John Bryan, academy spokesman, issued this statement late Friday:
The event notice was distributed, like many other base functions and
events, via Distro P—-meaning all email users at USAFA. The program,
as you know, is voluntary and open to anyone on the base. It is a 10th
Air Base Wing chaplain-sponsored event, and the email was approved by
the Vice Superintendent. The chaplains sponsor numerous events every
day, including weekly religious services at both chapels—and regularly
advertise them through email distribution, our weekly base paper and
through the chapel website.
——- ORIGINAL POST, FRIDAY, OCT. 21, 2:49 P.M. ——-
More from the Air Force Academy dispute over religious neutrality:
While the Air Force Academy refused to disseminate to everyone the Air Force Chief of Staff's guidance about maintaining "government neutrality regarding religion," apparently it's OK for a chaplain there to send out a notice about a Christian seminar to everyone.
Col. Robert Bruno wrote in an e-mail:
This email message and attachment for Distribution P has been approved by Chaplain, Colonel Robert Bruno, US Air Force Academy Chaplain, as a program opportunity open to the entire USAFA community under the sponsorship of the 10 ABW Wing Chaplain. It complies with CSAF guidance per memorandum dated 1 Sept 11. Request widest dissemination.
(Distribution P is one in which all personnel receive the missive, including staff, faculty and cadets.)
In less than a day, people at the academy started to react, complaining the notice was given Distribution P when Gen. Norton Schwartz's directive wasn't given the same wide distribution.
"Why does a flier for a 'marriage and family' seminar by a fundamentalist Baptist minister get wider distribution than a Chief of Staff's memo?" one person, who wished to remain anonymous, wanted to know.
Another person who also wanted to remain unnamed said this in an e-mail:
Late yesterday, the Academy's head chaplain, a full colonel, sent out an e-mail advertising a clearly evangelical Christian family/marriage seminar to ALL personnel at the Academy. In it, the most senior ranking Academy chaplain tells us all that his e-mail complies with General Schwartz's 1 Sept. 2011 memo on the importance of religious neutrality. How nice of him to do that. Except, given that, except for us cadets (thanks to MRFF putting up that billboard of the Chief of Staff's directive in Col. Springs) , no one else in either the Academy faculty, the 10th Air base Wing and other Academy orgs. has even seen General Schwartz's memo. It is just totally hypocritical bullshit that the CHRISTIAN family/marriage event gets OFFICIALLY sent to EVERYBODY when the Chief of Staff's memo has obviously been kept under wraps by Lt. General Gould and his staff. Why? What is the message here?
Of course, MRFF (Military Religious Freedom Foundation) founder Mikey Weinstein is livid. Ironically, just days ago, MRFF submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the academy seeking information on how things get put in Falcon Clips, which are sent to all base personnel. The academy has shown a pattern of censoring what goes out to personnel, while showing a bias toward disseminating evangelical Christian information, Weinstein says.
Here's that portion of the records request:
"This could not be simpler for anyone to determine the real motives here," Weinstein says. "You have the commander of the U.S. Air Force's edict on the mission importance of religious neutrality, and on the other hand you have the academy promoting a Christian marriage and family seminar distributed to everybody. Here we are almost two months after the chief of staff issued his edict and the cadets saw it only on our billboard (erected a couple of weeks ago). Nineteen hours after we put it up, the cadets received it."
"It could not possibly be clearer that the academy deserves its terrible reputation for fundamentalist Christian bias," he says.
We've asked the academy if Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, academy superintendent, approved the distribution and will let you know what we hear back, when we do.