UPDATE: T. Thompson, CEO of the Air Force Academy's Association of Graduates, had this to say in an interview:
I'll tell you, I do a lot of things that grads aren't happy about in one way or another. The Blue Alliance, the gay and lesbian group of academy grads, have approached me for an advertisement for them. This painting deal is a third party vendor who has painted a number of pictures for various classes at the academy, and this is one piece that this particular artist is promoting, and it's a paid advertisement.
On it's face, it's not inherently objectionable. There are five faiths there in the chapel, that's why in and of itself you can interpret certain things, but who knows what faith the artist is. We're not in the business of censoring. This is just a paid advertisement, and I should note that I have run two articles in the alumni magazine on him (Mikey Weinstein), which again a lot of grads didn't like on the other side of the issue.
In case there's any question about whether the Air Force Academy is bathed in the blood of the lamb, check out the Association of Graduates' website where the organization is promoting this latest painting called "Defending the Faith."
The artist has painted pictures for each of the Academy's classes of 2006 through 2010, and now presents this as his latest offering.
Dozens of graduates are riled up about it, like this one, who didn't want his name used.
I am writing as a concerned and somewhat perplexed graduate of The Academy. I was just wondering if you can tell me when The Academy and The Air Force of The United States changed its mission to defending THE Faith? What exactly is The Academy's officially sponsored faith? They are clearly not defending all faiths, so which faith is THE Faith? What exactly is their job now? Are cadets and Air Force officer no longer required to raise their right hand and swear to defend The Constitution? Or are we produicing and encouraging the development of constitutional ignoramuses? What fabulous propaganda for taliban fighters: a U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft flying over a chapel on its way to Afganistan to bomb_______ (the Taliban fighters will fill in that blank themselves but you can imagine what they will use).
Like dozens of others, that graduate contacted Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which got its start calling out the Academy for its favoritism of evangelical Christianity.
Weinstein says he understands the AOG is a private organization that can do what it wants to promote whatever religion it wants or to promote religious life over non-religious life.
But because it's located on the Academy grounds and does interact with cadets, it should be more sensitive to the controversy surrounding religion at the academy, he says. The problem of religious bias was apparent in the latest survey on cadet life taken last year, and it's enough of a perturbance to trigger an Air Force look at the academy conducted by Ret. Gen. Patrick Gamble several weeks ago. (The Air Force insisted we not call Gamble's visit an "investigation.")
"Defending the faith? Which faith?" Weinstein says. "This is a serious problem. This is a wrong on every possible level."
He says he's been contacted by more than 100 graduates who are upset with depicting the academy as a place where people are indoctrinated into the Crusaders.
"And most of the grads complaining are Christians," he says.
"The academy has no situational awareness when it comes to religious intolerance because they don't see it," he says. "The problem with this (painting) is, the average graduate does not distinguish between the AOG and AFA. It looks like it's absolutely endorsing military might defending Christian crusaders."
By the way, the Academy's icon, the Cadet Chapel, has 17 spires which represent the 12 disciples of "our Lord Jesus Christ" and five chiefs of staff, or so cadets were taught for decades. Maybe they've knocked that off by now.
Here's another graduate's thoughts conveyed to Weinstein:
Why is the AOG and USAFA selling a painting for profit which exploits obviously Christian faith supremacy and the F-16 fighter mixed with the Academy and "Defending The Faith"? Who's "Faith" is the AOG and USAFA's painting actually defending here? As if none of us could guess? Wouldn't this be the last type of painting which USAFA and the AOG would want to be selling over the internet right now? I am a recent graduate and am Catholic. I am also an AOG member but before I quit, I want to know if MRFF can help "us" ( I have talked to several other grads abut this who are as disappointed and perplexed as I am) to find out why this has happened and what the real story is?
We've put in a call to the AOG. We'll let you know what they say when, or if, we hear from them.