On December 2, 2016, Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Independent described in an online report the twitter account of U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon’s football tight-ends coach Steed Lobotzke’s as “Most tweets are academy football related and include team and academy photos. But he also uses the account to evangelize, citing Bible verses.” Ms. Zubeck also detailed the objections to this practice by MRFF in her online report:
As an official with MRFF notes in an email to the Independent, “There is no disclaimer on his Twitter page saying that these are his own views and not the views of the Air Force Academy. In checking most of the other USAFA Football coaches twitter accounts, we did not find any evidence of them using their official accounts to promote their personal religion.”
MRFF represented 5 members of the Academy’s Athletic Department and 3 members of its ‘Fighting Falcon’ football team as complainants against this latest incident at USAFA of unconstitutional fundamentalist sectarian Christian supremacy. On December 7, 2016, MRFF’s legal counsel filed a request for the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD/IG) to formally investigate the USAFA football coach’s Christian evangelizing via Twitter.
On December 9, 2016, Pam Zubeck reported USAFA’s initial response to this complaint:
We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Upon looking into this matter, we learned that all athletic coaches’ social media accounts are personal and not maintained by the Air Force Academy Athletic Department. The views and comments within these accounts are personal and not the views of the Air Force Academy or Air Force. However, we appreciate that the accounts could appear official and have advised that an appropriate disclaimer be included to avoid confusion in this regard.
Ms. Zubeck observed in her report that “this means the coaches are free to use Academy images on their “personal” Twitter accounts that they use to proselytize, but they have to insert a disclaimer that it’s not an official Academy account…. So if you see a Falcon coach tweeting with images from the Academy and Bible verses, know that it’s not officially coming from the Academy.”
On December 12, 2016, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein responded to USAFA’s initial response in a demand letter sent to USAFA Superindent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson:
Advising the coaches to put a disclaimer on their “personal” social media pages is not remotely good enough by a long shot considering that USAFA is still promoting the religious evangelizing/proselytizing on the “personal” Twitter page of Steed Lobotzke by, incredibly, linking to this “personal” social media page on the official Air Force Athletics website’s “Social Media” page. Therefore, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) hereby demands that the link to Steed Lobotzke’s “personal” Twitter account either be immediately removed forthwith from the official Air Force Athletics website, or, alternatively, if it is allowed to remain on this official USAFA website, that an appropriate disclaimer be prominently posted on the official Air Force Athletics website’s “Social Media” page making it ABSOLUTELY clear that these tweets are the “personal” Twitter accounts of the coaches and further stating that the content posted on these “personal” social media pages does not in any way represent the official views of the Air Force Academy, the Air Force or the Department of Defense.
Within 2 hours and 15 minutes of USAFA receiving MRFF’s official demand, Pam Zubeck reported online via the Colorado Springs Independent that:
After waiting for a week for a response from the Air Force Academy about why a football coach is using academy images and proselytizing comments in his Twitter account, the academy said it had removed from its website links to the athletic staff’s Twitter handles. But, turns out, that wasn’t true. Because the links were still available on a separate Academy webpage containing social media information. UPDATE: After we pointed out that links to coaches’ Twitter accounts were still available on the Air Force Academy’s websites at 9:09 a.m. today, we asked the academy about that. We just received this message at 1:52 p.m. from the academy, “The links are no longer there.”