When Military Religious Freedom Foundation found out Air Force Academy higher-ups had not distributed a memo on religious neutrality to everyone on campus, the watchdog group took matters into its own hands.
It posted the memo of Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, dated Sept.1, on a billboard for all of Colorado Springs to see.
In the memo Schwartz cautions Air Force leaders not to proselytize or show favoritism toward a particular faith. The memo came about a month after the Air Force suspended an ethics course for new nuclear missile officers that contained biblical references, and announced a review of all ethics and character development training.
MRFF applauded Schwartz for his stance, but it is giving a resounding thumbs-down to what it sees as the academy’s less than enthusiastic response to the memo.
Foundation president Mikey Weinstein told airforcetimes.com that his organization has twice demanded that Air Force Academy Superintendent Michael Gould distribute the memo to cadets and military and civilian personnel. But the academy said it had done enough.
Academy spokesman Lt. Col. John Bryan told Colorado Springs’ The Gazette that Schwartz’s memo was issued to commanders, so Gould discussed the memo with commanders at a meeting.
Bryan told The Gazette that the memo wasn’t sent to the entire academy because it wasn’t mandated. Weinstein cried foul, especially since the memo issues a caution to leaders at all levels.
“Since Gould will not spread this critically important message of religious neutrality generated by his boss…MRFF is compelled, yet once again, to do Gould’s duty for him,” Weinstein said in a statement to Air Force Times. “With this billboard displaying Gen. Schwartz’s desperately needed demand for religious equanimity, MRFF will give voice to the voiceless who suffer from horrendous religious oppression and tyranny everyday under Gould’s control at the constitutionally-challenged U.S. Air Force Academy. ”
Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Richard Clark apparently gave copies of Schwartz’s letter to his air officer commandings (AOCs) and squadron leaders to disseminate to cadets earlier this week, according to Colorado Springs Independent.
Bryan told the Independent that he didn’t see what the big deal was since, as he understood it, the memo was aimed at those providing Air Force missile training, not the academy.
Weinstein, who has butted heads with the academy before, said anyone who doesn’t think such a memo from Schwartz was meant for everyone should look for another job. Weinstein has specifically called for Gould’s resignation.
“The minds that got us in this mess are not the minds that can get us out of this,” he said.