘McClary’ and so on. When an article or post pops up on the internet they descend on it and write the same unimaginative vitriolic comments. This is called “astro-turfing”, it is part of our daily existence.
So, where these comments may appear to be affirmation for you that others share your views, they are really just using your post and comment section to spread their non-arguments around the net in hopes of igniting that explosive mix. I would hope that you recognize from the past weeks of dialogging post-Tucson Tragedy that one lesson we must ALL acknowledge is that words do have consequence.
I am not going to take time here this morning to address the shear number of errors in your exaggerated and misinformed claims against Mikey Weinstein and the rest of us at MRFF. Suffice it to say, it appears that you are not aware of Christian Dominionism. In order to understand this sect of Christianity you must first wrap your mind around the concept that all Christians are not one – in belief, faith, scriptural interpretation or membership criteria.
For example, I too am Protestant, just like 98% of the 22,000 (TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND) armed forces personnel that we represent here at MRFF – albeit, according to Christian Dominionists like McClary, I am routinely informed that I am “not the right kind of Christian”. Why? For starters I give credence and value to my baptism at birth – they do not. I do not have in my possession a Born Again date or certificate.
Secondly, I do not believe in a retributive, domineering, warring God as the Dominionists do. Their faith is deeply embedded in the Old Testament with a smattering of verses pulled from the New Testament. The same Old Testament that Christ cam to earth to set straight and told us all to knock it off! (Yet here we are still warring).
My Christian beliefs are attacked because I dare to believe that Christ’s whole message was about putting down the sword, peace, love and compassion. And that to bring others to know God let them do so by your good deeds. This is fortunately the underlying foundation for Mainline Christianity in America and abroad.
Dominionists do not accept that doctrine. And who are they to say, or tell me otherwise? Just ask them, it is because they are right, everyone else is wrong. Black and white. Good/bad. And somewhere along the line of the development of this Bible-based cult, they also not only rejected Christ’s teaching to “judge not lest ye be judged”, but they go the extra mile and judge harshly. Comments by McClary such as, “You are either a fool for God, or another’s fool”, is not without slight and pious, sanctimonious judgement, Mr. Lougesen. You do see this, right?
To sit in highest judgement of all those who cannot produce that Born Again birthdate is not their place, and I have only been talking about the judgement of other Christians by these Dominionists. I am not even discussing other faiths who are off their charts as lost and damned. I may be wasting my breath and time hear, but this is the quintessential difference between those “Christians” like McClary, Don and Anna Warwick, James Dobson, Doug Coe, Joel Osteen, Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, Sarah Palin and thousands more leaders in the Dominionist Movement – and Mainline Christians who reject “an eye for an eye” and instead embrace “turn the other cheek”.
Our whole fight is in defense of these employees of our military organizations. They come to us – in droves. Though “not the right kind of Christian” they play church when it is made clear through double-speak that their attendance or non-attendance will be noted at these “voluntary events”. And as for Gould, his olive branch was manipulative and deceitful, demonstrating an unwillingness to be authentic. This is further confirmed through his refusal to have any discussions around this with any of us or the countless organizations that support the separation of church and state in American government – and that especially includes our military.
You may discard my words, I have no way to know, but I appeal to you to at minimum, please use a more guarded restraint in how you wrap your arguments, and be aware of these characters who will use you just as they do us. I have pledged to do the very same. And if this can be spun to make me out to be an anti-Christian, then we are not speaking the same language. There is far more to this serious clash for true freedoms than you may be aware of, sir.
Leah L Burton
Board of Directors
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Leah L Burton
“Palin’s America” ~ God, Guns & Greed: The Politics of Extremism
January 24, 2011
We read with amusement your assertions that Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and allies wish to “censor” the address of Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary at the February prayer luncheon at the US Air Force Academy.
To preface, as veterans and advocates, we write in support of the position of Mr. Weinstein and his organization to rescind the invitation of McClary.
McClary has made no secret of his once a Marine, now ‘a member of the Lord’s Army’ dedication to proselytizing and instilling Christian supremacy at the academy where Muslims, Wiccans, the wrong kind of Christians and others have been discriminated against and threatened. We’ll spare you and your readers the imprecations cadets and other Academy personnel have endured.
Surely, if the reasons behind the invitation to McClary were simply to secure the services of a motivational speaker (as Lieutenant General Michael Gould’s staff claims) then a more inclusive, tolerant Christian figure could be located.
National Prayer Breakfast
We are quite conversant on the national level with The Family, the D.C. National Prayer Breakfast, and similar events, and count many members and associates of these functions as friends.
But these people from all walks of life with whom we are acquainted go out of their way to be ecumenical, tolerant, and compassionate. We disagree on about every topic as a group.
Our friendship is built on something deeper. As President Obama said at last February’s National Prayer Breakfast: “Remember Abraham Lincoln. On the eve of the Civil War, with states seceding and forces gathering, with a nation divided half slave and half free, he rose to deliver his first Inaugural and said, ‘We are not enemies, but friends… Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.’ Even in the eyes of confederate soldiers, he saw the face of God.”
The U.S. Air Force Academy has put on a pretty lousy show in light of President Lincoln’s words. Too many reports of hate and exclusion have reached our writers to take seriously your words that Weinstein is motivated by wishes of division, prior restraint; and against freedom of speech, freedom of religion and academic freedom.
The U.S. Air Force Academy’s prayer luncheon is autonomous, and quite frankly in light of the statements made to us by the Christian folks we know, it represents a provincial, hateful and exclusionary practice [we have heard reports of Academy personnel concerned about their careers should they not attend this event, and ever-present worries in the dominionist Academy culture], the event is a fraud.
As Americans we object to McClary’s campaign in the specific history of this troubled institution.
We see no need to regale your readers with stories of our military service. We do stand ready to defend liberty, the freedom of all faiths and views of all Americans, and the Constitution for the United States of America.
We stand with Mr. Weinstein whole-heartedly with respect to Lt. McClary and his proselytizing that we believe is violative of Article VI of the Constitution for the United States of America: “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
This is not academic for us, nor limited to the situation at the Academy.
As the drums beat on the Potomac for more theaters of war, we note these same voices are the ones who claim to have a pipeline to the Almighty, like McClary’s. We’re not buying this atonal music.
Your poll questions are as intellectually dishonest as is the PR emitting from the Academy which you defend.
– Is war hero Clebe McClary an appropriate speaker for the Air Force Academy?
– Yes, McClary is an appropriate speaker
– No, McClary should not speak because he’s a devout Christian
– Don’t care
As for Mikey Weinstein, we proudly stand with him with considerable resources that we will utilize to see that Article VI; Constitution for the United States of America is followed to the letter and the fullest extent. We repeat, vis: “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Robert L. Hanafin
Major, US Air Force (ret)
GS-14, U.S. Civil Service (ret)
Vietnam and Gulf War Veteran
Managing Editor, Veterans Today
U.S. Army (1981-85)
General Manager, Veterans Today
Sr. Project Manager
USMC Vietnam (1965-66)
And the Board of Directors and Staff Writers at Veterans Today
MRFF Advisory Board
Your editorial of January 23 (Censors Want to Silence War Hero) is clearly the result of one of three things: confusion, ignorance or intellectual dishonesty.
In what adds up to a staggering amount of misinformation, you misstate the point Mr. Weinstein, on behalf of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, makes in opposing Mr. McClary’s invitation to speak at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s “Prayer” event (an event already held unconstitutional by a federal court); you ignore the fact that Lt. Gen. Gould was repeatedly asked to cancel the invitation before his stubborn refusal to recognize its utter inappropriateness resulted in the determination to call for his dismissal; you fudge the actual purpose of Mr. McClary’s visit by directing people’s attention away from his fundamentalist proselytizing and toward his heroic military service (as if the one has anything to do with the other); you intentionally misstate the reason for MRFF’s opposition to Mr. McClary’s appearance; you suggest, wrongly, that Mr. McClary’s right to speak is being censored when what offends is his fundamentalist proselytizing, in a uniform he should not be wearing, to an audience of cadets, officers, NCOs and civilian staff at an event that strongly implies the sanction of the U.S. Air Force Academy; you suggest attendance at this event is “voluntary,” demonstrating a total ignorance of military culture and the power inherent in the superior-inferior relationship; you suggest that MRFF opposes Mr. McClary’s proselytizing because he is a Christian when you would know, if you had done any of the research expected of an authentic journalist, that it is his fundamentalist, dominionist, contempt-for-all-other-beliefs doctrine that makes his appearance at the Academy an insult to the separation of church and state and an abrogation of the Constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom of every member of the U.S. military.
Since you do all this not only in your own name but “for the editorial board” of the paper (do none of them know how to spell ‘superintendent’?), the sheer weight of the accumulated errors argues strongly that this tirade is not the result of confusion on anyone’s part. That leaves ignorance and intellectual dishonesty, which are not, you’ve made quite clear, mutually exclusive.
If there is anything in this invective of yours worth noting, it is the thought that “hypocrisy is not a strong enough word.” You might find it worth further consideration.
MRFF Advisory Board
ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Letter to the Editor
Colorado Springs Gazette
On behalf of our 16,000 members nationwide, including many veterans and currently serving members of the military, I am writing to add FFRF’s objections to the Air Force Academy’s invitation to a self-described member of the “Lord’s Army” to address the February Academy National Prayer Luncheon. FFRF objects not just to the choice of Clebe McClary as speaker but to the Air Force Academy’s clear and inappropriate official ties to the Academy National Prayer Luncheon.
We share the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s dismay and concern that Supt. Michael Gould has invited Clebe McClary to give the address. Neither FFRF nor MRFF object to McClary because he is a practicing Christian, but because he has a proselytizing and divisive sectarian message.
While this event may, on paper, be organized by the Academy Chapel, in practice the event appears to unite the Air Force Academy with a Christian message and what in practice has routinely been a Christian event. Air Force Academy superintendent Mike Gould chose this year’s the keynote speaker. The prayer luncheon is routinely identified in Air Force literature as the “Academy’s National Prayer Luncheon” and speakers are traditionally pious military personnel, for instance such as Brig. Gen. Cecil Richardson, who addressed the 2008 event. Last year, the main speaker was retired Brig. Gen Charles Duke Jr., who spoke about “America’s Godly Heritage.”
At that 2010 Academy National Prayer Luncheon, Duke said: “From the beginning, we were a Godly nation. We were conceived as a religious nation with freedom of religion but not free from God” (Air Force Print News today, Feb. 10, 2010). The Gazette editorial staff appears to share the same misconception as Duke. The United States is not a “godly nation,” but a nation of laws which must conform to our godless and entirely secular Constitution, which bars any religious test for public office or any government establishment of religion. Members of the military take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. It should go without saying that there is no freedom of religion without freedom from religion. There can be no religious liberty, where there is no freedom to dissent.
The Academy exists to educate the next generation of Air Force members, not to promote religion. It does not serve a military, government or educational message to officially sanction or encourage an annual prayer event at the Air Force Academy. Such actions send a distasteful and exclusionary message that there are favored and disfavored groups in the United States and at the Air Force Academy based on religion.
The conclusion reached by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, in FFRF v. Obama, finding that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, applies to this set of circumstances as well: “When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual’s decision about whether and how to worship.” The Air Force superintendent has no business exhorting or encouraging military personnel — much less cadets — to pray, or selecting as the keynote speaker for the “Academy’s National Prayer Luncheon” a former military member who suggests that being a “complete Marine” means being Christian.
Protesting pervasive and illegal sectarian religion in the military is not “censorship,” it is patriotic dissent. The U.S. military has crossed a line from accommodating religion to actively and illegally promulgating evangelical Christianity, to the point where it makes outsiders of all nonbelievers and nonChristians, and even sends a dangerous global message that the U.S. military is engaged in a crusade. No military personnel or officials should be permitted to misused their authority to proselytize and promote religion.
Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
MRFF Development Staff
I enjoyed your article inasmuch as it provides a wonderful real world example of psychological projection and journalistic dishonesty. Your editorial is a true “keeper” as an educational aid for teaching students in several disciplines (such as: journalism, political science, sociology, constitutional law, psychology).
I am making an assumption that you consider yourself a journalist of some form. Furthermore, as a journalist, I further assume that you would take some pride in your profession and believe that words have meanings. If this is incorrect, I apologize for this assumption in advance.
You state: “Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wants Lt. Gen. Mike Gould removed as superintendant of the U.S. Air Force Academy because he will host retired Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary to speak at a February prayer luncheon.” Really? This is the sole reason for Mr. Weinstein advocating removal of Superintendant Gould? My ten year old nephew can easily find a few more reasons using “The Google”. As an opening statement, this rates incredibly high on the journalistic dishonesty scale.
You also state: “McClary offends Weinstein, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, because he is Christian.” Putting aside your cowardly use of the classic guilt by association ACLU dog-whistle, your pathetic attempt to smear Mr. Weinstein with such a juvenile over simplification is particularly disgusting. Regardless of faith, Mikey and MRFF strive to end the two most significant ingredients of religious sectarian division: Proselytizing and Persecution. And yes, here again, words have meaning. (following sourced from Merriam-Webster Online)
Definition of PROSELYTIZE
1: to induce someone to convert to one’s faith
2: to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause
3: to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause
Definition of PERSECUTE
1: to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief
2: to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (as attacks, pleas, or importunities)
Left unchecked, particularly in what should be a civilian/citizen controlled military, sectarian division historically leads to very bloody violence. Use “The Google”…you’ll find that I’m right.
1st Lt. McClary proudly engages in Proselytizing while the Academy acts as an enabler/mechanism for Persecution. Why does Superintendent Gould, or any member of the U.S. Military, feel the need to play with fire?
California Council of Churches
California Church IMPACT
Dear Mr. Laugesen-
I read your editorial, and I think you are missing our point. We honor and celebrate Clebe McClary’s heroism. However, he is dedicated now to asserting that he and only he has he “correct” version of faith. He intends to promulgate that view at the prayer luncheon and makes no bones about it.
If your kids are Catholic, mainline Methodists, Episcopalian or Jewish or of no particular belief at all, why should Mr. McClary’s Christian views, as opposed to McClary’s military record, be what they are lambasted with? Is the purpose of the Air Force Academy to train the military in defense of our nation and its Constitution or to convert them to that narrow view of Christianity?
We taxpayers – ALL of us – support this institution to protect and defend ALL of us and ALL of our rights. We do not send our youth there to be harassed and beleaguered into believing one very narrow and minority view of Christianity. Having Mr. McClary present as someone who insists he has “the truth” about religion is simply unacceptable. Covering that up with a few “other” views does not change the utterly inappropriate presence of an evangelist. We do not send our children there for that. We send them there to defend the Constitution, period. Mr. McClary’s record is not the issue. Mr. McClary’s message is.
Director of Public Policy
California Council of Churches/California Church IMPACT
PASTOR JOAN SLISH
MRFF Advisory Board
Assemblies of God
Dear Mr. Laugesen,
I’ve read your article and have come to the conclusion that you have no idea what Mikey and the rest of MRFF are fighting for.
1st Lt. Clebe McClary should not be allowed to speak at the prayer luncheon because he does not represent true Christianity but a distorted view of it. Mainline Christians have reached the point of disgust over the dominionists who are taking our country to war to cleanse the earth of all non-Christians, different religions and non-religious “in Jesus name.”
These extremists worship a different Christ than the one in the bible.
Are you aware of the beatings, harassments and forced proselytizing that goes on at the AFA? Are you aware that the Cadets for Christ are forcing females to give up their slots to become a pilot under the guise of biblical teaching? Are you aware that this form of extremism tells mainline Christians that they need to be “born again” and have a spiritual birthday in order not to burn in hell when the bible says to have faith and believe? Are you aware that 1st Lt. McClary and others within the military tell soldiers that their fellow soldiers who have died that are not “born again” are burning in hell right now when that doesn’t happen until the Judgment Seat of Christ?
Your character assassinations against Mikey reflect on all of us at MRFF. Most of us are Christians who are fighting against the hijacking of our military by an extreme group of religious fanatics who believe they are doing the Lord’s work in the “Lord’s Army”. I’m in the “Lords Army”, too….the Lord of the New Testament…not the Old Testament.
These dominionist/fundamental/evangelical “Christian” have to live in the Old Testament in order to justify their wars. Reference to being a person like David is mentioned often. No mention of being like the peaceful, forgiving, turn the other cheek, pray for your enemies, love your neighbor Jesus that they claim to be.
David used torture to kill his enemies. Our military uses torture. David even killed some of his enemies by putting them in ovens like Hitler did. The later translations change the wording to make it sound like this never happened but that they were put to work. Both of these verses have to do with the battle against the Ammonites. This included men, women and children. Is this why David is quoted so much? To justify their actions?
1 Chronicles 20:3-
And he brought out the people that were in it, and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. And David and all the people returned to Jerusalem
2 Samuel 12:31-
And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.
My father fought in WWII, my brother in Vietnam and my son-in-law in Iraq. NONE of them fought a Godly war but for America…the one under the Constitution. They are heroes, too.
President Bush’s declaration that going into Afghanistan was a “Crusade” and “bring it on” was a declaration to the world what this war was really about. As an American Christian I was highly offended.
The Armor of God is not the military armor spoken of by these Christians. It is not military might but spiritual might…prayer. The following can not be read to mean to fight in a war.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
Please don’t use the verse where Jesus told his disciples to buy swords. He knew He was leaving them and they were no longer under His protection. He wanted them to have swords to protect them against the robbers on the highways they were sure to come across.
And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse (money bag), and scrip (leather pouch for provisions), and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword( machaira…a large knife used for killing animals and cutting up flesh), let him sell his garment, and buy one.
For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
And they said, Lord, behold, here are TWO swords. And he said unto them, IT IS ENOUGH.
The teaching, preaching, guest speaker proselytizing by the extremist evangelical fundamentalists is not only unbiblical it’s against the Constitution and military laws.
Other religions are going to be to giving a “reading” instead of speaking about their faith. If Gould wanted to be inclusive as he says, then let the other religions proselytize, too.
1st Lt. Clebe McClary should not be the religious face of the Air Force Academy.
And for your information, Gould has only given “lip service” to Mikey to appear to agree with him when in reality he lied and hid his true agenda.
Pastor Joan Slish – Assemblies of God
Advisory Board – MRFF
The United Atheist Front
My name is Al Stefanelli and I am the President and founder of the United Atheist Front. We are an International coalition of atheists and atheist organizations that function as a civil rights organization to protect the rights of those who have chosen not to believe in a deity. On behalf of the United Atheist Front and our 61,544 members, we would like to address the article you wrote concerning Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s efforts concerning the invitation of Ret. Lt. Clebe McClary.
In a word, it was deplorable. What you have written is not only incorrect on every conceivable level, but unnecessarily hurtful. Your facts are incorrect, your suppositions are way off base and pretty much everything your wrote is terribly inflammatory and irresponsible. I suggest you take the time to Google up a copy of the US Constitution and get yourself more familiar with it before you hit that “send” button and your hateful, bigoted, prejudiced, ignorant words hit the ether. The establishment clause regarding the separation of church and state is not only clear, but has been supported in decision after decision after decision by the Supreme Court of these United States.
What you wrote insinuates that all of us are fighting against Christianity and trying to suppress the rights of Christians. Allow me to state clearly, as my colleagues already have, we are totally and completely against censorship of religious worship and absolutely support freedom of speech. All of us have stated clearly that we respect Lt. McClary’s outstanding service to our country, and acknowledge that he is a true war hero. We acknowledge his right to evangelize his faith and we would all fight tooth and nail if his words were censored in any way as long as he was doing so in a venue where his words are protected, such as a church or a private event that is not held on federal or other government property. The Air Force Academy venue is a government function, invitation or not, voluntary or mandatory, and it is being held on federal property. It is not the words that McClary will inevitably speak, but where he is speaking them and to whom he would be evangelizing. Period. End of story.
There is a reason you’ve gotten so many emails from so many civil rights groups, Wayne. Your journalistic irresponsibility spews forth the kind of rhetoric that ends up causing all sorts of unnecessary trouble. You are inciting people, Wayne, but not in a good way. What you wrote easily can be construed as a “call to action” for a plethora of Christian Dominionists and other religious fanatics that already operate on the fringe of delusion and who are just waiting for a reason. What are you trying to accomplish? Have you even thought about the ramifications? I think not, Wayne.
Please be advised that the United Atheist Front totally, completely and unequivocally supports Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and their efforts to insure that all service men and women are treated equally and are not forced, coerced or intimidated into participating in a religious function and that their constitutional rights are free from abrogation.
I think you fail to understand that the people at the MRFF are mostly former military and are extremely patriotic. Mikey Weinstein, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson and the rest of the staff at the MRFF, as well as the all of us at the United Atheist Front, American Atheists, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Military Association for Atheists and Freethinkers, the ACLU and anyone else I forgot to mention work hard, night and day, to protect the rights of every American citizen and soldier. We fight this battle against extremism with passion BECAUSE we love this country and BECAUSE we believe that our uniquely secular Constitution protects every American from discriminatory practices related to their religion or lack thereof.
There is only one thing that can result in mixing church and state, and that is Theocracy. If that is what you would like to see our country turn into, then you are no different from every other garden variety religious wingnut out there that would have our constitution trashed and replaced with their religious texts. I think we both know what lies at the end of that road. Just turn on the news…
Wayne, our founding fathers knew this and this is why our Constitution specifically states that there should be no religious test for anyone as a prerequisite for government employment and that the government should have no say over what the church does and the church should have no influence in matters of the state, including the United States Armed services and it’s members, soldiers and civilian employees.
In the mean time the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and the rest of the allied civil rights organizations will relentlessly, tirelessly and passionately defend anyone who is the victim of discrimination and we will all continue our efforts to keep people like Clebe McClary from their attempts to evangelize on government property, at government functions and to government employees against their will. We have only called for the removal of Superintendent Gould because he has failed to uphold the Constitution by not rescinding McClary’s invitation.
Wayne, I implore you to take a few moments and reflect on what you are trying to accomplish as you sit at your word processor and tap out hateful, bigoted, discriminatory, irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric that only serves to divide this country and incite the lunatic fringe in a time where unity, solidarity should be the order of the day.
Founder & Administrator
The United Atheist Front (Since 2005)
Veterans for Common Sense
Dear Wayne Laugesen:
I am writing in response to your editorial about the impending improper, illegal, and unconstitutional proselytizing at the United States Air Force Academy.
We ask you to set the record straight.
Lieutenant General Michael Gould invited decorated Vietnam War veteran Clebe McClary, a self-proclaimed proselytizer, to speak on campus to government employees during a prayer meeting on February 10, 2011.
Veterans for Common Sense opposes government-endorsed proselytizing of government employees at work. Mikey Weinstein, as head of the Military Relgious Freedom Foundation, also opposes McClary’s impending proselytizing.
You wrote, “McClary offends Weinstein, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, because he is Christian” (emphasis added). You repeated yourself when you wrote, “Weinstein opposed [McClary] on the basis of his Christian beliefs”(emphasis added).
You made false accusations against Weinstein, the MRFF, the ACLU, and VCS. Your editorial is wrong because you never quote Weinstein specifically opposing McClary’s religious beliefs. In fact, McClary is free to believe whatever he wants to believe, as our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom from government-sponsored religion.
Your editorial failed to list or respond to Weinstein’s sound and responsible legal reasons for opposing McClary’s intended actions at the USAF, namely McClary’s actions as a self-proclaimed proselytizer. McClary has said he is with the “Lord’s Army.” Well, there is no “Lord’s Army” in our country, as we have only a secular military. McClary’s religious sect is not relevant; what is relevant are his past and intended acts of proselytizing – in this case government employees on a military campus.
McClary has said he is a “U.S. Marine for Christ,” a play on the acronym for the United States Marine Corps. McClary appears to forget our service members take an oath to our Constitution, and not to any religion or deity.
McClary’s web site contains an endorsement by Jerry Falwell about McClary’s extensive proselytizing track record: “His life story is living proof of the power of God. It will encourage you in your walk with God. My prayer is that God will give us more champions like Clebe McClary.”
Therefore, McClary’s proselytizing actions (not his beliefs) are what reasonable, Constitution-reading, and Constitution-supporting Americans oppose. McClary does not have the right to go onto Federal property to proselytize government employees on government time. Your editorial ignores the most salient objection.
Here are the sections of our Constitution we seek to share and enforce:
Section VI: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Amendment I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”
Veterans for Common Sense opposes religious proselytizing of Federal employees on government property on government time. We would object equally if the Superintendent invited employees and/or cadets to a sales pitch to buy Ford Mustangs. We also would oppose any invitation for candidates to hold a political campaign fundraiser on campus, regardless of political party. All of these are specifically prohibited by law.
We ask you to set the record straight about our objections. Once you see the facts, then you should reach the reasonable conclusion that McClary is free to believe what he wants, yet he is prohibited from proselytizing at the USAFA.
Veterans for Common Sense
Dear Sir –
You recently published a polemic about the Air Force Academy Prayer Breakfast with a focus on freedom of speech.
The issue isn’t so much one of free speech as free thought and free action.
Any employee worth his salt knows that when his employer suggests an event, he needs to read between the lines. Layers of social nuance fall between a casual unfettered invitation at one end of the continuum and an overt demand at the other. In hierarchical situations, when one person has power or authority over another, an invitation often involves an element of coercion, simply because of the relationship. This is why, for example, universities often prohibit fraternizing or romantic engagement between faculty and students. The soldiers who alerted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to McClary’s planned talk were acutely aware of this dynamic. Fundamentalist Christians who have made the U.S. armed services their mission field also are acutely aware of it. They are keen to penetrate the military hierarchy and social structure for exactly this reason—the hierarchy required for military discipline affords a particular set of opportunities for persuasion and influence.
Scholars of Christianity differentiate between sects or denominations that are focused on The Great Commission (go into the world and make disciples of every creature) and those focused on The Great Commandment (love the Lord your God with your heart soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself). The heart of Evangelicalism is The Great Commission; that is what the term evangelize means: Conversion activities. Recruiting new believers. Over many, many years this type of religion has refined messages that act as social, emotional and cognitive triggers for the conversion process. Perhaps you know a smart, persuasive child who, when he or she wants something tries six different ways to make the argument – until one works. A proselytizing religion over time does the same thing. By a process of trial and error, sometimes quite unintentional, it lands on what I call “words that work.”
This is the powerful combination faced by our young soldiers, who are vulnerable precisely because of the conditions necessary to effective service. When a person who is subject to a (1) hierarchical relationship is drawn into a (2) conversion situation which then exposes them to (3) words that work combined with (4) peer pressure, some percentage will submit. That is the goal of evangelists such as McClary, who has defined USMC as “U.S. Marine for Christ.” It is the reason proselytizing sects of Christianity are spending so much money and effort to maintain access to the minds of young soldiers. It is why our soldiers—who have been asked to summit to hierarchy and authority for the sake of protecting our country – should be buffered from those who would exploit their vulnerability.
For the sake of your readers, I would ask that you publish a counterbalancing point of view such as this one in the Gazette.
Valerie Tarico, Ph.D.
Author, Trusting Doubt
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Editorial Board and Mr Laugesen,
Mr Laugesen’s article states that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation wants Lt Gen Gould removed as Superintendent of at USAFA. That is a fact, but comments about Lt Gen Gould only distract from the issue at hand: an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
The article talks about religious censorship when you should be talking about the special, privileged space Lt McClary has been provided. This is not private speech or even public speech. This is a special government-endorsed speech.
Lt McClary is a war hero who has given much for our country. For that he should be praised. His Christianity is a personal choice that is not the least concerning to the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers. I am comfortable saying that Christianity as a faith is of no concern to MRFF or the thousands of Christian clients of MRFF. Lt McClary’s message of being a “Marine for Christ” in the Lord’s Army promotes a privileged and exclusive type of Christianity that should not be given an official government platform.
The 1st Amendment cautions against government establishment of religion before allowing for freedom of personal religion. Mr Laugesen has used the Gazette to confuse readers about the two issues. Lt McClary is free to speak on his own time, to private organizations, or even free public spaces. On a government stage at a government event, USAFA should opt not to endorse Lt McClary’s ideals of a Christian military. The Editorial Board should select another writer to present a more Constitutionally-accurate view of this real and concerning issue.
New Poll Questions for “Should McClary speak at USAFA?”
– Yes, USAFA should endorse Lt McClary’s message of a Christian US military
– No, USAFA should invite a different Christian whose message is Constitutional
– Don’t Care
President, Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Talk to Action
Dear Mr. Laugesen,
Your Colorado Springs Gazette January 23 editorial (“Censors Want to Silence War Hero”) concerning the controversy over Air Force Academy head Lt. Gen. Gould’s invitation to former Marine Lt. Clebe McClary, to be the keynote speaker for the Air Force’s upcoming February 10th National Prayer Luncheon at the Academy, suggests Mr. McClary’s highly sectarian, exclusionary form of born-again evangelicalism is characteristic of Christianity in general.
Your claim, which is squarely debunked in a letter from Mikey Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation (co-signed by veterans, religious, and atheist groups) to Secretary of Defense Gates calling for McClary’s invitation to be rescinded, is, to put it gently, absurd.
But McClary’s evangelical beliefs as such aren’t the central reason for rescinding his speaking invitation writes Don Byrd, in a January 27th post for the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty–which upholds traditional Baptist support for separation of church and state,
If there is a problem with inviting McClary, it is not the fact that he is an evangelical Christian, nor his religious views generally, divisive as they may be. What makes him a questionable choice is his apparent insistence on conflating military service with Christian service. Giving such a platform to a speaker who espouses those views runs the risk of sending a message that is it the Academy’s view as well, or at least that the Christianization of the military is tolerated.
It is my own view that Clebe McClary’s candid disdain for non born-again Christians (probably the majority of American Christians) should indeed alone disqualify him as a speaker at the allegedly ecumenical and inclusive Air Force Prayer Luncheon, and doubly so for his bold claims to be a soldier in the “Lord’s army” and that “USMC” stands for “U.S. Marine for Christ” – the latter would deeply offend many Marine veterans who see themselves as part of a proud Marine Corps tradition as a professional fighting force aloof from politics, the very antithesis of an armed horde of religious zealots.
Bobby Muller, also a former Marine lieutenant as well as a 1997 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, founder and former president of Vietnam Veterans of America, and Military Religious Freedom Foundation Advisory Board member weighed in with that very sentiment:
“As a former Marine lieutenant who, like Lt. Clebe McClary, was severely wounded while leading a mission in Vietnam, I am appalled by my fellow Marine’s statement that a “complete” Marine is one who likes to think that U.S.M.C. stands for “U.S. Marine for Christ.” I am even more appalled that the United States Air Force Academy has invited someone with such a religiously divisive and sectarian message to speak at its upcoming National Prayer Luncheon, an event that should be inclusive of Airmen of all faiths…
Proselytizing and Christian supremacy have no place in the United States military.”
If McClary speaks as planned, this will provide yet more rhetorical ammunition to those who want to inflame passions in the Islamic world by branding America’s young men and women in the armed forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq as Christian crusaders, thus placing their lives at further risk.
In addition, Mr. Gould’s choice of McClary deeply offends Air Force and USAFA tradition itself. As detailed below, Clebe McClary is listed as a speaker for the evangelical group Task Force Patriot, which appears to sanction acts of treason and violation of the Air Force Academy officer’s oath.
In May 2007, on behalf of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, I attended a Memorial Day event at Stone Mt., Georgia, co-hosted by Task Force Patriot, and witnessed McClary’s fellow Task Force Patriot speaker Major Brian Neal, then on active duty as a B-2 bomber pilot, give a speech in which Neal stated,
“I’m going to have to separate myself from the service of this nation if it’s required in order to propagate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not going to disregard my responsibilities. But if there ever comes a time when there is a priority to be made, a decision to be made, it must always rest in the work of the Lord and the Lord’s army. Because that commission is greater than the one I received from the United States Air Force Academy.”
Major Neal’s speech, which many might view as a declaration of intent to commit treason and violate his Air Force Academy officer’s oath, was warmly applauded by those present, including former Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch and Task Force Patriot’s leaders.
Like Major Neal, former Marine Lt. Clebe McClary declares his fealty to the “Lord’s Army.” Is that metaphorical, an expression of Christian dedication? I think not.
At the Stone Mountain event, co-hosted by Holman Bible Publishers, I received from Task Force Patriot volunteers my free copy (they were distributing thousands of these at the event) of Holman’s “Military Bible”, sitting atop my desk as I write this.
Holman Bible Publishing is an imprint of the Southern Baptist Convention – the only significant segment of American Christianity to sanction the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, which was opposed by every other Protestant denomination and by the Catholic Church.
Holman’s Military Bible boasts a computer-generated olive-drab cover with an official US Army seal, and it features a tacked-on appendix with writings from evangelical Christians in the military. The last page of the Bible features a recruiting pitch from the Officers Christian Fellowship, an international fundamentalist evangelical ministry which, given that it claims thousands of US military officers as members, as its “ambassadors for Christ”, could potentially function as a parallel command structure. The OCF’s recruiting letter in the Military Bible asks,
“Are we willing to be identified with Jesus no matter what the cost? This is a time to be bold for Jesus, and to seize the moment afforded to us by the great turmoil in our nation and military, and to proclaim the liberating work of Jesus! Jesus is calling to His warriors, His ambassadors in uniform. Are you answering the call?”
The letter, and the Bible, ends with:
For more information or to join OCF contact:
3784 South Inca
Englewood, Colorado, 80110
The Holman Military Bible also features a forged document known as “Washington’s Prayer”, a falsified quote incorrectly attributed to George Washington that was created by selectively removing words from, and adding words to, a paragraph extracted from Washington’s famous circular letter to governors of the original thirteen colonies, announcing General Washington’s historic decision to disband the revolutionary army and return to civilian life.
The Holman Military Bible version of the forgery is even more deceptive than most versions, because it identifies the “prayer” as having been “sent to the governors of the States” without even mentioning Washington’s circular letter.
This falsified “prayer” is often cited by those who attribute to George Washington strong Christian piety (Michele Bachmann has wielded the fake quote against Barack Obama), and it is promoted at the highest levels of politicized evangelicalism in America today. For years at least, if not since the event’s beginning, The National Prayer Breakfast’s printed program has featured the “Washington’s Prayer” forgery, and it would be next to impossible for this to be accidental.
George Washington’s choice to step down and disband the army was pivotal for the emerging nation, establishing a precedent that the military should stay aloof from politics–a tradition which, many historians would argue, has been crucial to the success of American democracy.
The promotion of falsified history is far from the only unsavory aspect of the National Prayer Breakfast, which USAFA Communications Director David K. Cannon has suggested is a model for the Air Force’s upcoming Prayer Luncheon. Cannon states that the National Prayer Breakfast aims to “bring together the leadership of the United States in recognition of the spiritual values upon which our Nation is founded.” Beyond the prosaic spiritual value of historical revisionism, other “spiritual values” inherent to the event would seem to include revolutionary patricide and celebration of organized crime.
The National Prayer Breakfast has, since its founding in the early 1950’s, been hosted by the Washington, DC based evangelical group known as The Fellowship. Clebe McClary himself has been a speaker at the Fellowship’s Idaho Prayer Breakfast event – along with longtime Fellowship head Doug Coe.
Douglas Coe has likened his organization to the “the mafia” and encouraged Christians to follow Jesus with the same level of zeal as young Chinese Red Guard cadres who, during Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution, were willing to chop off the heads of their own mothers and fathers, for the communist cause (here’s the footage of Mr. Coe saying that, during a 1989 speech in Colorado Springs.)
America’s founding fathers would be aghast, rolling over in their graves, to know that such a man has played the role of friend and counselor to a succession of American presidents. If Christ’s message were transparently obvious, history would not have seen the horrific religious wars, Catholics slaughtering Protestants and Protestants slaughtering Catholics (and each other too) which wracked Europe in the wake of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses tacked onto the Wittenberg door and the Protestant Reformation that Luther’s words helped inspire.
America’s founders knew that bloody history, and so they built into our Constitution firewalls to prevent American government from falling under sway of any one sectarian Christian tendency, because they knew that would tear the young nation apart. It is those very firewalls the National Prayer Breakfast and the Air Force’s upcoming National Prayer Luncheon appear designed to undermine, erode, and subvert.
Clebe McClary’s evangelical tendency seems to envision itself as being in conflict with other Christians who hold the “wrong” sorts of beliefs. Most of the many thousands of US service members that Mikey Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation represents feel they are being persecuted for being the “wrong” sort of Christians.
And, most Americans are unaware of the sort of combat theater madness that the MRFF fights – compulsory religious indoctrination, forced down the throats of young Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rifle scopes inscribed with Biblical scripture. US armored vehicles painted with slogans such as “Jesus killed Mohammed!” rampaging through Iraqi towns.
The last example, which you can read about in “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade For a Christian Military” by journalist Jeff Sharlet, in the May 2009 issue of Harpers Magazine, is exactly the signal America does not want to send, and it is precisely why the United States Air Force needs to pull back from its apparent endorsement of born-again evangelical Christian supremacy and rescind its invitation to the scheduled star speaker for its upcoming February 10th National Prayer Luncheon, former Marine Lt. Clebe McClary.
If America is to remain a functional democracy, neither the Air Force or the US military in general can be part of the “Lord’s army”, all the more so because Christians themselves cannot agree what that would possibly mean other than functioning as rhetorical cover for a sectarian Christian faction’s advancement of a politicized ideology and agenda.
But America has its own mundane, pressing problems to solve – growing jobs, rebuilding deteriorating infrastructure, meeting the basic needs of America’s citizens, reducing debt. We don’t need religious strife, we don’t need crusades, and we don’t need the Air Force or its Academy to lend a podium, and the implied sanction that confers, to a member of the “Lord’s army.”
Ex “native” of the Lodz ghetto,
Auschwitz and Dachau
Wayne Laugesen’s editorial diatribe in the Colorado Springs Gazette, CO, 1/23/2011 heavily criticized the opposition by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to a paid-for speech appearance by the truly heroic Lt. Clebe McClary at the USAF’s Academy. This piece was not only rife with ad hominem attacks on former Capt. Mikey Weinstein (a 1977 Honor Graduate of USAF’s Academy) but it then adds insult to logic’s injury by a shower of non sequitur statements. Since I do not wish to be guilty of both of these transgressions, I shall proceed to the substance of the matter instead. I fully agree with Laugesen’s statement that “Christians have right to speak publicly” but that right does not include religious proselytizing of United States military personnel.
It is clearly unconstitutional in US (at least so far) to use publicly owned means of communication and buildings for exclusionary religious propaganda, since our Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a religion by our government and any religious test for government employment. Such prohibition surely includes our military service members and civilian staff who are Federal employees in United States Air Force and at the USAF Academy.
As I understand it, Lt. McClary is being paid $2,500 for his appearance at the Academy, plus expenses. While this money is not provided by the Academy, the Academy provides the venue for McClary’s extreme definitions of who is a proper Christian and that the US Marine Corps is a “USMC for Jesus” and so on. I’m not at all aware that all the other invitees to speak are given the same treatment with money and time for their statements. If not, then what is their legitimate function except as Band-Aids to make the Academy’s “spiritual lecture” appear to conform to First Amendment’s strictures.
Since Colorado Springs has 400 Protestant and more than 20 Roman Catholic churches, Jewish temples and some for other faiths, it would appear to me that this most likely narrowly sectarian religious presentation has many more proper venues than that of the USAF Academy. It is possible however that Lieut. McClary’s exclusionary religious views are not acceptable to most of these churches or temples; if so, then why would such views be acceptable to the Academy?
I write such a letter with a heavy heart since I truly admire such warriors as Lieut. McClary. Nevertheless, having survived the Holocaust in Europe during World War II, I consider attempts to unify any kind of religion with the civil government of our (or any!) Republic as being extremely dangerous to its freedom!
Ex “native” of the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and Dachau
Boulder, CO 80301
My response to the recent U.S. Air Force Academy editorial comes from a totally different perspective. I am a parent of a 2010 USAFA graduate. Our present family situation is a direct result of the fundamentalist evangelical proselytizing that is currently happening at the Academy. Our daughter, Lauren, became entagled in a “Bible study” group called Cadets for Christ. One of their weekly meeting places was actually on the USAFA campus!!! This fundamentalist group destroyed my daughter’s career aspirations as they defined her life in their sheppherding program. Her decisions are no longer hers as she must seek counsel from the group’s leader. It is a nightmare beyond belief; I would welcome the opportunity to “fill you in on the details”.
In September 2010, my family has joined forces with MRFF to address this blatant proselytizing. When you wrote the following, “Sometimes Weinstein’s organization has legitimate points, which Gould addresses” I realized you were totally clueless to the issues that MRFF is presently facing with the Academy. I have spoken with Gen. Gould and Fr. Bruno, the head chaplain. Their concensus was there is no eivdence of any proselytizing. I have since forwarded 2 emails to these individuals, written by the Cadets for Christ, that clearly prove proselytizing and a direct working relationship with the Academy. They have not responded. So, you tell me when it is time to ask for Gen. Gould to be removed from office.
I agree, 1st Lt. McClary should be honored for his very distiguished military career. However, when he speaks of being a member of the “Lord’s army” he is implying that the military is a religious organization. The Academy’s prayer luncheon now becomes a stage for Christian proselytizing. Although attendance is not mandatory, a young cadet or junior officer has been trained to understand that a “military request”, in cvilian terms, is a command. This has to be stopped.
Mr. Laugensen, a year ago I would have found your editorial credible. However, through personal experience, I KNOW that Christian proselytizing is happening at the Academy and it is being fostered from the inside.
The press has the power to report a story in a manner that is most advantageous to its pocket book. It is a shame that the Gazette does not take a more responsible approach when reporting stories that effect the welfare of our U.S. military.
RABBI JOEL R. SCHWARTZMAN
In my twenty three and a half years in the military, I never attended or participated in a National Prayer Breakfast that didn’t turn out to step on the feet of one religious group or another. It is a lose-lose and usually it is the religious minorities which lose the most because no one vets or can vet either the prayers that often are offered extemporaneously or the verses of the music that are being sung or, lastly, the speaker, especially the one who is currently headed for USAFA. This is the same fellow I heard while I was on active duty. I can assure you that all non-Christians will be excluded by him, by his orientation, and by his inability to be inclusive.
On a wider plain, to one degree or another, the event encourages religious discrimination and/or religious coercion. Only at the risk of career damage can one ignore the urging of a superior to attend this kind of function. Retribution is sown into a refusal.
In my opinion, the idea of a National Prayer Breakfast would be better served by each denomination having its own breakfast, thereby enabling it to stay true to its rubrics, service format and tenants while asserting its patriotism and commitment to duty. Short of this, the military ought to eschew the event altogether. All it succeeds in doing is sowing and reenforcing the seeds of discord and rancor among the troops, emphasizing differences and exacerbating them rather than encouraging teamwork.
Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman
Ch, Col (Ret), USAF
Wayne, you aren’t much of a journalist if you think MRFF’s objection to Clebe McClary amounts to “censorship.” Censorship is the act of repressing the right to free expression. “Free” does not mean that you will be given a podium and a microphone and a pluralistic audience to preach to, and nobody has a right to those things. Withholding these privileges is not censorship. Clebe McClary can continue to express himself in whatever medium he chooses, but nobody has to give such a medium to him. That privilege should be reserved for those who deserve it. The military is a pluralistic environment where every belief is welcome and should not face the kind of disrespect Clebe McClary is well-known for. If the Gazette rightfully determines that you are a second-rate demagogue using transparent loaded language to cater to the lowest caliber of readers, and subsequently refuses to carry your insolent tripe, they will be well within their rights and the rest of us will be glad to be rid of a glorified forum warrior masquerading as a journalist.
Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine before him, patently mistrusted ANY religion in government. That history is embedded in out Constitution.
When I served in Vietnam, our chaplains kept a low profile consistent with Jesus teaching “Do not be like the hypocrites” who make a show of their religion. This was the best possible example and least divisive course of action in a military which should accommodate all faiths in private and promote none in public.
Since, people who believe their God is the only true God, and everyone else’s God is a false God, have come to command structures and simply do not care they are practicing a treason against our founders, our 1st Amendment and our rule of law. In regards to this, I would point out to the ‘hero’ McClary: Benedict Arnold was the Hero of Ticonderoga before he sold out West Point and his country.
The recent editorial attempting to make a case that Weinstien’s MRFF organization is insensitive to matters of free speech would be well-founded if the retired Marine tapped to speak at USAFA were speaking at the invitation of a civilian organization not subject to military regulation and not supported by taxpayer’s money.
USAFA is not a free speech zone. No military installation is given the freedom that seems to be taken for granted in the editorial.
The military arm of the United States is NOT given the same latitude to sponsor speakers as, say, the Kiwanis club or any private church or political party.
Weinstein consistently backs the Academy’s right, and in fact, obligation, to encourage individuals to organize for purpose of religious or political expression so long as it remains outside the umbrella of Academy influence or sponsorship. The MRFF is simply requiring USAFA to follow its own guidelines. Inviting this retired Marine to an openly-avowed prayer service (is anything in the military really “voluntary”?) clearly violates military regulation, not to
mention common sense.
The general should not be invited to speak at any event sponsored by any military arm or tax-paid entity. For persons not willing to accept this restriction, imagine the ruckus that would erupt if a controversial Muslim cleric were invited to share his views at an Academy-sponsored prayer-lunch. Be interesting to see which hypocrites were exposed in the screed following that scenario.
You miss the point entirely.
Mikey Weinstein is the last defense against the U.S. Military becoming a religious army. Unless you want to head down the road of a religious military, you’d be well advised to think more deeply about Mr. Weinstein’s valid and constitutional objections to General Gould’s choice of Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary to speak at what, in itself, should be viewed as a constitutionally questionable event.
Mr. Weinstein would be the first to honor Lt. McClary’s service and great sacrifice. He would also, if need be, be there to defend McClary’s right to practice his religion. Just as he is there for the thousands of Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists who feel the long arm of Fundamentalist Christianity forced upon them in any military setting.
Mr. Weinstein has far too much knowledge and proof of the institutional acceptance and promotion of McLary’s brand of Christianity not to respond as vigorously as he has to General Gould’s ill advised choice of McClary. It is galling enough and certainly constitutionally questionable that the U.S. sanction the National Prayer Breakfast, a Family sponsored, fundamentalist event. For the Academy to magnify the blurring of church/state lines in seeking out McClary, a speaker who affirms that very church/state collaboration, is even more dangerous and must not be allowed.
Mr. Weinstein does not censor religion but he rightly and strenuously objects to the U.S. Military promulgation of a chosen brand. Why is that so hard to understand?
That no one is required to attend the luncheon is ludicrous. In a military setting, such as the AFA, few will chance risking their career by displeasing a superior who expects/demands his/her attendance. Again, why is that so hard to understand?
Funny, but the hypocrisy I see comes not from The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, but instead from a group of very intentional Christianists within the military who are intent upon converting everyone to their way of worship. . . . or else.
I hope you’ll rethink Mr. Weinstein’s reasoning on this event and understand the danger in letting any of these violations go unchallenged.
I am a client of Mikey Weinstein. I was routed from the Air Force because I spoke out about specific Christian prayers at mandatory meetings. I was a Tanker and Fighter pilot and had a perfect record. The Christian speaker who is intolerant of other views, views we fight to protect, is inappropriate at the Air Force Academy. Your “poll” was a push poll, worded for a specific result and it was dishonest.
Please use American values as your guide and help prevent this bigot (war hero bigot) from preaching at the Academy.