Monday, May 14, 2012

UPDATE: Weinstein: State ruling has big implications for AFA

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Air Force Academy officials touched base this morning to offer their side of the issue.

Officials said they had no plans to cancel their prayer luncheon, noting the state ruling specifically stated that it would not affect similar events.

In an e-mail, Tech. Sgt. Raymond Hoy, wrote:

In paragraph 7 of the court's opinion (attached), the Colorado Court of Appeals specifically stated, '...we emphasize that we only interpret the Colorado Constitution as it applies to the Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations in this case. We do not offer any legal judgment about the constitutionality, under the First Amendment, of the National Day of Prayer proclamations issued annually by the President.'

"The Academy does not participate or host any Colorado Day of Prayer events," said Colonel Paul Barzler, the Air Force Academy's Staff Judge Advocate. "This opinion does not address National Day of Prayer events."

The e-mail did not specifically address accusations that the AFA has a double standard when it comes to following state law, but did offer the following quote:

"The Air Force Academy plans to continue hosting an annual National Prayer Luncheon, which is open to all members of the Academy," said Chaplain (Col.) Robert Bruno, the U.S. Air Force Academy Chaplain. "This event is in solidarity with the Presidential Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C. each February. The Academy's luncheon is multi-faith, in compliance with all relevant DoD and Air Force guidance, and is attended on a completely voluntary basis."

——- ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, 2:58 P.M. ——-

Air Force Academy Chapel doesnt allow same sex marriage.
  • The iconic academy chapel is only available for heterosexual weddings.

It only happened days ago, but the Colorado Court of Appeals' decision to throw out Colorado's Day of Prayer on the grounds that it's unconstitutional, is already having an unexpected impact.

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says the ruling means that the U.S. Air Force Academy should cancel its Annual Prayer Breakfast and related events to comply with the ruling. While federal institutions don't normally need to comply with state laws in this way, Weinstein says the AFA should have to, because the military school already stated that it was following state law when it forbade same-sex couples from marrying on campus. (See "Wedding Bell Blues.")

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Colorado. Under a directive of the Department of Defense, same-sex marriages are only allowed on military campuses in states where the ceremonies are legal.

But if the AFA is following state law when it forbids same-sex ceremonies, Weinstein reasons, than it should also follow the state's lead in canceling government-sponsored religious events. Alternately, Weinstein says, the AFA could simply revert its position and reassert its right to operate outside of state law, by allowing same-sex marriages on the campus.

“You cannot have it both ways," he told the Indy, noting that it was inconsistent to only follow cherry-picked state laws while ignoring others.

It's clear that either change would please Weinstein. He has long fought to eliminate religious-oriented functions at the Academy, and his foundation has same-sex clients that wish to have wedding ceremonies at the the academy's Cadet Chapel. It's not clear, however, whether Weinstein's demands will be met, or indeed carry any legal merit.

Academy officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When and if they do, we'll update this blog.

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