Colorado Springs, Colo. – Air Force Academy critic Mikey Weinstein claimed victory Wednesday after learning that a memo on religious tolerance was distributed to the school's 4,000 cadets a day after he unveiled a billboard featuring the 200-word treatise from the service's top general.
The academy, though, says Weinstein and his New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation had nothing to do with it.
[Full disclosure: Mikey Weinstein is a member of Truthout's Board of Advisers.]
That didn't dampen Weinstein's spirits Wednesday.
“It's a victory for the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “Lady Liberty is smiling today.”
The two sides had been in a standoff over the Sept. 1 memo to commanders from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz that cautioned leaders to remain neutral in matters of faith.
Weinstein, an academy graduate, made emailed demands to academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould that the academy distribute it to every cadet, airman and civilian worker at on the campus. But leaders at the school said they would distribute the Schwartz memo as they saw fit.
The academy has been under scrutiny since 2004 over allegations of religious intolerance. Commanders there have tried to fix those issues with an ever-growing “religious respect” training program.
Weinstein on Tuesday unveiled a billboard near the intersection of Woodmen Road and Lexington Drive that displays the memo. He said the sign cost “thousands of dollars” and will stay up for weeks.
Academy spokesman Lt. Col. John Bryan said the memo's distribution occurred in the wake of a Monday meeting between Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Richard Clark and the officers and sergeants who oversee the academy's 40 cadet squadrons.
Clark penned a lengthy Sept. 19 memo to reinforce the one issued by Schwartz that also tells cadets who face unwanted proselytizing how to seek redress.
Clark told the gathering to “be sure this gets out to the cadet wing,” Bryan said.
Weinstein said the academy's move is no coincidence.
“This was gigantic victory for the foundation,” he said.
© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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