by Pam Zubeck
Often accused of a bent toward fundamental Christianity, the Air Force Academy will hold its Biannual Religious Respect Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday. But its biggest critic, Mikey Weinstein, won't be there.
The conference will outline the academy's Religious Respect Training Program and provide an update of USAFA's ongoing religious training efforts since the last conference in November 2010.
The academy says in a news release:
Conference attendees will comprise a widely diverse mix of religious affiliations (please see list below). Some of this year's attendees include representatives from Earth Centered faiths, Judaism, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Assemblies of God, Islam, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, United Church of Christ, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, and others. .
Attendees will review and discuss the new Religious Respect Training Program for cadets that includes training in both the Establishment and Free Exercise of Religion clauses of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. It institutionalizes religious respect training among cadets and provides strategies for facilitating the accommodation of religious practice in the military environment as Second Lieutenants in the United States Air Force.
But the conference won't include anyone representing secularists, humanists, atheists, agnostics or Freethinkers, notes Weinstein, a 1977 grad who established the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2005 after learning from cadets that Jews were vilified at the academy.
Weinstein has been a presenter at the academy in the past, but not this year.
"The United States Air Force Academy has deliberately planned and marketed this ignominious propaganda travesty, which they disingenuously call a 'Religious Respect Conference', in a blatantly stealth and mean-spirited, exclusivist manner which reeks of bigoted travesty and blatant betrayal of good faith and inclusive diversity," Weinstein says in a statement.
He notes that MRFF currently has 372 clients at the academy, 317 of whom are Christian and another 19 follow other established faith traditions like Islam, Buddhism and Judaism.
He also says, "Look, I've just spent the last four days at the Academy and have had scores of MRFF clients plead with me to my face to even more aggressively expose the fundamentalist Christian oppression which continues unabated there. This 'Conference' is a Poster Child example of this tyranny. MRFF's numerous Academy clients are furious, desperate and terribly hurt about this latest action of unconstitutional religious theater of the absurd. This Academy sponsored 'Religious Respect Conference' is absolutely akin to the KKK hosting an 'African American Appreciation Conference'."
We asked the academy why the non-believers weren't included, but haven't heard back. We'll update if and when we do.
Here's a list of non-academy attendees supplied by the academy:
ACURA, Executive Committee Member
Ms. Kate Holbrook - Representative
Air Education and Training Command Chaplain
Chaplain, Colonel Steve Schaick
American Civil Liberties Union
Mr. Loring Wirbel - Representative
Assemblies of God
CAPTAIN (Ret), Chaplain Charles W. Marvin, USN - Endorser
Associated Gospel Chaplains
CAPTAIN (Ret), Chaplain Steve Brown, USN - Endorser
Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA
Diocese of Colorado Springs, Bishop Michael Sheridan - Representative
Buddhist Churches of America
Reverend Jerry Hirano - Representative
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Chaplain
Colonel (Ret) Frank W. Clawson, USAF - Endorser
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
Dr. E. Richard Crabtree - Representative
Rocky Mountain Region Director, Anti-Defamation League
Mr. Scott Levin
Earth Centered Spirituality
Reverend David L. Oringderff, PhD - Endorser
Federal Ministries of the Episcopal Church
Canon to the Ordinary (Bishop of Colorado) - The Reverend Canon Carl Andrews - Representative
Islamic Society of Colorado
Imam Mohamed Jodeh - Representative
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
Ms. Arielle Gingold - Representative
Pikes Peak Interreligious Clergy Alliance (PPIRCA)
Mr. Steve Brown - President
United Church of Christ, Chaplain
Reverend Stephen Boyd - Endorser
USAF Chief of Chaplain Corps
Chaplain, Colonel Scott Gardner
PACAF Command Chaplain
Chaplain, Colonel Dondi Costin
ACC Command Chaplain
Chaplain, Colonel Scott Ofsdahl
AFMC Command Chaplain
Chaplain, Colonel Harry Mathis
AFSC Command Chaplain
Chaplain, Colonel Brett Oxman