Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) supports the January 20, 2011, letter written by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to Lieutenant General Michael Gould, the Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, demanding that Clebe McClary not be allowed to proselytize Academy personnel at the USAFA prayer breakfast scheduled for February 10, 2011.
Update: Interfaith Alliance of Colorado sends letter of support for MRFF. See below.
VCS believes our First Amendment rights prohibit the establishment of a religion by our government, and that includes our military service members attending the USAFA. VCS respects Clebe McClary’s superb military record. However, his openly declared mission is to proselytize service members. His intent clearly crosses the lines of dignity, common sense, and our Constitution. Based on prior incidents of religious intolerance as well as illegal proselytizing on the USAFA campus, VCS urges General Gould to rescind the invitation for McClary to speak at the USAFA.
Founded in 2002 by war veterans, VCS is a non-profit advocacy organization based in Washington, DC promoting civil liberties, national security, and better healthcare and benefits for our service members and veterans. VCS and MRFF worked together in 2007 to force the removal of a top official at the Department of Veterans Affairs who was unconstitutionally proselytizing.
“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
– Article 6; Constitution for the United States of America
Interfaith Alliance of Colorado Supports MRFF’s Demand to USAF Academy
January 19, 2011
Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould
Superintendent, United States Air Force Academy
2304 Cadet Drive, Suite 3300
U.S. Air Force Academy, CO 80840-5001
Dear Lt. Gen. Gould:
On behalf of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado Board of Directors, I write you today to express our organization’s fervent support of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s demand that the USAFA rescind its invitation to former Lt. Clebe McClary as the featured speaker for the Academy’s National Prayer Luncheon on February 10. The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado exists to protect the religious freedoms of all Coloradans and this includes the exemplary women and men at the USAFA.
On principle, we do not support government sponsored prayer events or religious services. In particular, we find non-inclusive prayer breakfasts, luncheons, and similar events to be extremely problematic. In recent years, we worked with former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to refrain from issuing non-inclusive National Prayer Day proclamations. The Academy’s selection of Lt. Clebe McClary as the speaker at the Feb. 10 luncheon does not demonstrate respect for the religious freedom of the USAFA’s cadets or an awareness that we live in a multi-faith state and country. Lt. McClary’s website contains the following description:
“Today Clebe McClary is in the service of the Lord’s Army. His life shows that he genuinely embodies the vow he took when entering the Marines: Any mission assigned will be accomplished in a superior manner, no matter what the obstacles. Clebe is what he likes to call a complete Marine. To him, USMC will always mean a U. S. Marine for Christ.”
We do not question Lt. McClary’s integrity. We are concerned, however, that his message represents a narrow, sectarian religious viewpoint. His message also implies that a serviceperson who is not a person of faith, particularly a Christian, is an incomplete person. The conflation of God and country in the speaker’s message is troublesome and brings to the fore, once again, the USAFA’s struggles with religious tolerance, inclusion, and acceptance.
We respectfully request that you evaluate the proposed Feb. 10 prayer luncheon to ensure it is the most inclusive event possible and that the greatest care is taken to prohibit proselytizing. Additionally, if the USAFA chooses to move forward with the event, we strongly urge that it be truly voluntary and that the religious freedom and personal choices of all cadets be protected to the fullest extent possible
Jeremy J. Shaver, M.Div.
The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado (TIA-CO) promotes social justice, religious freedom, and interfaith understanding by educating, organizing, and equipping progressive people of faith and goodwill for advocacy, dialogue, and celebration. Founded in 1998, the InterfaithAlliance of Colorado has 17 congregational partners and more than 800 individual members across the state from 19 faith traditions, as well as those without a faith tradition. For more information, visit www.InterfaithAllianceCO.org.