Wednesday, November 2, 2016

AFA sits on FOIA request nearly 3 years

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 10:43 AM

Three years ago, we wrote about the Air Force Academy's hiring of a person, Mike Rosebush, in 2009 in plans and programs and later transferred him to its Center for Character and Leadership Development. Rosebush believes being gay is a choice and has promoted "conversion therapy" in which people, himself included, try to convince gays and lesbians to simply be straight.
Weinstein: Battling for documents from USAFA.
  • Weinstein: Battling for documents from USAFA.
From our story ("Strange bedfellows," Nov. 13, 2013):
Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, calls hiring Rosebush "a total scandal and outrage." MRFF, formed in 2005 amid claims of religious bias at the academy, has 27 LGBT clients at the school, he says.

"They said it's like living in a North Korean prisoner camp," Weinstein says. "You walk on eggshells in fear of being outed, because of this approved tidal wave of Christianity ... being told you're not good enough, you're sinning because you made a choice to be a sinner, you're lying about being born that way. It strikes at the very core of their being."

Katie Miller, a lesbian, knows that feeling. She resigned from the Military Academy at West Point in August 2010 to protest Don't Ask Don't Tell, and joined the OutServe group. She's since graduated from Yale and works as a researcher at the Center for American Progress.

"This is pretty bad news," Miller says, noting that the presence of someone with Rosebush's beliefs can say plenty to malleable cadets living in an insular environment. "You're learning institutional values," she says. "It's not just a matter of someone who has strong religious beliefs teaching at the Air Force Academy, but many of the beliefs held by Dr. Rosebush are actively harmful to a number of people and to LGBT cadets specifically."
As you might guess, the revelation grabbed a lot of attention nationwide. The Academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, issued a statement days later defending the choice of Rosebush. But it took the academy more than a month to release Rosebush's resume, which made no mention of his reparative therapy beliefs and practices. This is the resume he submitted in order to be hired.

Now, we learn that the academy's release of the resume in 41 days was lightning speed, compared to its three-year delay in responding to Weinstein's group's Freedom of Information request.

Back on Nov. 27, 2013, the MRFF sought records of Rosebush's hiring and employment.

On Sept. 27, 2016 — nearly three years later — the academy denied the request, saying it was "totally withheld from release as it would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of Dr. Michael Rosebush's personal privacy."

Here's MRFF's letter to the academy:

Now, the MRFF to preparing to sue the academy in federal court, which will make the second time MRFF has threatened legal action against the Air Force in the last couple of months. The other was a threat stemming from the display of the Bible at Peterson Air Force Base. The lawsuit never was filed, however, because MRFF couldn't find a plaintiff willing to be named and the Bible never was returned to the desk in the work place.

And, it's the second time within the last year that MRFF has appealed an academy FOIA decision. That case involved a 2011 FOIA request. "We are in court," Weinstein says. "We're waiting for the AFA to produce more documents. If they're not going to produce the documents, we will file a motion for summary judgment next month."

In our experience, the Academy FOIA office is the very definition of foot-dragging. We've waited eight to 18 months for responses to our FOIA requests, but three years really does seem over the top.

"It's just dishonest. They have a deplorable record in being open and transparent," Weinstein says. "We filed the [FOIA] appeal. If the appeal is denied we'll open a new federal lawsuit."

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