AFA explores religious respect

Posted by Pam Zubeck on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 3:03 PM

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

Comments (45)

Showing 1-25 of 45

^the first statement is simply not true. Mikey made millions as a lawyer and quit to take on this task and has since lost money during the process. He often has to pay some of the expenses out of pocket. i don't know where you got the idea that there is somehow big money in the go against the Christians business.

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Posted by Anon on 10/29/2012 at 5:45 PM

All this religiousity has done nothing for today's hugely overpaid military. When was our last victory? Grenada? Look at all the O-6 level paygrades who will attend. What a huge waste of tax dollars. Chaplains should have no rank, and no lifetime career possibilities in our military. Their pay should come from their organizations. I'll bet that the Air Force has more officer chaplains than fighter/bombers. I was active duty officer in the late 1960's. Very few officers paid any attention to the chaplains; in fact, in five years I never spoke with one. No need.

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Posted by RichinAz on 10/29/2012 at 6:23 PM

Will someone join me in getting the organizational chart(s) & budgets for any &/or all branches of our military plus the VA? I have been trying for some time now and can't seem to get an answer from anyone on my requests. What is the BIG SECRET?

I think the country should be able to shine a flashlight on the above information. I also am attempting to get any & all "activity measures" utilized by Head Chaplains/ Administrations for the chaplains who clock in and do their thing. How is their "productivity" accounted for? This is of special interest to me (and many of my acquaintances) because of the high suicide rates.

Let me know at if you come up with any answers or advice.

I attended West Point from 1960-62.

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Posted by Ted Rodosovich on 10/29/2012 at 7:27 PM

TT, there's an old saying that many trot out: "How do you make a million in the non-profit world?" Answer: "Start with a billion." I'm pretty confident that Mikey and (his wife) Bonny aren't in this for the money. He spoke at UCCS for free--facing anonymous cell phone death threats and imprecatory prayers from his USAFA classmate wishing death, disease, and poverty (probably not in that order) for Mikey and generations of his family that follow. Their home in ABQ is under constant assault and there exists a wide array of psychopaths that consider him an existential threat to the godly driven, christian military that gives them guilty, wet dreams. Check the books... How much to do you think MRFF takes in compared to the completely unconstitutional Officers' Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Focus on the Family, and other embedded, quasi-military brown-shirt militias? The difference is measured in orders of magnitude. For Mikey, it's not the money--it's the principle of the thing. Principle--that's something the strongly religious should understand.

Do you really want a military that is STEERED by the particular religious beliefs of a small oligarchy of self-righteous, nuclear-armed warriors? Isn't that exactly what we're trying to prevent in Iran? Isn't that what we fear between Pakistan and India?

Mikey and the MRFF are NOT anti-christian. They represent too many christians for that to even be possible. They're simply pro-Constitution--the document that our military swears an oath to support and defend.

Now, let's look at the USAFA conference. It's a conference that supposedly focuses on RESPECT across a wide spectrum of religious beliefs--EXCEPT those that do not believe in a supreme being, are doubtful of doctrinaire religiousity, or just want to keep an open mind and make their own decision and are currently 'free agents' spiritually. These honorable members of our military and their representatives have been actively excluded from the conversation. The message is clear: We don't respect you. You are not worthy of our consideration or support. We don't think you can serve our nation without some sort of belief, nor can we bring you around to OUR belief if you reject belief as we know it.

This conference needs to start with the premise that government funded and commissioned agents of religion are completely counter to the establishment clause of the Constitution--that this practice should be abolished immediately. It should be replaced the same way we provide other services to our military (like Taco Bell) by out-sourcing the costs and responsibilities to those that have an interest in providing the service.

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Posted by BirdManBlue on 10/29/2012 at 7:29 PM

And why in the world did the folks at US Air Force Academy exclude Mikey W. as well as Jason Torpy of the Military Atheists and Agnostic Foundation (a prospective endorser for Freethinkers), while including a LONG-since retired Assemblies of God former endorser (Chuck Marvin) and the new Associated Gospel Churches (AGC) endorser -- who represents just several handfuls or so of mil chaplains from ULTRA-Fundy Churches. Did they not invite the Hindu Endorsing Body? How about the Unitarian-Universalist endorser? Let's get some real diversity in here! Not just the same-o same-o!!! This is nauseatingly odious!!!!

Maybe a FOIA or a Congressional as to who was invited and why is in order? And why not have all the non-traditionals invited and present along with those who advocate for the same!!!


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Posted by Patriot on 10/29/2012 at 7:42 PM

WHOOPS! Please add in my previous comment the word "religious" ... "getting the RELIGIOUS organizational chart(s) & budgets for any &/or all branches of our military plus the VA?"

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Posted by Ted Rodosovich on 10/29/2012 at 7:44 PM

What a country! Why don't we just admit trusting our military on religious diversity is like trusting the Pakistan military on religious diversity. We can't trust either!

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Posted by praisebacon on 10/29/2012 at 7:55 PM

Correction: Jason Torpy's affiliation is the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

My apologies for messing up MAAF's proper name.


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Posted by Patriot on 10/29/2012 at 8:00 PM

I'd say the deck was already stacked against nonbelievers and agnostics. Note that 10 of the 21 invitees are military chaplains, both active duty and retired. MRFF and other secular organizations are conspicuous by their absences. The primary issue here is not religious respect but -- as usual -- the Air Force Academy is doing the classic Cover-Your-Agency by making this conference an official on-paper compliance to head off controversy and negative publicity.
Frederick Malmstrom

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Posted by Academy Graduate on 10/29/2012 at 8:05 PM

I have faith that one or two rational voices at the conference will speak against this farce

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Posted by Giordano Bruno on 10/29/2012 at 8:19 PM

The strange thing right now in the military is that it's probably easier and less dangerous (career-wise) to come out of the closet as gay, than to make any kind of declaration that might paint you as anything other than christian. Glad for the former, saddened by the latter. What if USAFA was hosting a political respect conference and decided to just invite democrats and republicans--but you were libertarian or green? They wouldn't need to bother to invite you because, hey, you don't have a chance of winning any contests anyway, so where's the requirement? How about a sports respect conference, but they don't invite the cheerleaders because the NCAA doesn't recognize and sanction cheerleading as a sport? (Or mountain biking or tiddli-winks, for that matter, and that just pisses me off!) It wasn't all that long ago that an NCAA discussion of sports would not have included women, and just a little earlier, blacks. But USAFA can host a conference on respect across the religious spectrum and leave out the fastest growing 'block' in the American spiritual arena. Yeah, that makes sense. Tradition does not trump stupid.

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Posted by BirdManBlue on 10/29/2012 at 8:19 PM

It all looks so proper... until you look closely. I googled the first attendee on the roster, using "ACURA Kate Holbrook." It fell 4th down the list, behind three references to itself! Yep, that small. Turns out, "Ms. Holbrook" is actually "Rev." How sneaky...
Mikey received so many leads, early on, that he hired a full time researcher to investigate them, while he spearheads direct action for those who are in crisis mode and support of various types for all clients -- in addition to shining sunlight on such sneaky behavior as found on "Jesus rifles"...
If Mikey even had a "fortune", as @Tejon Tech claims, it's long gone. He and his family have poured everything into one courageous, patriotic, and terribly dangerous war, the war between extremists who use Jesus and Christainity as their battle cry, and those who stand for the Constitution of the United States of America.
If the former have their way, a chaplain could give the order to initiate a nuclear holocaust, calling it Armageddon and saying God told him it was time. True believers won't ask the Commander in Chief; they will have proven their position by praying for the honor and claiming God/Jesus is the only true Commander in Chief. That is why the extremists inside and around the US military want only their sort around, and why 96% of Mikey's 30,000+ clients are Christians who are considered "not Christian enough."
@Tejon Tech can go back to counting pennies. Mikey is counting lives, from individuals deliberately put in harms way to the millions upon millions who don't even know they are at risk.

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Posted by Brain Logic on 10/29/2012 at 8:39 PM

Regarding Air Force over zealous Officers infiltration- Marine F-4 pilot- Sioux Indiam- 110 combat missions Vietnam. Korea was Marine enlisted. Neither theatre did we go to Church- the vast majority of us. Pilots or enlisted. Never had to worry about a religious Loonie superior rating me negatively because I was a Sioux Indian uninterested in the Dominant Society's major religion- Christianity. My fellow peers likewise. My Sioux Spirituality was banned back on my reservation by over zealous Xtian Missionaries lobbying a naieve Congress during both wars. Like Jewish people I remain severely cognizant of what super zealous Religious can conceive to vilify non-believers of their views. I believe in a Higher Power- did 6 annual Sun dances to my Creator for allowing me to comeback unharmed. 4 days w/o eating, no water under a hot August Sun. Sioux Sun dance which was banned also but we dared the govt and missionaries to stop us. Bit more focussed than what the White Xtian man does. It was a black man however, Martin Luther King who finally spurred Congress to unanimously vote to repeal the unconstitutional religion ban cast upon us. This was 1975 when it finally was removed. Yes- over zealous, especially Xtians and Islam can be dangerous to innocent people. Marine Major Ed McGaa, Oglala Sioux

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Posted by Ed McGaa on 10/29/2012 at 8:49 PM

Mikey Weinstein should be thanked for taking a stand for all non-believers in the military. One of the biggest problems I experienced in the military was the culture of hostility towards anyone who simply chose no religion. This culture is much tougher to fight, because it's rather pervasive. Mikey is engaged in these matters on a day to day basis, and continues this work even as death threats swirl around him. He also hears every day from cadets and other military members who have been told they aren't "Christian enough". This is a systemic problem in the US military today, and Mikey is right to not lend his presence to this publicity stunt if they aren't going to even pretend to respect all the foxhole atheists out there.

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Posted by FoxholeAtheist on 10/29/2012 at 10:56 PM

I simply would not want to serve with someone who lived only for the day at hand and had no eternal perspective and hope.

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Posted by TejonTech on 10/30/2012 at 8:27 AM

To those who organized this facade: "Of all the thousands of Gods invented by man since the beginning of time, you happen to believe in only one more of them than me. Now, when you have the courage to examine why you disbelieve in all of those other Gods, you will understand why I disbelieve in yours".

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Posted by underdog6 on 10/30/2012 at 8:45 AM

USAFA is failing to take these conferences seriously. Any religious respect conference should include secular groups, even if they don't practice one of the pre-approved religions. There is still a subtle message sent to our cadets that religious people make for better leaders, which is completely false. I'm yet to see an intellectually and morally honest argument that religiosity makes a person a better leader than a non-believer.

In a heated electoral season, there is still a message, especially from the political right, that non-believers or non-Christian groups are somehow bad. Our new CSAF has been in his post for two months now. He has a rare opportunity to clearly and passionately articulate a message of respect and tolerance for any belief system. The AF is the most vulnerable of the services to dominionist influence because of USAFA's long-standing relationship with local dominionist organizations. Dominionists continue to cry foul, but no one is taking away their religious rights. They just need to learn that they can't push their beliefs on fellow service members.

Mikey Weinstein is correct in bringing up yet another shortcoming from USAFA when it comes to such an important subject.

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Posted by USAFA Red Tag on 10/30/2012 at 9:11 AM

More wasted tax dollars while kids go without food and medicine in this country. sic and Sick!

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Posted by Fed Up with Religious Zealots on 10/30/2012 at 9:20 AM

Well, they're at it again. There continues to be a fanatical agenda of Dominion Christian influence at America's elite military academy. And what is "Dominion Christian influence" you ask? Just Google "Dominion Christianity" or Christian Reconstructionism," the foundation for Dominionism, and be prepared for a shock. In short, Dominionist Christianity is of the stuff of Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms and Witch Hunts. It is the force majeure of Fundamentalist Christian Evangelism which has infected world populations for centuries. Only this time they have specifically targeted our armed forces and as explained in Pat Robertson’s book "The Secret Kingdom,” America belongs to Jesus Christ and therefore we must create a government of Christian men and remove the US Constitution in favor of Biblical Law.

For some time operatives of the growing sect of Dominion Christians have been infiltrating the US Military making rank and then exercising command centered and coercive Christian proselytizing throughout all branches of the armed forces while concentrating on our training facilities, operational bases and service academies. This done under the noses of the various commands and often with their support.

For years now, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has provided relief for many thousands of our young men and women in the military who found themselves in the grip of overbearing fundamentalists. One of the main objectives of Dominionists has been the USAF Academy. Knowing full well that these young men and women are truly at the top of their generation, waves of fundamentalist proselytizing have cloaked the Academy in concentrated Dominionist propaganda and coerced participation in Christian worship. Not only commanders but even select fellow cadets and chaplains have violated every constitutional tenet dealing with religious freedom.

Make no mistake. Dominionism is a powerful force and a heady wine for those who have been inducted into its siren call of world conversion and the development of an all Christian armed force to assure such conversion.

MRFF currently serves 372 clients at the Air Forde Academy and MRFF's president, Mikey Weinstein, has a vested interest in assisting them for as an honor graduate himself, Mikey will go to whatever lengths necessary, as has done for some time, to insure that monitoring of the many un-American activities that have taken place there are brought to light and remedial action commenced.

To imagine that a cult such as the Warrick "Paternal Shepherding Cult" in which young women cadets were conditioned to believe that women are basically sheep requiring men to be their shepherds could even get off the ground at the academy, is puzzling.

Now in a transparent attempt to cover up further constitutional violation, the Academy Command structure has concocted and approved the construction of a 40,000 Sq Ft underground building for the purpose of fostering "Spiritual Fitness" and this week the Religious Respect Conference will take place the highlight of which is the religious respect training program. I leave to your imagination what that will include.

Do not count on seeing any Atheists, Humanists or Secularists attending since they represent all that religion would prefer did not exist.

Absent will also be Mikey Weinstein, Air Academy honor graduate, Air Force Judge Advocate General, White House Counsel to President Reagan and president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. You see, Mikey has been the proverbial thorn in the side of those who have committed inappropriate and often illegal Dominionist activities at the academy keeping many of our cadets out of the grasp of extreme fundamentalists. This includes many in the command structure, faculty and permanent station personnel. MRFF will continue dealing with the 29,000 plus complaints from our young men and women in the armed forces relative to overt Christian proselytizing that MRFF is currently addressing.

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Posted by richardbk8 on 10/30/2012 at 9:55 AM

As a quick follow up I would like to add that criticisms by those who support Domoinionist Christian hegemony and who both hate and fear Mikey Weinstein, having little else with which to castigate him and knowing he is Jewish, have taken to employing racist anti-semitic and truly irreligious accusations that he is in the forefront of protection religious freedoms in the armed forces just for the money.

Not knowing that Mikey has invested the major part of his fortune in the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and depends on the generosity of friends and supporters to keep the operation going, these detractors have widely missed tghe mark..

No trips to the Bahamas on a company yacht for Mikey.

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Posted by richardbk8 on 10/30/2012 at 10:10 AM

First, as the organizer for Mr. Weinstein's talk at UCCS on Oct. 24th, which was attended by both officer and enlisted members of all our armed forces, I find the exemption of members of the secular community to be both ridiculous and blatantly biased. It is not as if Mr. Weinstein was not already in town and could not have stayed to take part in this 'Respect' conference.

Second, as an atheist and secular member of the community of Colorado Springs, I find the entire idea of a conference on religious respect completely excluding between 15% and 40% of the population (depending on the poll you read) who claim none as their religion to be the epitome of nonrespect. It is as though the organizers are following the idea that if they cannot see something, it does not exist. Which is, on its own, rather silly, given that they are unable to see God. Or the air.

Just because you cannot see it does not mean that it doesn't exist. There is evidence that there are atheist, agnostics, secularists, humanists, and jedis in the military. There is evidence that they have voices which deserve to be heard. There is evidence that they are being silenced.

This is not a conference on religious respect. It is an exclusionary circle jerk of the highest order and it is being paraded around as though it will solve all things at USAFA. Just because you invite your token rep from the ACLU does not make you inclusive.

It makes you a hypocrite.

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Posted by Heather Balle-Mason on 10/30/2012 at 10:57 AM

Given the foul language and hate expressed toward Christians here, including especially Heather's looks like a little tolerance could be taught the liberal fascist crowd writing inappropriately too long posts here. Pretty revealing.

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Posted by TejonTech on 10/30/2012 at 1:38 PM

Am I the only one who finds it odd that any part of our military even needs something called a "Religious Respect Conference" and further, why such a conference is needed TWICE per year?

Something is wrong here. Religious affiliation of ANY service member is a private matter of service members; the military branches need to let people worship, or not worship, as they please, provide an appropriate "chaplain" for the major denominations, then BUTT OUT, stay out, and not push one denomination over another.

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Posted by OldCrank on 10/30/2012 at 1:58 PM

Tejon Tech,

You said: "Given the foul language and hate expressed toward Christians here, including especially Heather's looks like a little tolerance could be taught the liberal fascist crowd writing inappropriately too long posts here. Pretty revealing"

First of all, Fascism is on the far right side of the political spectrum, next to Nazis after Republican and conservative. Remember Hitler and Mussolini?

Liberals are just to the left of center politically. Just after Democrat but before socialists and commies.

And who's is to say a post is too long? If often takes quite a message to get through the thick skulls of the conservative crowd. Also, you don't have to read it all at once. You scould start it today and fisih it tomorrow.

Also I see no hate in Heather's post but I do see a lot of truth. If telling the truth is hateful we need to take a second look at our values.

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Posted by richardbk8 on 10/30/2012 at 2:18 PM

Richard...wrong, liberals are the nice side a fascist...both a matter of control, intrusion, and subjection of individual to the collective.

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Posted by TejonTech on 10/30/2012 at 3:30 PM
Showing 1-25 of 45

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