Compiled correspondence regarding the homophobic Orthodox Jewish fundamentalist links circulated in internal U.S. Air Force Academy memo
March 6, 2013
This email was sent to MRFF by a former
Protestant Chaplain at USAFA:
USAFA saying that “the link to jewfaq was meant as a resource for our Airmen on this holiday and nothing more”. Is like saying segregated lunch counters were “dining opportunities….nothing more!”
Of course segregated lunch counters were symbolic of the pervasive racial apartheid rigorously practiced in the south and tolerated in the north.
Just so, the Academy chaplain’s official recommendation of the jewfaq website rebutresses homophobia with religious rhetoric creating an environment of hostility, which actively empowers the denigration of same sex desire and condemns expressions of gender difference.
The choice of such a website is symbolic of the cultural exclusion and professional rejection experienced daily by gay, lesbian and bi-sexual cadets.
If the selection of this website by the HCX (Wing Chaplain’s Office) was simply “a lack of attention to detail” more’s the pity. Regulations regarding the dissemination of religious material insist that “information will not denigrate other religions or cultures”…this website certainly fails in that regard. Either the HCC was ignoring the regulation, or demonstrating an astonishing lack of pastoral care and professional competence. Or sadly…just engaging in the same engrained bigotry which reinforced racial segregation in the past, and which now seeks to demean the relational integrity of same sex desire and discount the worth of gender difference.
How much longer will gay, lesbian, and bisexual cadets have to receive religious sustenance from the back alley doorway….when will they sit with fellow cadets at the lunch counter of military community, respected and supported as colleagues, cadets, and military professionals?
Surely the Academy ought make a better effort at inclusiveness than this.
February 14, 2013
Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF, I am one of the MRFF’s clients regarding the current situation with the USAFA Chaplain’s website’s disparagement of LGB human beings. I am a cadet in the Class of 20XX and am in Cadet Squadron XX. I do not have much time as I have to get to class. But I wanted to thank you and MRFF for standing up for those of us who are LGB here at USAFA. I am gay, female and Jewish. I am not “out” either as a gay person or a member of the Jewish faith. Because if I was, life here would be much harder than it already is. It would be brutal. That’s messed up but that’s the way it is. My future in the Air Force would be clouded forever. No matter that DADT is now officially gone.That website used by the USAFA chaplains to “explain” Judaism is so terrible, speaking again as a gay person and a Jew. I may have a choice about being Jewish but I have no choice about my sexuality. I was born “that way” and am not ashamed. Saying that I am like a “kleptomaniac” because I am gay is so low that it does not deserve a reply by caring people. Thak you and the MRFF for taking up this fight.
C/XX XXXXXX X. XXXXXX (all other ID info. withheld)
February 20, 2013
Dear Mr. Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,
We are the very concerned parents of one of the Air Force Academy cadets you are representing in the current matter of the anti-gay “jewfaq.com” website reference currently being used by the Air Force Academy’s Chaplains Dept. to apparently “explain” the totality of the Jewish faith on line. Our son (or daughter) happens to be gay. He (or she) is not “out” at the Academy for fear of the consequences that would occur if this fact was made known. This is his (or her) decison and we respect that. We are Jewish and belong to a conservative synagogue in (city and state withheld). Our rabbinical staff does not believe that “being gay” is a sin or unnatural. We have told them of this matter and they are as shocked at what the Academy has done as we are. Our child was Bar (or Bat) Mitvahed there and confirmed as well. Our child is a person of great integrity and dignity. And he (or she) does not deserve to have his (or her) sexuality compared to that of a “kleptomaniac”. We do not understand why the Academy’s Chaplains are refusing to replace that debasing website with one of the many which do not exhibit bigotry towards anyone else? Our child is under enough stress as is our whole family over this incident. We love our child and want to eliminate the source of this official Academy-sanctioned shame. Can you please tell us what you and MRFF can do to help us? It’s clear that the Academy will do nothing in this regard. Our home phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please call after 5 pm ( time zone withheld).
(USAF Academy cadet’s parent’s indentifiers all withheld)
February 21, 2013
Dear Mr. Weinstein
I am writing you after trying to solve this issue at the lowest level twice, only to be ignored and rebuffed. When MRFF first brought up the troublesome link for the Fast of Esther (http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm), I was glad the issue had been pointed out. I know Rabbi (name withheld) and believed it was not his intention to misrepresent the positions of the Jewish community or hurt the LGBQ community. I have taken Jewish cadets to West Point and worked with Spectrum cadets to create safe environments for all, and I saw the rabbi as an ally. The rabbi even visited a Spectrum meeting recently to convey his openness to supporting every cadet.
Imagine my surprise then, when I heard of this link. The site is in no way reflects mainstream Judaism, which is a shame since there are so many mainstream and even secular (e.g., About.com, Wikipedia, etc.) that could have been used. I was truly horrified that someone at USAFA who wanted to know about Judaism would use this site, and embarrassed that they might think I shared those views. While you have already addressed the tragic (and completely unscientific) statements equating homosexuality to kleptomania, there are other pages that are equally offensive. For example, while we constantly battle sexism, this site suggests that, “women are for the most part seen as separate but equal” (http://www.jewfaq.org/women.htm). We know how well that worked out in this country, and none but the most Orthodox Jewish communities follow this idea.
After contacting the rabbi directly by email, and having a brief phone conversation, I let him know that such a link would almost certainly cost him credibility (and thus approachability) from the cadets at Spectrum. Additionally, I felt very hurt knowing the severe problems with this website. While he said he didn’t agree, he did say he understood what I was saying. And I assumed the link would be changed immediately.
To quote the above, “imagine my surprise” when the link was still not changed! I honestly could not believe it; such a small thing that hurt so many people that could be so easily fixed. This was Leadership 101 with regard to taking care of your troops, not to mention the mission of the chaplaincy. So I immediately called the rabbi back and made it explicitly clear that if the link was not removed within 24 hours, I would escalate the issue. I also took it to my boss who said he would call the rabbi’s boss in the chaplaincy. I said the rabbi is already talking to him.
I actually gave him well over 24 hours and have still not heard back; they did not even contact me to let me know they had considered the issue. At this point, I do not have faith (literally) that the chaplaincy has any intention of taking care of the people they supposedly serve. This is too easy a fix and they have known about it for too long for me to assume anything but the worst of intentions. While this is very sad for me, it is much worse for the cadets in my care who have to face the repercussions: LGBQ cadets who are being told they are kleptomaniacs, women who are being told they can be separated but still be equal, and Jewish cadets who have to explain that this radical form of Judaism is not how they celebrate their faith.
Anything you can do to help end this micro-aggression against me and my students would be very much appreciated. After 20 years at USAFA, this is honestly the most frustrated I have ever been. Worse things have happened in the name of religion, but never when there was so easy a fix to be had.
Steven Samuels, PhD
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership