Academy Pagan Leader Fears “Brainwashed” Christians
A few weeks ago the Colorado Springs Gazette published a short email excerpt from the designated pagan leader at the USAF Academy, TSgt Brandon Longcrier. In the quote, the Gazette highlighted Longcrier’s fear for his cadets in the face of what he described as a “hate crime” (the crossed shoe boards at the pagan circle).
Not much later, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to whom the letter was addressed, published a series of letters it had received on the subject. The authors’ names were redacted, but in one the author clearly identified himself as the person who found the cross at the pagan site and took “the picture,” which is known to be Longcrier. In addition, it includes the quotes from the Gazette article attributed to him.
Longcrier’s message reiterates the “hate crime” and criticizes the Air Force Academy for its response. More interesting, however, is his attitude toward the cadets — particularly those of the Christian faith:
The circle isn’t even ready yet and I’m getting frightful reports of future plans of vandalism…I also know for a fact that the Cadets, amazingly, STILL haven’t been briefed about this situation and they’re the ones we have to worry about. Many of them are so brainwashed by the fundamentalist Christians that it seems like they’ll do anything to keep the rest of us down.
For those that may not understand the magnitude of such a characterization, realize that the pagan lay leader is not only an active duty Airman, he is also the “official” faith representative for pagans at the Academy. He described his position this way:
I’m endorsed (with endorsement paperwork on file with the AFA Chaplains’ Office) as a Distinct Faith Group Leader by the Sacred Well Congregation; I’m the Air Force Academy Military Pagan Network POC…and I may be a chaplain myself in a few years.
Longcrier is as close as you can come to an official pagan “chaplain” (and as he noted, he entertains a desire to become a Chaplain). However, had a Christian Chaplain made derogatory comments about paganism or its followers, as Longcrier did about Christians, Longcrier would likely have been one to lead an outcry in response. As an official military faith leader at the Academy, it is troubling to see him publicly express disdain toward Christian cadets, both here and at other places on the internet. For example, when a commenter questioned putting pagans in positions of authority in the military, Longcrier responded with an attack not only on a former President, but apparently all of Christianity:
2/2/2010 5:54:01 PM ET
Yeah because heaven forbid we put our trust in someone who believes in protecting our environment peace a balance between men and women etc… I’d much rather put my trust into those like our former President who had meetings with the likes of Ted Haggard every week or those who desecrate religious sites of those who practice outside their own faith or those who don’t follow a single word of what Jesus actually taught like Judge not and ye shall not be judged condemn not and ye shall not be condemned.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
(This is not the first time a non-Christian has misapplied the apparent reference to Luke 7.)
There is one important distinction to make: As has repeatedly been pointed out on this site, a military officer with religious beliefs is not obligated to compromise those beliefs simply because they are incompatible with beliefs shared by other military members. Thus, Longcrier is entitled to his theological opinion about Christianity, and he is free to express that opinion as part of his right to free exercise. Similarly, it would not be unforeseeable that a Muslim military faith leader would consider pagans to be “infidels” or a Christian military faith leader would consider a Muslim to be in a “false religion.”
However, the expression of those theological tenets is generally confined to religious gatherings, not public rants, and is generally restricted to the theologies themselves, not military subordinates who adhere to those beliefs. In general (though not without exception), when military distinct faith leaders speak in public on theological topics from their military position, they tend to confine their comments to the positive attributes of their own faiths. Even if they bring up their theological views on other faiths, they generally don’t take the opportunity to denigrate their subordinates who are followers of those different faiths.
It is important to note that Longcrier sent his letter to the MRFF, and not the local paper. However, the MRFF sent it to the paper and attributed it to him, as evidenced by the Gazette article.
With regard to the topic at hand, the MRFF now says it is “satisfied” with the military’s response to this incident, despite the fact that nothing has reportedly changed. It appears Michael Weinstein used the accusations of Longcrier’s passionate email as a skillful PR tool to obtain personal access to the Academy leadership, and Longcrier is left alone to explain his hyperbolic and accusatory missive, with which the MRFF apparently no longer agrees.
Hopefully this situation has been educational about public relations and religious freedom in the military.
The entire email, as published on the internet and as publicly attributed to TSgt Brandon Longcrier, is included below:
February 3, 2010
Subject: Intolerance and Hate Comments About USAFA Earth-Centered Worship Circle
Mikey Weinstein and MRFF,
I just received word from some Cadets that there’s a lot of talk about the “Earth-Centered Circle” going around the Cadet Wing. Unfortunately, the talk has already crossed a very serious line. I’m not surprised at this terrible turn of events since nobody….and I mean NOBODY has stepped in to brief the Cadets about the HATE CRIME / DESECRATION that was committed against our sacred place of worship.
The circle isn’t even ready yet and I’m getting frightful reports of future plans of vandalism. I was informed that when this desecration first happened that the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) was involved, but, unbelievably, I STILL haven’t been contacted by anyone AT ALL and I’m the one who found the cross and took the picture. This abandonement is how the U.S. Air Force takes care of its own when a hate crime has occurred? I know for an absolute fact that the picture of the large wooden cross propped up against our Circle was immediately sent up the Chain by the Chaplain’s Ofice, but absolutely nothing has been done since, that I’m aware of. In stark contrast, we get three emails per day talking about restriced massage parlors, but SOMEHOW we can’t get the message out about a clear hate crime of this horrible nature? I bet if the Cadet Chapel had a huge Pentacle at the front door tomorrow morning that someone would wake up then! It should be noted that the Dean of the Faculty (BG Dana Born) did mention the incident at “Dean’s Call”, but was comparatively weak, given the scope of this hate crime, and was only heard by USAF Academy Faculty and Staff….not the USAF Academy Cadets. I also know for a fact that the Cadets, amazingly, STILL haven’t been briefed about this situation and they’re the ones we have to worry about. Many of them are so brainwashed by the fundamentalist Christians that it seems like they’ll do anything to keep the rest of us down. Nothing within the Academy “system” is being done. We gave it a chance and it has failed us all and only made things that much worse. Just like in the past years. I’m now left with no other option than to immediately call upon you, Mikey Weinstein and MRFF, for official intervention and assistance in this matter. We have nowhere else to turn. We’re now in the third week since this hate crime was perpetrated and noone is reaching out to or for us. It’s either that or I start educating the Cadet Wing myself by sending out mass emails of my own!!! My cadets are scared and I’m scared for them. We have been thrown under the bus by the system we trusted and the hate crime against us has been ignored. Now there are rumors of more hate crimes to come. We do not feel safe.
I will not standby and watch my cherished freedoms and my Constitutional religious rights and those same freedoms and rights of my USAF Academy Cadets be ripped apart. We, too, are members of the United States Air Force. But the Air Force ignores us, Mr. Weinstein. We need you and MRFF! PLEASE HELP NOW!