Whether you think he and the MRFF are overreaching in this issue or (like some) think he's totally off the reservation is not the point. The point here is that MRFF is trying to highlight, in a manner that will actually get some attention (and maybe some movement) that the USAFA leadership has been completely insincere and disingenuous about their efforts to respect ALL those that serve--regardless of religious, political, or sexual orientation. They make those claims and even hold conferences to celebrate their good work in promoting toleration and openness, but day after day their core actions--what they post on websites, whom they invite to conferences, what is and isn't allowed on base, betray their true feelings. The bias against anything but evangelical christianity and the support for religio-politico-sexual standards espoused by fundamentalist christian organization creeps into every nook and cranny. Integrated across time, it's difficult to not come to the conclusion that they support bias against homosexuals (and equate their behavior to some criminal acts), support bias against women (by tacitly allowing role-biased christian groups to operate around and near the Academy, shaping cadet views in a manner counter to DoD policy--convincing women that their place is NOT in military leadership), promote stereotypes of women as objects (by parading female cadets as "ring girls" in slinky dresses at the Wing Open Boxing Championships and having the announcer call them "ravishing" and "smokin' hot"), by granting special privileges and passes to religious cadets that are denied to others, and the list goes on and on. Each looks like it might be a little mistake or an oversight or another innocent misunderstanding. But in sum, it's hard not to come to the conclusion reached by the MRFF and many others and then take the next step to ask yourself, "What are we going to do about it? Just sit quietly? Just ask politely to change it? Or to demand a change in a public way?" Sadly for USAFA, their leadership has driven MRFF to this point by refusing to even discuss the matter and cutting all other lines of communication.
“I know that nobody does things maliciously here,” he [John Bryan] said.
I always like that one. I'm confused, but I think it means "We didn't mean any harm and we don't say this is in a really meanie way, and after all we're just trying to give you the links you need to live a good life and understand the truth, so you can't say we're MALICIOUS, and if you're not a witch, then you don't have to be afraid of our witch hunts anyway." (Oh, and if that doesn't pacify you then, well, it was all an accident. Oops, sorry! We have a lot of 'accidents' here--and we've gotten really good at explaining them. Haven't we?)
And, Shar? Wake up and smell the coffee, hun. The MRFF (not MRRF - which would be, what? the Military Religious Recidivist Fellowship?) has been trying quietly to solve problems for almost a decade now. You don't read about those (especially the successes), but sadly, many of them are failures. When whispering sweet nothings in their enormous ears doesn't slow the Elephant, sometimes you need to rent a pride of lions. It may not be pretty--what happens when they roar--but it's the only thing that'll stop the Elephant's charge.
Call me tired and cynical, but I don't understand how anyone can be surprised by this. For the non-fundamentalist Christian evangelical at USAFA or in most parts of the DoD, this is like complaining that the guards have added another row of bricks atop the 20-foot tall gulag wall--or that we've found a 47th means of preventing escape. Integrity--which is supposed to come first--would probably be best served if USAFA senior leadership just openly declared what their actions for the past four years insinuate: that a particular world/religious view IS necessary and sufficient for one to serve honorable in the US military.
But, Skeptic, that doesn't make it any less stupid or impermissible. Tradition doesn't trump stupid. the fact is, previous commandants and staff have known about this (it is by no means the Dean's fault at all) and have tolerated it over the years for unknown reasons. Several needed medical care last year, too. the difference is, the new commandant upholds some standards and sees 'stupid is as stupid does.'
I'd like to know what sort of test TejonTech would like to impose on those that serve in our military (just assuming that that pesky Article 6, Sec III of the Constitution didn't exist). What "flavor" of christian is good enough for him and ethical enough to serve our nation? Just a simple belief in some sky fairy? On a scale of 1-10 for superstition, what's the qualifying number? Mormons okay, but Unitarians are too squishy for you? Muslims? Buddhists? Ba'hai? Or should we follow the ethical lead of such admirable christians as Jim Jones, Ted Haggart, an other paragons of honesty an viture? Inquiring minds want to know.
The strange thing right now in the military is that it's probably easier and less dangerous (career-wise) to come out of the closet as gay, than to make any kind of declaration that might paint you as anything other than christian. Glad for the former, saddened by the latter. What if USAFA was hosting a political respect conference and decided to just invite democrats and republicans--but you were libertarian or green? They wouldn't need to bother to invite you because, hey, you don't have a chance of winning any contests anyway, so where's the requirement? How about a sports respect conference, but they don't invite the cheerleaders because the NCAA doesn't recognize and sanction cheerleading as a sport? (Or mountain biking or tiddli-winks, for that matter, and that just pisses me off!) It wasn't all that long ago that an NCAA discussion of sports would not have included women, and just a little earlier, blacks. But USAFA can host a conference on respect across the religious spectrum and leave out the fastest growing 'block' in the American spiritual arena. Yeah, that makes sense. Tradition does not trump stupid.
TT, there's an old saying that many trot out: "How do you make a million in the non-profit world?" Answer: "Start with a billion." I'm pretty confident that Mikey and (his wife) Bonny aren't in this for the money. He spoke at UCCS for free--facing anonymous cell phone death threats and imprecatory prayers from his USAFA classmate wishing death, disease, and poverty (probably not in that order) for Mikey and generations of his family that follow. Their home in ABQ is under constant assault and there exists a wide array of psychopaths that consider him an existential threat to the godly driven, christian military that gives them guilty, wet dreams. Check the books... How much to do you think MRFF takes in compared to the completely unconstitutional Officers' Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Focus on the Family, and other embedded, quasi-military brown-shirt militias? The difference is measured in orders of magnitude. For Mikey, it's not the money--it's the principle of the thing. Principle--that's something the strongly religious should understand.
Do you really want a military that is STEERED by the particular religious beliefs of a small oligarchy of self-righteous, nuclear-armed warriors? Isn't that exactly what we're trying to prevent in Iran? Isn't that what we fear between Pakistan and India?
Mikey and the MRFF are NOT anti-christian. They represent too many christians for that to even be possible. They're simply pro-Constitution--the document that our military swears an oath to support and defend.
Now, let's look at the USAFA conference. It's a conference that supposedly focuses on RESPECT across a wide spectrum of religious beliefs--EXCEPT those that do not believe in a supreme being, are doubtful of doctrinaire religiousity, or just want to keep an open mind and make their own decision and are currently 'free agents' spiritually. These honorable members of our military and their representatives have been actively excluded from the conversation. The message is clear: We don't respect you. You are not worthy of our consideration or support. We don't think you can serve our nation without some sort of belief, nor can we bring you around to OUR belief if you reject belief as we know it.
This conference needs to start with the premise that government funded and commissioned agents of religion are completely counter to the establishment clause of the Constitution--that this practice should be abolished immediately. It should be replaced the same way we provide other services to our military (like Taco Bell) by out-sourcing the costs and responsibilities to those that have an interest in providing the service.
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