Weinstein Attacks USAFA Speaker: He’s ‘Wrong Kind of Christian’

Michael Weinstein has written a letter to the USAFA Superintendent, LtGen Michael Gould, “demanding” that an invitation to Lt Clebe McClary (USMC, Ret.) be rescinded.  Lt McClary — an internationally recognized motivational speaker and wounded Vietnam Veteran — has apparently been invited to speak at the 10 February National Prayer Luncheon for the 10th Air Base Wing, the wing that runs the facilities surrounding the Air Force Academy.

Weinstein’s reason?  McClary is the ‘wrong kind of Christian:’ 

Statements…from former Lt. McClary blatantly exclude not only non-Christians, but also the many Christians who do not subscribe to [his] particularly fundamentalist view of Christianity

It truly is an outrage…that [USAFA] has afforded an elite and coveted proselytizing forum to such a fundamentalist Christian… (emphasis added)

Even the local Colorado Springs Gazette noted Weinstein’s issue was that the speaker was “too evangelical” — highlighting Weinstein’s primary focus on the content of the religious beliefs (or Christian denomination) of the speaker.  Weinstein apparently would have the Air Force Academy institute an official religious test of each of its potential speakers, evaluating their theology prior to offering an invitation:

MRFF hereby formally demands the United States Air Force Academy immediately rescind its invitation to former Lt. McClary and choose a new speaker who can appropriately embody a message of inclusiveness for all Academy attendees.

The uproar is marginally understandable when you read one of the misunderstood concepts behind the complaint:

While military chaplains are expected to provide non-denominational options to those in uniform, critics charge that prayer breakfasts sometimes favor conservative and evangelical brands of Christianity…

That statement is patently false.  There is no expectation that Chaplains “provide non-denominational options to those in uniform.”  Nothing says a meeting led by a Jewish Chaplain has to be non-Jewish, nor one by an Islamic Chaplain be non-Islamic.  In fact, the opposite is true.

It is entirely permissible for a person who holds a specific religious belief to stand up in front of uniformed servicemembers and deliver a speech (despite prior examples of Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham to the contrary)Weinstein’s complaint is frivolous, and is yet another example of manufacturing offense at Christian beliefs.

As an aside, if one can get past the repetitive and unnecessary florid language in Weinstein’s letter, it appears Weinstein intentionally disrespects the wounded combat veteran.  Weinstein refers to him repeatedly as “former Lt.”  The proper form of address for McClary is simply “Lieutenant;” McClary is a retired military officer — not a separated former officer, as Weinstein is himself.

The ironic hypocrisy is likely missed by most who have read the letter.  Weinstein, a supposed defender of religious freedom, demands an invitation be rescinded because of the religious beliefs of the speaker.  He evaluates the acceptability of those beliefs, calling them insufficiently “inclusive,” and demands the military institute a similar religious test.  The fact that Weinstein’s own speech is wantonly “non-inclusive,” or that USAFA has invited those with similar “offensive” agendas to help develop curriculum is apparently missed.

The Gazette, which properly addresses McClary, also says Weinstein is calling for the removal of Gould as Superintendent (Weinstein previously praised the Supe):

[Weinstein] says the academy’s choice of retired Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary shows that superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould remains tilted toward evangelical Christianity and tolerates an environment where proselytizing is accepted.

“We’re done,” said…Mikey Weinstein… “Gould needs to go.”

For its part, Academy spokesmen have noted the invitation went only to permanent party, not cadets; participation is entirely voluntary; and “nobody is taking roll.”  No one has commented on the impact to the religious freedom or desires of those personnel who want to hear Lt McClary speak.

There is nothing wrong with a Christian, who holds and speaks Christian beliefs, speaking to a willing and desiring military audience at their invitation.  The same is true for a person of any other religious or non-religious persuasion.  This activity supports the religious freedom of those who wish to attend — and defending religious freedom is a sacred military precept (and supposed mantra of Weinstein).

Interestingly, these complaints require vicarious offense, or for someone to go to an event they don’t want to with the sole intent of becoming offended.


  • From Talk2Action:

    Former Marine and Vietnam veteran Bobby Muller, the founder of Vietnam Veterans of America, had the following to say about the Air Force Academy’s choice of Lt. McClary to speak at the Prayer Luncheon:

    As a former Marine lieutenant who, like Lt. Clebe McClary, was severely wounded while leading a mission in Vietnam, I am appalled by my fellow Marine’s statement that a “complete” Marine is one who likes to think that U.S.M.C. stands for “U.S. Marine for Christ.” I am even more appalled that the United States Air Force Academy has invited someone with such a religiously divisive and sectarian message to speak at its upcoming National Prayer Luncheon, an event that should be inclusive of Airmen of all faiths.

    Read the rest:

  • If Lt. Clebe McClary is speaking to a willing and desiring military audience at their invitation and its not mandatory then I don’t see any problem with that; even if he believes that U.S.M.C. stands for “U.S. Marine for Christ.” However, we have all read reports/stories to the contrary, commanders and supervisor of the USAFA have “highly suggested” attendance to this event; many fear for their careers if they don’t go. I talked to a 2008 Academy grad (Nazarene) recently and he said there was “more than he expected” evangelical Christian proselytizing and the only way to get along was to go along. All he wanted to do was get thru the Academy and go to church on Sunday like most Americans and also have a little fun too. He hasn’t run into any evangelical Christian proselytizing per se since graduating, but has been asked many times what church he goes to and if he wanted to go on Christian encounters with fellow officers and spouses. He has said no so many times now (to Christian events) they don’t invite him to other social events, and he’s quit funny to be around too. Kinda makes you wonder.

    JD – I am surprised that you mentioned that “it appears Weinstein intentionally disrespects the wounded combat veteran” when you really don’t know that. To me it appears you are disrespecting Weinstein by accusing him of something he may not have intentionally done. I know you don’t like him very much but I would have thought you would not accuse him or anyone else of disrespect without knowing for sure, despite appearances. I would have said former Marine Lt myself until I read your post about what the proper address is.

  • Your point is noted. While his treatment of Lt McClary was not the point of the article, it is indicative of his respect for a person he describes as “Rambo Jesus’ acolyte; a notoriously sectarian and rapacious, professional, fundamentalist Christian missionary.” Weinstein’s personal experience in the military is often used as a legitimizing basis for his claims, so “ignorance” is not a likely excuse here.

    Weinstein is an artful semanticist. It is not unreasonable based on the available facts to conclude Weinstein appears to have made a conscious word choice.

    Notably, McClary’s own website does not say he is retired, though virtually every public announcement of his speaking engagements (including this one) does.

  • watchtower :
    However, we have all read reports/stories to the contrary, commanders and supervisor of the USAFA have “highly suggested” attendance to this event; many fear for their careers if they don’t go. I talked to a 2008 Academy grad (Nazarene) recently and he said there was “more than he expected” evangelical Christian proselytizing and the only way to get along was to go along.

    And as long as folks keep complaining anonymously to Mikey about it, nothing’s going to change. They need to make the accusation directly: offer up the names of the people who are creating a toxic environment, whether through proselytizing, religious harassment, etc. It’s unlawful conduct, but no one can do anything about it without names and specific allegations.

    Even then, that doesn’t guarantee things will change overnight, but let’s also acknowledge the fact that things are changing. When the religious scandal first broke at the Academy in 2005, would you have imagined having a Pagan circle, endorsed by the chaplains, on the base just five years later? Would you have imagined the kinds of interfaith discussions that the Academy has hosted last year alone? Things aren’t perfect, but the way to fix problems moving forward is to turn over the stones where these proselytizers are hiding and let the EO, IG, etc., take direct action against those individuals.

  • Phoenix Blue —

    If you thought about what you are asking the troops to do for a minute you may discover that you are asking a Captain to throw a Lt Col or a SGT Major or a General under the bus. This is like accusing someone of something you probably can’t prove, in a reasonable amount of time, with proper authorities, before YOU wind up in deep do do. You try that where you work and let me know if you get assigned to BFE or Tulle Greenland.

    Every “allegation” to date has resulted in very little change…just look at all the law suits Mikey Weinstein has won…NONE–and not because they we baseless. Now, he might not have wanted them all or any to go to court, but what he certainly got a lot of PUBLIC attention and I mean in a big way and “some” change over the last 5 years as you mentioned in your post. Its very hard to prove he said/she said…especially with regard to religion and I don’t think the powers that be (Gov/Courts etc) really want to get involved…much.

    The bottom-line is this (my opinion)…as long as the civilian government leadership and the court system allows the Military (Chain of Command) to be the sole authority with regard to religious matters [problems] affecting our troops [they] are screwed. Our troops have tried and tried to get the chain of command to listen and take action, to no avail (except the 5 year plan for the USAFA and still not done yet). Unfortunately the only recourse is PUBLIC [and MIKEY in their face) attention.

  • watchtower,

    point well said on identifying people in complaints. On the other hand, your statements seem to think that the most outspoken complaints are the most accurate. If Mikey’s statements are to be believed, then anyone who is not evangelical Christian is at a severe disadvantage at the Academy. In that case I must be an exception.

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