Thursday, February 2, 2012

Academy accused of targeting religious group

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 11:44 AM

It's a well-known fact that Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation are the bane of the Air Force Academy.

But is MRFF such an enemy that an academy leader put out the word to run a counter-insurgency against the nonprofit?

MRFF says it has evidence that, indeed, happened and is demanding the Air Force Secretary Michael Donley order an investigation. Here's the letter:

Mum's the word from the Pentagon. Air Force spokesman Todd Spitler issued this statement today: "As this is a matter concerning ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time."

Weinstein: Outraged again.
  • Weinstein: Outraged again.

In the way of background, Weinstein began his campaign in 2004, alleging the academy favors fundamentalist Christianity. Former Commandant Gen. Johnny Weida taught cadets chants about Jesus, for example. Weinstein has been crying foul ever since on various infractions he and others have perceived of the U.S. Constitution's establishment of religion clause, i.e., the government can't dictate what religion you believe in, if any.

More recently, we reported in August that AFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould wrote in an e-mail that the best course in dealing with e-mails from Weinstein is to "block them from reaching my machine. I'm done with him," he wrote.

In that same report, we quoted AFA professor David Mullin, who was a named plaintiff against the academy in a religious freedom case in February, as saying, "They didn't want to deal with anything having to do with his complaints. He might forward complaints of MRFF clients who were agonizing, and they just blew it off."

E-mails support that. On Sept. 24, 2010, Weinstein forwarded a message to Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Dana Born in which the writer complained the Bible was the only sacred text displayed at an academy prep school prisoner of war display. Born sent the message to others at the academy, saying, "hate to forward these — not worth the time usually you will spend reading it."

After Mullin went public with his criticism, Born didn't renew his teaching contract. He's since filed an Equal Employment Opportunity lawsuit.

On Dec. 9, 2011, Born was deposed in Mullin's civil rights lawsuit. Mullin's attorney, Robert Eye, asked Born if she had ever used the term "counter-insurgency" to describe anything involving the academy.

"No, sir," she said.

The attorney then asked additional questions about use of the term, and Born denied having said it.

But now, it appears MRFF has proof, in writing, that Born misspoke. Eye, who also represents MRFF, wrote in the letter to Donley:

It has come to our attention that, contrary to the sworn testimony of Brig. General Born, she directed, in writing, at least one subordinate, Col. Thomas A. Drohan, Permanent Professor and Head of the Department of Military Strategic Studies, to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign against MRFF and presumably, MRFF clients at the USAFA. We understand that at the direction of Brig. General Born, Col. Drohan's mid-term performance appraisal specified that he was to conduct a "COIN" against MRFF and its clients. In this context "COIN" is shorthand reference to counterinsurgency.

Born: On the hotseat.
  • Born: On the hotseat.

He also noted that her identifying MRFF and its clients as COIN targets is "an apparent attempt to chill both speech and assembly rights of MRFF clients" and runs afoul of the Constitution's prohibition on any "religious test."

We asked to speak with Born and Drohan, but academy spokesman Lt. Col. John Bryan responded by e-mail saying, "As you know, we don't comment on IG [inspector general] investigations."

Bryan might have been referencing a Secretary of the Air Force Inspector General's investigation that's underway regarding allegations that Born and Col. Richard Fullerton misrepresented the academy faculty's credentials to the school's accreditation agency. (And by the way, though that investigation apparently is wrapping up, the IG never contacted this newspaper, to which Born made statements about the faculty's credentials in 2010 that were cited in the whistleblowers' requests for an investigation.)

Weinstein's reaction to all this is obviously one of outrage. "We’re talking about perjury," he says in an interview. "That’s a very serious felony. Can you imagine the fact she put this on his evaluation?
A counterinsurgency against my association? Unbelievable."

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