MIKEY’S NOTE: Once again the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is on the frontlines of the fight to assure religious liberty at my alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy. In terms of hearing out the grievances of our clients, the recently-appointed superintendent of the academy, Lt. Gen. Michele D. Johnson, has been one of the worst out of the four Academy Superintendents MRFF has worked with since our organization was founded, hence the billboard. Without further ado, here is our press statement regarding the posting of our billboard. As always, you can learn more at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org.
COLORADO SPRINGS — On Wednesday, November 6, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) made a bold gesture in its fight to keep church and state separate in the United States military. Protesting the continued usage of unconstitutional religious tests at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), MRFF posted a billboard at the northwest corner of North Nevada Ave. and Garden of the Gods Road (facing east), one of the busiest thoroughfares in Colorado Springs, CO.
MRFF’s latest salvo comes less than a month after USAFA admitted that its honor oath has contained the phrase “So help me God” since 1984. Under fierce MRFF pressure last month, the Academy finally relented and made the unconstitutional religious phrase “optional.” MRFF currently has 435 cadets, staff and clients at USAFA, 372 of whom self-identify as practicing Christians, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.
Former White House counsel to the Reagan administration, USAFA Honor Graduate, and MRFF Founder and President Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein disagrees with the change. Weinstein maintains that those cadets who opt out of swearing the oath would “stick out like a tarantula on a wedding cake” if the offending words remain intact in the Honor Oath, as is presently the case. Neither West Point nor Annapolis (both USAFA’s sister service academies), use those words in their respective Honor Codes or Oaths.
MRFF’s billboard, which reads “This oath was good enough for George Washington – Why not the Air Force Academy?” contains a photograph of an oath signed in 1778 at Valley Forge by President (then-General) George Washington, which makes no religious reference whatsoever.
The foundation has clashed with the USAFA administration numerous times in the past decade due to the strong presence of, and unbridled support for, fundamentalist evangelical Christianity at the Academy.
A long series of previous religious liberty violations at USAFA, also exposed by MRFF, have led to a several specious investigations by the U.S. Air Force and continued efforts of dubious intentions to establish a so-called “religious sensitivity training” regimen. As recently as mid-October, 2013, Mr. Weinstein met personally with Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson to inform her of several very recent, egregious, unconstitutional religious civil rights violations affecting cadets, staff and faculty at USAFA.
After being initially notified by investigative reporter Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Independent of a photograph containing the Honor Oath wording, Weinstein contacted the vice superintendent at USAFA. A mere 68 minutes later, Johnson herself contacted Weinstein, pledging to swiftly address this serious issue and notifying him that a framed poster of the Honor Oath with the objectionable words “So help me God” had been immediately taken down.
According to Chris Rodda, MRFF Senior Research Director, the civil rights foundation posted the billboard “as a reminder of the true history of military oaths.” This history thoroughly debunks the revisionist history espoused by Christian fundamentalist organizations and individuals who erroneously claim that the phrase “So Help Me God” was commonly used by America’s Founding Fathers.
Weinstein is currently caucusing with MRFF legal counsel and potential USAFA plaintiffs about a follow-on Federal lawsuit against the Academy if the four words, “So help me God,” are not removed from the oath.
Speaking from his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Weinstein explained, “We have absolutely NO objection if anyone ever wished to say those words after reciting the USAFA Honor Oath, and we encourage them to do so if they are so inspired. Our sole objection is that those words remain an integral part of the Honor Oath, therefore making it all too clear to those taking the Oath what the ‘approved USAFA solution’ is to completing the Oath.”
MRFF, a foundation that has been the voice of the voiceless in regards to religious civil liberty violations within the U.S. Military, has a growing client base of over 35,000 servicemembers, veterans, National Guard, reservist, and civilian armed forces personnel throughout the major service branches. The foundation was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a feat accomplished for the sixth time over the course of five consecutive years. In December 2012, Mikey Weinstein was named “one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense” by Defense News, a Gannett publication that represents “the world’s biggest military newsroom.”