Gould in a Christian fish symbol necktie.
Neckties can say a lot about a person. President Trump favors the long red variety, whatever that means, and the colorful graphic designs of Rush Limbaugh's line of neckties spoke of success and trendiness in the 1980s and 1990s.
For retired Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, a necktie proclaims his religious beliefs.
At least, that was the choice he made for a photo used in the Association of Graduates
' Checkpoints publication
in December in an article in which he was introduced as the new CEO of the AOG's sister organization, Air Force Academy Endowment. (He was hired in August.)
Gould, a 1976 Academy grad who served as superintendent there from 2009 to 2013, chose a red tie covered with fish symbols, which represent "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior," according to several sources, including Christianity Today
One Academy staffer called Gould's choice of the tie as an "in-your-face" proclamation of Christian faith by a person who, presumably, will be expected to solicit funds to support Academy cadets of all faiths.
The staffer, who didn't want to be identified for fear of retribution, alerted the MRFF's CEO Mikey Weinstein to the necktie and the message it sends via email, which said, in part:
I know that the MRFF had long battles with Mike [Gould] during his tenure as Supt [sic] considering his previous history as an avowed evangelical Christian, ties to a local megachurch, and his wife’s many public statements at Academy events declaring their faith and the necessity of all in the Air Force to have similar views. Many claimed that you were on a Witch Hunt, discriminating against Christians as you (in their view) picked at the edges of AFI 1-1 [Air Force instruction requiring no show of favoritism to a specific religion] to point out inequities and religious bias throughout the military. Gould declared his innocence and dedication to treating all equally—while he was in uniform—and fought all comers that claimed that bias existed in his office or at the Academy. As it turns out, though, you were right all along.
Eventually, the truth comes out. With this carefully chosen tie—and one doesn’t make a choice like that lightly if they have the experience of the Lt Gen—he’s declared his faith and his allegiance over and well above the organization he’s now probably paid over $200K per year to lead. In so doing, he’s also not-so-subtly sent the message that he always thought USAFA was a bastion of Christendom and that he intends to extend that identity to the graduate community and the philanthropic organization he leads to support the Academy’s mission.
Reached by phone, Gould says, "I don't have anything to say to you about that. No comment."
But Weinstein, the bane of the Academy for more than a decade due to its perceived favoritism of fundamentalist Christianity, had plenty to say.
This is the symbol that peppered Gould's necktie.
He reports he started to get phone calls, text messages and emails from more than two dozen clients at the Academy, including cadets and faculty who were offended by Gould's necktie choice.
"This is one of the most blatant things we’ve seen," Weinstein says. "That tie stood out like a tarantula on a wedding cake."
"On his maiden voyage to say hello as CEO of the endowment, he carefully chose that photograph to be sure he was following the great commission to go and make Christians of all nations," he says. "If Gould feels he has to proselytize like this while supporting the Academy's values about inclusion, he needs to put in an application to Focus on the Family. Wearing that tie is very much like sticking a middle finger to diversity, the First Amendment and the Academy's core values. It’s hypocrisy writ large. It’s hurtful, it’s wrong and it colors everything he did at the academy."
Weinstein reports that AOG president and CEO Marty Marcolongo, a 1988 Academy grad, told him it was a misstep that slipped through and that the magazine would carry an apology in an upcoming issue.
But that couldn't be verified. Marcolongo didn't respond to emails and a phone call from the Independent.
Weinstein gave Gould the nickname "lord of lies" after Gould failed to make it clear that religious affiliation doesn't make or break a cadet, staffer or faculty member.
In 2010, Gould refused to release the cadet climate survey saying the religious climate had improved. But the Indy
obtained a copy on its own and reported
The survey, obtained by the Independent in August, shows that 41 percent of non-Christian cadets responding to the survey said they were subjected to unwanted religious proselytizing. For Christian cadets, it was 14 percent. Also, 42 percent of non-Christian cadets said they were drawn into unwanted religious discussions, compared to 21 percent of Christians.
Current Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria drew headlines for a speech to cadets about racism in October when he said, in part, "If you can't treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."