March 7, 2018
USAFA Association of Graduates’ Publication to Carry Apology for Endowment CEO’s ‘In Your Face’ Display of Sectarian Religious Dominance
In December 2017, the newly appointed CEO of the Air Force Academy’s Endowment Fund retired Lt. General Mike Gould was featured in an introductory article published in the USAFA Association of Graduates’ (AOG) publication (Checkpoints). Accompanying this article was a photo of Gould (USAFA Superintendent 2009-2013) wearing a distinctive red tie emblazoned with stylized fish symbols.
Writing for Christianity Today on August 8, 2008, Elesha Coffman explained the origin and significance of the fish symbol (a.k.a. Ichthys):
The Greek word for fish is “ichthys.” As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. Hence the fish, unlike, say, the cross, attracted little suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers [emphasis added]. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes [emphasis added].
MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein began to receive phone calls, text messages, and emails from 27 MRFF clients (Cadets, Staff, and Faculty) at USAFA regarding this highly inappropriate photograph published in Checkpoints. One USAFA staff member described, via email to Mikey, this glaring display of religious symbolism by the former USAFA Superintendent and current Endowment Fund CEO in appropriate context:
I know that the MRFF had long battles with Mike [Gould] during his tenure as Supt [sic] considering his previous history as an avowed evangelical Christian, ties to a local megachurch, and his wife’s many public statements at Academy events declaring their faith and the necessity of all in the Air Force to have similar views. Many claimed that you were on a Witch Hunt, discriminating against Christians as you (in their view) picked at the edges of AFI 1-1 [Air Force instruction requiring no show of favoritism to a specific religion] to point out inequities and religious bias throughout the military. Gould declared his innocence and dedication to treating all equally—while he was in uniform—and fought all comers that claimed that bias existed in his office or at the Academy. As it turns out, though, you were right all along.
Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Independent reported Mikey’s reaction to this photo on March 7, 2018:
“On his maiden voyage to say hello as CEO of the endowment, he carefully chose that photograph to be sure he was following the great commission to go and make Christians of all nations,” he says. “If Gould feels he has to proselytize like this while supporting the Academy’s values about inclusion, he needs to put in an application to Focus on the Family. Wearing that tie is very much like sticking a middle finger to diversity, the First Amendment and the Academy’s core values. It’s hypocrisy writ large. It’s hurtful, it’s wrong and it colors everything he did at the academy.”
Weinstein reports that AOG president and CEO Marty Marcolongo, a 1988 Academy grad, told him it was a misstep that slipped through and that the magazine would carry an apology in an upcoming issue.