UPDATE: The Air Force Academy spokesman says the school will not comment on Weinstein's demand.
———————ORIGINAL POST 4:42 PM WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015 ———————————————————-
, the crusader against religious bias in the armed forces, will ask the Air Force Academy
to remove the words "in the year of our Lord"
from diplomas for the class of 2016, which graduates in May, he tells the Independent
Because, he says, "We all know whose lord that is; it's a special seal of approval."
The request comes not from Weinstein himself, but rather from a small group at the academy calling themselves The Spartacus Group
, which pretends to be fundamentalist Christian
to find a more hassle-free pathway through the academy, where favoritism of Christians is well-documented over the past dozen years.
Weinstein sat down with the Indy
on Wednesday at the, well, we're not going to tell you, because the 1977 academy grad lives in a world of high security
due to a constant stream of threats of violence against him and his family. His wife, Bonnie, wrote a book about all that.
He's had the windows of his house in New Mexico shot out twice, slaughtered animals left on his door step, swastikas painted on his house, and death threats too numerous to count over the years. He's been called everything, to include a liberal, commie, satan-loving, atheist, gay activist. For the record, he's Jewish and prays in Hebrew three times a day, he says.
He stopped in Colorado Springs
on his way to a family event somewhere else in Colorado, and we'll leave it at that.
Weinstein, 11 years after establishing the Military Religious Freedom Foundation
, reports his organization now has 42,345 clients
, 402 of them at the Air Force Academy. Most are Christians.
Spartacus, he says, contacted him to request he make the case on the diploma issue. This issue arose at Trinity University
of San Antonio, Texas, a Presbyterian school, in 2010 when Muslim students petitioned to have it removed. We're checking on how the request was resolved and will update when we learn more.
Anyway, Weinstein says this group of cadets realizes that "in the year of our Lord" is a traditional phrase, but then, so was "Bring Me Men"
over the terrazzo until the Air Force made the academy replace those words in 2004 amid the sexual assault scandal with the Air Force motto: "Integrity First. Service Before Self. Excellence In All We Do."
We've asked the academy for a comment on Weinstein's request, which has yet to be submitted, and will update if and when we hear something.
Meantime, Weinstein says the academy continues to be a cauldron of religious influence, with "para-churches" still active through the academy's SPIRE program (Special Programs in Religious Education). These include Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry, the Navigators and the Officers of Christian Fellowship
, he says.
He also says it wasn't long ago that an academy staffer wrote 1+3=4
on the classroom board, explaining to cadets that one savior, plus three nails equals forgiveness. Another staffer put a big red heart on a classroom board this past Valentine's Day with the words, "Jesus Loves You,"
"There's a deafening silence from Michelle Johnson
," Weinstein says, referring to the lieutenant general who currently serves as superintendent.
Although Johnson, he says, claims to have made a commitment to diversity and mandates training in religious sensitivity, then why does the diploma still carry this phrase, which some see as offensive or not reflective of their belief system?
Because, he continues, the academy is a hotbed of "fundamentalist Christian fascism and totalitarian oppression and tyranny."
"Fish in an aquarium never see the water," he says.
Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr.
, superintendent at the U.S. Military Academy
, on the other hand, has been responsive to MRFF's concerns, Weinstein reports, despite Caslen himself being an evangelical Christian. "He realizes there's a time, place and manner to follow the 'great commission,'" he says, referring to the New Testament
directive to go and make disciples of all nations.
"We haven't had a single issue, because he understands this," Weinstein says.
Before dashing off to return dozens of phone calls and emails, Weinstein's parting shot is a quote of Frederick Douglass
, the great abolitionist, who said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."
He adds, "As long as I breathe, my goal is to be the demander to the commander."