UPDATE: Academy "partners" with religion, drawing criticism


Note the academy band offered the concert "in partnership" with New Life Church.
  • Note the academy band offered the concert "in partnership" with New Life Church.
Here's the Air Force Academy's response to questions about selection of New Life Church for an academy band concert:

The United States Air Force Academy Band performed its Spring Concert on Thursday, April 21, 7pm, at New Life Church. The show was open and free to the entire regional community and those visiting the area.
It's important to note that the Academy Band maintains a rigorous performance schedule in support of Cadet and Air Force troop morale, recruiting and community outreach, and it makes every effort to provide free public concerts as part of their community relations mission. The focus of venue selection is finding the ideal location for the community. Oftentimes a larger venue best supports the needs of that area; however, the band utilizes a variety of venues across Colorado Springs and the nation to provide the public with innovative musical programs.
Department of Defense and Air Force regulations allow concerts to be performed in churches as long as the concert is not part of a service and benefits the community at large; the primary regulation is DoD 5410.18. The band's methodical planning efforts to meet the demands of its rigorous schedule, under the aforementioned regulations, ensure it is never associated with a worship service, that each concert is free and open to the public and of general interest to the community, and that there is no fundraising of any kind associated with the performance.
The USAFA Band presents an average of 500 performances a year; in the last 15-16 months 14 community concerts have been held in church venues: 3.2% of its total performances.
"Since Jan. 1, 2015, that 3.2% of performances were held at: Trinity High School (Catholic) Dickinson, N.D.; St. Paul Lutheran Church, Missoula, Montana; Zion Lutheran Church, Montrose, Colo.; Chamber Recital Series, St. James Presbyterian Church, Littleton, Colo; St Michaels (Catholic) High School, Santa Fe, N.M.; New Life Church, Colo Spgs; Grace & St Stephen's Episcopal Church, Colo Spgs; Littleton United Methodist Church, Littleton, Colo; Strickland Chapel, Nazarene Bible College, Colo Spgs; Grace Lutheran Church, Osage City, Kan.; Benet Hill Monastery, Colo Spgs; United Methodist Church, Brookings, S.D.; Pauline Chapel, Colo Spgs; and First Presbyterian Church, Great Falls, Montana.
We appreciate the continued support of our community and are proud to continue the strong relationship with our neighbors.

Also, our source for this is DODI 5410.18,, states, "Church as a site for a public concert, speech, or display, when the activity is not part of a religious service."  

The U.S. Air Force Academy Band played some crowd favorites at New Life Church last night, such as Gershwin's "Strike up the Band," and the age-old hymn, "Amazing Grace."

But the band also apparently crossed the line, because it violated its policy by associating with a religious entity, and Mikey Weinstein calls that an "unconstitutional disgrace."

Weinstein, who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, heard about the event from numerous "clients" of MRFF who work or are schooled at the academy.

Here's commentary from one of them:
I've long suspected that there exists a de facto partnership between USAFA and one or more of the large evangelical mega-churches in Colorado Springs, evidenced by the buses and carpools available to take cadets to attend services there as well as outside church involvement in Monday night on-campus religious study programs, etc. No church is more linked to USAFA and Cadet Wing, though, than the New Life Church, clearly visible to the east from many a USAFA dorm room window and the Falcon Stadium Press Box VIP Suites. I was surprised, though, to hear that the Academy and NLC held a joint event—a concert by the USAFA Band—within the 2000+ seat "sanctuary" of the New Life Church's main location last night. The program from the event itself states that the concert was "Presented In Partnership with New Life Church."
... It's particularly troubling because of NLC's history of intolerance against those that don't share their views on LGB rights. An organization that has actively moved against one of its most heroic members stating she was no longer welcome because of her sexuality, seems an unlikely partner for a government organization that by law and public statement prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.That the Academy has had a troubled history in this area is clear to everyone. That they could be so sloppy as to include the NLC emblem on their newspaper ads for the concert is surprising. That they would use the word "partnership" on the program itself is worrying to say the least.
Here's the policy regarding what the band can and can't do:
The United States Air Force Academy Band may perform for public and civic events if the event is of general interest or benefit to a local, state or national community. However, the band may not participate in events that are commercially sponsored; are designed to increase business traffic or raise charitable donations; or are associated with a religious or ideological movement, such as a Christmas parade...."
Weinstein says he'll be filing a Freedom of Information request to try to find out "how all of the particulars of this unconstitutional disgrace came about."

Meantime, he adds via email, MRFF demands the Pentagon Inspector General's Office investigate the matter. More from Weinstein:
The United States Air Force Academy yet once AGAIN blatantly violates not only the United States Constitution’s No Establishment Clause and various DoD Joint Ethics Regulations regarding the provision of endorsements and selective benefits but, this time, it’s very own internal regulations. How you may ask; by incestuously ‘partnering’ with the infamously and notoriously homophobic, evangelical New Life Church in an Air Force Academy band concert reminiscent of a Las Vegas Strip production. 

He likened the academy to a "burned-out, drug addict zombie, saying the school "just canNOT get enough of that fundamentalist Christian narco-putrescence."

We've asked for a comment from the academy and will update when we hear back.

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