Bizpac Review– The cadets are revolting, heavy legal firepower is mustering, and a conservative congressman who sits on the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors is weighing in a recent controversy over the forced removal of a Bible verse posted outside a cadet’s room.
Meanwhile, the academy’s explanation of what happened doesn’t agree with church-state group’s claim that it was behind the verse’s removal.
The controversy started this week when academy officials removed a verse from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians proclaiming faith in Christ.
In the days since, cadets have been posting their own religious injunctions outside their rooms, including from the Bible and the Quran, according to The Blaze.
“The Air Force Academy has a revolt on their hands. What are they going to do?” said Mikey Weinstein, president of the anti-religious Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Top religious-freedom legal groups such as the Alliance for Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, the Liberty Institute and Thomas More Law Center have joined with the Family Research Council to form the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition to defend the cadet involved in the case, according to Communities Digital News.
When the controversy first started,Weinstein told Fox News’ Todd Starnes that the academy was acting on a complaint by his organization. Weinstein claimed his group has received complaints from 29 cadets and four academy staffers who felt the verse created a hostile environment for non-Christians.
Since then, however, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson issued a statement saying the statement was removed by the cadet voluntarily, after another cadet questioned whether an open statement of religion was appropriate for the military setting and the cadet’s position of leadership. Her statement made no mention of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Regardless of the circumstances, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., released a letter to Johnson expressing outrage at the controversy.
“I am deeply concerned and outraged by recent news reports indicating that an Air Force Cadet was forced to remove a Bible verse from the whiteboard posted outside his room,” Lamborn wrote. “I was further troubled to learn that the apparent reason the Cadet in question had to remove this verse was due to the fact that he is in a position of leadership.”
Lamborn also blasted any role Weinstein’s organization might have played.
“I would also appreciate an explanation of the apparent influence the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has at the Air Force Academy in legal and media issues relating to decisions on Cadets’ religious practices over the past 5 years,” he wrote.
“The MRFF is an organization that seems to detest religious expression of any faith, and has become so outlandish in its claims that it should simply be ignored.”
Weinstein said those who put Bible verses on their doors deserve “non-judicial punishment at the very least.”
Those who are put on trial for specific violations in the Air Force could see their pay docked, be kicked out or even go to jail, he said, though there is no indication that these ramifications would apply in this particular case.
Weinstein is willing to take the Air Force Academy to court if the issue isn’t resolved.
“If the cadet didn’t violate any rules, then why was the quote removed?” Michael Berry, senior counsel for the conservative legal firm the Liberty Institute’s said in a statement. “It appears that the Air Force now believes Bible verses are a violation of AFI 1-1.”
In fact, Berry said the removal of the Bible verse and any punishment is actually a violation of the Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17, a provision that protects soldiers’ religious liberty.
“Unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) of Service members in accordance with the policies and procedures in this instruction…,” the provision states in part.