MRFF's Inbox

March 8, 2009

To: the Military Religious Freedom Foundation:

I am a member of the faculty at the United States Air Force Academy and an officer in the United States Air Force. I am also a Protestant Christian. I would give more information about my personal history and the details which lead me to more general conclusions in order to further substantiate what I'm about to report, but I fear that doing so would make it easier for Academy authorities to determine my identity and severely punish me and my USAFA staff friends and family for speaking up. Many USAFA faculty, staff and cadets here live essentially in a "gulag-state" of abject fear of retribution and reprisal. Where faculty members at the nation’s truly premier colleges and universities are protected by the tenets of academic freedom, publicly speaking about USAFA’s institutionally-sanctioned, fundamentalist Christian oppression to anyone, particularly Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, violates the expectation that USAFA faculty and staff be blindly loyal to the institution. Nevertheless, I would like to add my voice to the growing chorus of those who will testify about the unbridled, overwhelmingly evangelical Christian environment at the Academy and how it directly and indirectly assaults basic constitutional and human rights on a daily basis.

We can start with the Officers Christian Fellowship (OCF). Their flyers are posted near the elevators regularly – once or twice a month – notifying the passing faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy of “brown bag” presentations sponsored by the OCF. Despite the fine print disclaimer, the lack of alternative presentations sends a clear message: only those with an evangelical Christian agenda need give presentations here. A policy is in place that requires such event flyers be approved by full colonels before being posted, ostensibly to assure that any flyers that are posted are “professional in appearance.” Such a policy provides yet another layer of scrutiny by the institution. Is such a policy intended to give consent that the image on the OCF flyer was appropriate? Or that the topic was itself appropriate? If the topic is inappropriate, no problem; just come up with a “required attendance” meeting at the same time. Or, are the OCF flyers posted in order to send more covert messages? Clearly, the presentations imply that the Air Force Academy expects its faculty and staff to have the conservative, fundamentalist Christian perspective. Is someone keeping a mental list of who attends these meetings? To what ends?

Lest anyone reading this put forth their own pop psychology diagnosis of “paranoia,” consider the following:

· Instructors with one or more graduate degrees, including PhDs and MFAs, are reprimanded if, during the course of instruction, they happen to use one of those words forbidden by the FCC. Frankly, if one is discussing killing, or the possibility of being killed, there SHOULD be cuss words involved.

· Freethinking and inquisitive cadets wishing to engage in more secular intellectual discussion have been forced to learn to carefully and subtly probe their instructors’ religious proclivities, for fear of suffering retribution or proselytizing from evangelical faculty members.

· Cadets who are Mormon are permitted a two year hiatus in order to conduct their required missions. These are often some of the best cadets, since they generally have capability in other languages and some life experience to bring to the classroom. But is this special treatment? A parallel opportunity for other cadets in good standing who might want a break from the academy for any of a number of reasons, including religious ones – a program called “Stop Out” -- has been eliminated.

· Where past classes enjoyed beer at tailgate parties, and even attended mandatory “beer calls,” cadets may now be booted from the Air Force Academy (at taxpayer expense) for the Puritan sin of possessing alcohol in the trunk of their car in the cadet parking lot – even if they’re 21 years old. The result is off base weekend binge drinking that surely rivals any “party school” fraternity.

· “Intelligent Design,” which the courts have ruled to be creationism in disguise, is a highly respected “theory” in the Academy’s Science Division.

· Instructors engaging in mere discussion of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy risk retribution, despite the fact that cadets, as future officers, will need to understand this policy – a policy that will likely meet its demise in the coming years.

· Cadets who are perceived to be gay are being harassed and assaulted yet feel they have no recourse, both because of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and because of their perception that overwhelmingly Christian evangelical members of the leadership would have no sympathy for the treatment of a cadet they suspect is a homosexual.

As I recall, the Greatest Generation fought and won a war against fascists who started their reign of terror with censorship, involuntarily imposed their own ideology on the masses, and imprisoned, tortured and murdered homosexuals. Have we not come further as a people? Is this the best the Air Force has to offer? Shouldn’t the taxpayers demand more thoughtful, professional, and unbiased standards at service academies which are supposed to be institutions of “higher learning,” not institutions of “higher dogma”?

(USAF Academy Faculty Member's name, rank and academic department withheld.


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