21 Groups Sign Letter Calling Air Force Academy to Account for Religious Liberty Violations
American Family Association (AFA,
www.afa.net) President Tim Wildmon was one of 21
representatives who signed a letter
last week to U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D.
Johnson, outlining an egregious violation of religious liberty within the walls
of the Academy and urging corrective action.
The letter, sent via
email March 31, addresses events that “occurred within the U.S. Armed Forces
that raised significant concerns about the status of the religious liberties so
greatly prized by all Americans.” Specifically, the letter highlights the
recent incident of a cadet who was pressured to remove a Scripture verse from
his personal white board outside of his dorm room.
“As the Academy has
stated publicly,” the letter reads, “cadet white boards are allowed to contain
both official and personal messages. Furthermore, these personal messages often
include quotations that are philosophical and inspirational to the owner of the
white board. Once the Academy allowed the cadets the opportunity to express themselves
on their white boards, it became unacceptable to censor that speech based on
its specific content or general subject matter as enunciated. The specific
speech in question (the Galatians 2:20 passage) was clearly restricted solely
due to its religious and Christian content.”
“It’s critical that we don’t sit
silently as religious freedoms are trampled at an Academy where young men and
women are trained to lead the troops who defend our liberties,” said AFA
President Tim Wildmon. “The U.S. Air Force Academy must address its overstep
and start placing the First Amendment above the demands of an offended atheist
The letter further
“As a general matter,
somewhere along the way the Air Force and the Academy seem to have adopted a novel
view of American law regarding the First Amendment and freedom of speech and
expression—particularly, religious speech. While it is certainly true that
there are occasions in which military necessity requires that ‘the good of the
entire unit’ be placed above that of the interests of ‘any single individual,’ the
incident involving the cadet, his white board, and the Bible verse written on
it cannot be construed to be one of them—even remotely.”
The cadet had written
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with
Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me...” as a personal inspiration.
The letter also
reminds Johnson and other Air Force Academy officials of the Department of
Defense Instruction on January 22, 2014, which states, “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
Signers of the letter
requested a meeting with the Academy and coalition representatives including Gen.
Jerry Boykin, Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council;
Chaplain Col. Ron
Crews (Ret.), Executive Director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty;
and Michael Berry, Esq., Senior Counsel & Director of Military Affairs for
the Liberty Institute.
“We believe the
Academy has overstepped its constitutional and statutory bounds in the incident
involving the cadet’s white board,” the letter concludes. “This is not a minor
matter. The Academy’s actions and policy pronouncements, unless quickly
corrected, will continue to chill speech at the Academy, harm morale, and create
unnecessary confusion for cadets. Thus, we urge you to obtain more objective
analyses of the First Amendment issues involved here and correct the errors
that have been made.”
Other signers of the
letter included Gary L. Bauer, President of American Values; Brent Bozell III, President
of the Media Research Center; Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for
Military Readiness; and Gary McCaleb, Chief Solicitor and Exec. VP for Strategy
Implementation at Alliance Defending Freedom.
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Association (AFA) a non-profit 501(c3) organization was founded in 1977 by
Donald E. Wildmon, who was pastoring First United Methodist Church in Southaven,
Mississippi, at the time. Since 1977, AFA has been on the frontlines of
America’s culture war. The original name of the ministry was National
Federation for Decency but was changed to American Family Association in 1988.
Today, AFA is one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in
the country with more than one million online
supporters and approximately 180,000 paid subscribers to the AFA Journal, the ministry’s monthly magazine. In addition, AFA
owns and operates nearly 200 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio banner.
Other divisions of AFA include American Family Radio, the AFA Foundation
and OneNewsNow.com, an online news provider that is syndicated
around the world. AFA maintains activist web sites such as OneMillionMoms.com that rally Christian activists to
contact companies asking them to drop their advertising from objectionable TV
shows. AFA websites average over 6
million unique visitors and 44 million hits per year. AFA uses all these
means to communicate an outspoken, resolute, Christian voice throughout