– The cadets don’t harass other cadets under religious pretext on their own; they take their cues from officers, junior and senior, a core of whom believe, or at least behave as if, the USAFA is the seminary of God’s Air Force –
By Darryl Wimberley
I got this letter from Mikey Weinstein’s MRFF [Military Religious Freedon Foundation] site and decided I should pass it along. Some of you probably saw this letter [below] already. The letter is from a cadet speaking of harassment from self-described Christian cadets, and officers, at USAFA. For those who have not read the letter, I thought it important to give some sort of prologue to support the idea that this letter should be taken very seriously.
This cadet’s view, from what I saw in a recent year at USAFA, is truthful. Now, I can imagine a grad from, say ’71, reading the letter penned below with incredulity. The letter was sent to Mikey Weinstein’s MRFF organization to dispute USAFA’s public stand that it’s officially religion-neutral. The details will be hard for many/most to believe who haven’t been plugged into Academy life for a while. So for context here is a bottom-line judgment that I reached after a recent year in Fairchild Hall: USAFA has had a problem distinguishing religious freedom from religious harassment ever since the Frank Dobson center got established at the South Gate. The profile of young folks coming to USAFA has become more narrow with the end of Selective Service; the body is less diverse than during the years where a young man had to worry about the draft.
This hasn’t helped. At the end of my single year, I attended a meeting along with, I guess, a half-dozen faculty members at USAFA who in a closed meeting with Gen Gould reported patterns and specific instances of abuses by officers and cadets related to Christian proselytizing or harrassment or hazing, the same sorts of things reported by the cadet writing the letter you’ll see below. Those faculty were very blunt and Gen. Gould, to his credit, did not try to edit their separate reports or
The Academy has a problem and it revolves around officers and cadets who define themselves as Christian. Of course, we’re speaking of a certain view of Christianity. That should be obvious. Not every Xtn cadet at USAFA engages in the kind of behavior you’ll read about.
But many do. And many officers condone it or encourage it by silent consent. What the cadet below describes of his/her daily life at USAFA is not hype, from what I saw firsthand, and learned from other officers on-station. One of the officers speaking with Gen Gould, at the meeting where I was present, spoke of how his own son had been punished for not attending a “voluntary” prayer service. The details of the punishment aren’t important. What is important is that the AOC and chain of command knew about the abuse and did zilch to stop it or punish the offenders.
The other important point to understand is that these are not isolated incidents; it’s been going on a long time. The cadets don’t harass other cadets under religious pretext on their own; they take their cues from officers, junior and senior, a core of whom believe, or at least behave as if, USAFA is the seminary of God’s Air Force.
I outline this prologue because I can imagine that anyone reading this cadet’s letter, without some sort of context, will find it hard to believe. One of the officers who spoke to Gen Gould was an active duty, senior USAF officer whose daughter/son experienced this same harassment at USAFA first hand. Another officer, whose wife was told he’d never be promoted unless he started attending Sunday school, was a professor of history. An Army officer spoke in specific terms of seeing an officer promote the sort of behaviour you’ll read about below in an overseas combat arena. A good friend of mine with a related experience at USAFA was a Lt Col, AF, who had been teaching at the Academy for five years.
These folks aren’t wackos or nuts. They don’t exaggerate or prevaricate. The problem really is serious. For other details, and endless testimony (including a letter written a few weeks back and signed by many, many faculty) contact Mikey Weinstein at MRFF. If you think it’s worthwhile to pass this along to other grads, obviously, please do.
See the letter below for specifics.
——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Mikey Weinstein
Date: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 2:47 PM
Subject: About Ready To Give Up On USAFA
To: Darryl Wimberley
From:USAF Academy Cadet’s E-Mail Address Withheld
Date: September 21, 2010 1:25:22 PM MDT
Subject: About Ready To Give Up On USAFA
Mr. Weinstein, I am a Firstclassman (senior) at the United States
Air Force Academy (USAFA). To many who think they know me but actually
do not at all, I am considered an “ideal cadet” and stand high in my
class in every category. I guess you could say that I’m kind of the
leader of an “invisible” group of well over a hundred or so fellow
cadets who support everything you and MRFF have done and are doing
here at the Academy. You and MRFF are our advocates and champions. I
am a Protestant and straight. Most of our group are the same, but some
are LGBT and Catholic and a few are of other faiths including atheists
and agnostics. I will not say whether I am male or female because I
don’t want to give them an edge in ever finding out who I am. I expect
you will show this to others and I hope you do. For a long time you
asked us to trust the “system” here at USAFA and take our religious
persecution grievances “up the chain” or to other reporting elements.
You told us all the time that the Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Gould, and
his staff would have our backs and not let anything bad happen to us
if we came forward. We told you that was crazy. We told you that many
times. Then, when Lt. Gen. Gould refused to make public the “Climate
Study” data, after first describing it as positive, and then all the
bad information leaked out, we thought that was the final straw. Then,
this morning we all saw in “Falcon Clips”, sent all over USAFA from
the USAFA Public Affairs people, the hyper “anti Mikey/MRFF” blog
submission from something or someone called
“ChristianFighterPilot.com”? We now know that person to be an active
duty USAF Officer and USAFA grad, of course, with about an endless
number of axes to grind. USAFA didn’t know that too? Impossible. That
pretty much sealed the deal for all of us. USAFA is now distributing
even individual blogger’s pro Christian supremacy sentiments to
everybody who exists here? Mr. Weinstein, USAFA is literally overrun
with Christian conservative fanatics. And the leadership here either
knows this or is ridiculously blind to it. If any of us gave even the
slightest indication that we weren’t one of their number, our lives
would be even more miserable than they already are due to the fact
that we are all living lies here. Despite the Cadet Honor Code we all
lie about our lives. We have to. We don’t have a choice. Thus we are
all “invisible” to our tormentors. They will never find us. My own
parents don’t know. Only my finacee knows and he/she is one of my
classmates and a fellow member of our underground group. I keep
“Christian” books and “Christian” CD’s in my room so others will be
fooled and leave me alone and not suspect that I’m not actually with
the USAFA “Christianity is the Only Way” program here, even though I
consider myself to be a Christian. Sometimes we got to their “bible
studies” or attend SPIRE events and hold our breath that we’re not
“outed”. Many of this group I kind of lead do exactly the same things.
It is so much of the total culture here that to object even slightly
immediately brands you as suspect. And if you are suspect, then you
are in trouble. We all need those discretionary academic instructor
points. We all need our AOCs and Wing and Group and Squadron staffs to
want to support us. We all want more playing time with our athletic
teams. We all need help from “the system” in an infinite number of
ways but we will never get that help if we do not appear to be extreme
conservative evangelistic Christians in every way. The news article
says that you are now back “At war with USAFA”. Join the club.
(name, cadet rank, Cadet Squadron and Cadet Wing Title withheld)