USAFA Pagan Cross Investigation Closed
The US Air Force Academy closed its investigation into the placement of the shape of a cross at a pagan site on the Academy grounds. No new information was apparently determined, nor was any action taken. To their credit, the Colorado Springs Gazette printed the most accurate description so far of the incident, saying
The cross – consisting of two railroad ties propped against a boulder…
Other organizations and individuals had inaccurately implied a ‘large cross’ was ‘made of railroad ties’ and ‘carried to the site’ to be ‘erected in the center’ of the pagan circle. The Gazette left out only the facts the two boards were not connected and were already on the site before the incident occurred.
In noting the end of its investigation, the Air Force refused to characterize the incident as a hate crime:
“For it to be a hate crime, you have to know the motives,” [Academy spokeswoman Capt. Corinna] Jones said.
This is in stark contrast to some of the public reaction to the incident, including that of Michael Weinstein and TSgt Brandon Longcrier, the Air Force pagan faith leader whose photograph initiated the publicity of the incident. For his part, Longcrier has apparently changed his tune. Though he once called it a “hate crime” and said the Air Force “ignores us” (referencing pagans), he now equivocates:
Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, who sponsors the Earth-centered group, said he’s satisfied the investigation was thorough.
“It felt like something that was done maliciously, but without the evidence, I can’t say either way if it was a hate crime,” Longcrier said.
His dramatic shift in tone now aligns with the Air Force position rather than criticizing it.
In addition, the Air Force Times said the Air Force reported they
found no clear indication it was intended to harass members of the Earth-centered group because it was found before the academy announced the site would be set aside for their use, and because the site has sometimes been used by Christians and by other groups. (emphasis added)
Interestingly, this very information was highlighted exclusively on this site, in both the commentary and comments, just after the incident was made public. At the time, one critic scoffed those facts as an attempt to “defend the indefensible.”
Michael Weinstein’s response was unusually tepid, as he focused primarily on an alleged delay in the investigation. It remains to be seen whether he will follow through on his initial declaration that he would “take his fight to the Justice Department” if it was not treated as a hate crime and the subject of a “serious investigation.”
For many, this may yet be a lesson in wisdom and prudence. This incident was called a variety of things, from a “religious hate crime” to “bigotry.” Christianity and the Air Force Academy were both impugned. Weinstein’s MRFF even concluded “Christian supremacists” were responsible. In the end, however, it appears people making such accusations really had no idea who had done this or why. They were either basing their accusations on information not made public (or apparently provided to Air Force investigators), or they were just making it up.