AFA: An officer school or a church?

Posted by Pam Zubeck on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Is it the Air Force Academy or a Fundamentalist Christian Military Ministry? That's the question raised in a video airing on television stations in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, and reportedly, soon in Denver.

The video was produced by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and pivots around a comment made by an academy Preparatory School athletic trainer and assistant athletic director, Allen Willoughby, in an e-mail to MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein.

The comment is this: "I am on staff at USAFA and will talk about Jesus Christ my Lord and savior to everyone that I work with."

Despite proselytizing being a violation of Defense Department and Air Force policy, the academy has taken no action against Willoughby, giving rise to a billboard in north Colorado Springs and this video.

From a news release pointing out the billboard:

A litany of previous religious liberty violations at USAFA, also exposed by MRFF, have led to alleged “thorough investigations” by the U.S. Air Force and supposed continued efforts to establish a “religious sensitivity training regimen.” As recently as mid-October, 2013, Mr. Weinstein met personally with USAFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson to inform her of several unconstitutional religious civil rights violations affecting cadets, staff and faculty at USAFA.
However, Weinstein has subsequently decried the recently-appointed Superintendent for her inability or unwillingness to challenge the deep-rooted Christian fundamentalist dominance existing at the Academy.

Comments (6)

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How about this for First Amendment equal rights for all persons: Yes, he has a right to his religious beliefs and to speak of them on his own time and on his own email system or whatever, but he doesn’t have the right to speak his religion while at work at the AF Academy while being paid with taxpayer dollars to work.

Our HR dept had a workshop on this matter, and his speaking his beliefs to others at work while on the government time clock is constituted as HARASSMENT! If I don’t want to listen to the religious garbage while I am at work, then it is my right not to have to hear it. If he wants to preach, then he can stand on a corner, go door to door, get a blog, or volunteer to preach at Church instead of trying to force his beliefs on others. Does that seem fair according to our US Constitution? I think so..

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Posted by gurudori on 11/19/2013 at 10:18 AM

If he were a muslim would he be allowed to pray 3 times a day while at work? Would he be allowed to have his prayer rug with him when he prayed in a private room? Are muslims allowed to wear their religious garb while at work and paid in a governmental position? This country was founded by people who wanted freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The amendment about religious freedom states that the state is not allowed to "establish" any particular religion but also it says that the state (government) is not allowed to prohibit the practice of one's religion. The Christian religion says that a believer is not supposed to hide his light under a bushel....also, Christ says that whosoever denies me in public him I will deny before my Father which is in Heaven. We are obligated as Christians to "let our light shine" not hide the fact that we are Christians. This does not mean that we preach at people while on the job but if the conversation comes up there is not one thing wrong constitutionally or otherwise, with sharing our faith in an acceptible manner or sharing it when one is asked. My goodness what is this country coming to. One has more religious freedom in modern day Russia than in the United States of America. By the way, being able to be noticeably a Christian has nothing to do with "taxpayer" dollars. Read the constitution and it's every word.

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Posted by Misty on 11/19/2013 at 11:23 PM

Misty -- The answer to your questions regarding a muslim working at the Academy is "yes." Yes, he would be allowed to practice his religious observances. As a federal employee, I have worked with many different types of religious people who have all been able to practice their religious observances -- head covers, fasting, prayer, holy day observances, etc. The practice of their personal religion is not the problem. The problem comes in when the religious (of whatever persuasion) deem it necessary to proselytize their beliefs during duty hours onto others who may be unwilling to partake... especially if the others are subordinate to the proselytizer. This creates a perception and atmosphere whereby if you aren't of the "correct religious persuasion" they may run the risk of being harmed in their jobs or careers. I've been subjected to this type of behavior in my own career, and have seen it happen to others. It's illegal and it needs to stop. Question for you: As a christian, if you worked in a predominantly jewish- or muslim-populated workplace, would you still think it proper for your jewish/muslim supervisor to proselytize his religion to you while you are at work?

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Posted by COnative59 on 11/20/2013 at 11:44 AM

While on the job, a Christian is to honor their employer and work not preach! Ephesians 6:5-9. When I was in a Pentecostal ministry in the 80s I was a missionary for two years and we went out and preached the word but were told NOT to preach on the job WHEN WE WERE PAID TO BE WORKING! Get it? Honor your employer!

And in this country and especially this town, you have all your freedom of religion that you want. Nobody has denied your religion. It is not against the law, but there are restrictions in the work place.

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Posted by gurudori on 11/20/2013 at 1:19 PM

Gurudori: --- This is America, the LAND OF THE FREE. Our military fight for our freedoms. And contrary to what you say, our Constitution guarantees, not only "freedom OF religion" but also "freedom FROM religion." No one in this country should be FORCED to join or practice ANY religion let alone the particular one being preached by those such as yourself. Furthermore, there are Amendments that give us SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. For those who DON'T understand, the "State" means GOVERNMENT agencies and employees. Church means a religious organization that gets TAX EXEMPT status for being a church/charity, etc. Working for the government is NOT A CHURCH and as much as Republican politicians try to win elections based on their flavor of religion they are selling in order to BUY UNDESERVED VOTES based on lies, it is in VIOLATION of our rights. You can live your religion at home, get together with your religious friends, go to church with your fellow religious congregation, raise your kids in your own religious beliefs until they are of legal age, etc., but it is NOT appropriate OR LEGAL to be "selling" your religion in a place where OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE BEING POURED INTO. You people bluster and fuss about tax payer dollars going for women's reproductive services. Well, it's the same thing here. Our tax $$$$ going to you people selling religion to our military .... and worse yet, FORCING it on them because they are in a position of HAVING to obey the orders of their superior officers. YOU are dead WRONG.

People join our Armed Services to proudly serve OUR COUNTRY. America, the land of the FREE. They are NOT joining a CHURCH. They will do that on their own time IF they choose. This country has waged wars against other countries who fight wars in the name of religion. YET, what is our own military doing? The same thing within itself.

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Posted by Cheryl Moeller-Liniman on 11/20/2013 at 4:41 PM

Cheryl, you and GuruDori ARE saying the same thing, and I agree with you both.

Maybe your comment was aimed at Misty, who doesn't get that we have freedom FROM religion if desired, and I damned right well desire that at all times.

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Posted by OldCrank on 11/20/2013 at 7:31 PM
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