MRFF Accuses USAFA Speaker of “Illegal” Conduct
Michael Weinstein has faced an onslaught of criticism in the past few days over his demand that the US Air Force Academy rescind Lt Clebe McClary’s invitation to the 10th Air Base Wing’s National Prayer Luncheon. Several organizations, and even some of his own supporters, are seeing the hypocrisy and extremism in his call for LtGen Gould’s ouster over the religious beliefs of an invited speaker.
Apparently seeing no movement after their initial accusations, Chris Rodda, the MRFF research assistant, has now called McClary’s conduct “illegal:”
Lt. McClary also regularly violates Titles 10 and 18 of U.S. Code by appearing at his speaking engagements, both military and civilian, in a Marine uniform, something that, apparently, not a single military attendee at any of his numerous appearances on military bases has informed him is illegal.
In an unusual move for her, Rodda actually cites the law she claims McClary broke. Of course, she doesn’t say what part of the hundreds of paragraphs of law within Titles 10 or 18 are at issue. Here are some that are:
TITLE 10, Subtitle A, PART II, CHAPTER 45, § 772
§ 772. When wearing by persons not on active duty authorized…
(c) A retired officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title and wear the uniform of his retired grade…
(e) A person not on active duty who served honorably in time of war in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title, and, when authorized by regulations prescribed by the President, wear the uniform, of the highest grade held by him during that war.
With regard to “regulations prescribed by the President,” MCO P1020.3G says
8003. RETIRED PERSONNEL (INCLUDING FLEET MARINE CORPS RESERVE)
1. Retired officers and enlisted personnel not on active duty are entitled to wear the prescribed uniform of the grade held on the retired list when wear of the uniform is appropriate, and not specifically prohibited under the provisions of subparagraph 11002.1.
Subparagraph 11002.1 does not “specifically prohibit” wear of the uniform at a type of event similar to the National Prayer Luncheon (it contains the same basic list of improper political events, etc). For its part, Title 18 refers primarily to wearing the uniform “without authority;” thus, if McClary is consistent with Title 10, Rodda’s accusation about Title 18 is moot.
So it appears Title 10 actually supports McClary’s actions. It apparently escapes Rodda that one reason “not a single military attendee” has called his actions illegal is because…they’re not. It is unclear on what basis Rodda is making the accusation of criminal conduct — and it is not an insignificant thing to publicly accuse someone of illegal activity.
The Air Force Academy has responded to the complaint by highlighting the inclusiveness and voluntary nature of the event, and the fact that it is being paid for by the donations of the congregants who attend Academy chapel services — not government funds. A message from David K. Cannon, Director of Communication for USAFA, said:
USAFA’s Prayer Luncheon is a completely voluntary event; invites were only sent to permanent party members and staff (not cadets). There is absolutely no pressure for anyone to attend.
This year’s program is very inclusive of many different beliefs. There will be readings by an Islamic Airman, a Jewish Airman, an African-American Christian Airman, a Jewish chaplain (rabbi), a Buddhist sensei and a Catholic chaplain (priest). By design, this expresses some of the rich religious diversity that makes up America’s Air Force and your United States Air Force Academy.
We asked Lt McClary to speak because he is a highly-decorated Vietnam combat veteran (Silver Star and Bronze Star) and nationally recognized motivational speaker. He presents a tremendously inspirational message as he describes the loss of an eye and arm in combat, and how he overcame tough odds to succeed in his endeavors. His message is one of facing challenges and overcoming adversity and he has the credibility to support that message.
(Apparently, this letter was sent to several complaining organizations, but not the MRFF, which brought no end of offense and whining from Weinstein’s group.)
In the ongoing comedy of errors that is the MRFF, Rodda once again puts her foot in her mouth, courtesy of her boss and her inability to conduct basic research. In response to Cannon’s letter, Rodda said:
Then there’s [Cannon’s] straw man that the Academy’s Prayer Luncheon is for permanent party and staff members, and not for cadets. We know this, Mr. Cannon…Nowhere have we claimed otherwise.
According to public information, that statement is false — unless an allied website is considered “nowhere.” On January 19th — one day before Weinstein sent his demand letter to the Academy, and two days before Cannon’s letter — their allies at Veterans Today published an article that said:
Weinstein said that he doesn’t have any problems with McClary as a person or believer, but Air Force cadets should not be expected to attend a prayer service featuring a soldier who once wrote that he “almost went to hell with high morals” because “I never invited Jesus Christ into my heart as Savior or let Him become the Lord of my life.” (emphasis added)
The MRFF has not publicly disputed the accuracy of their allies’ statement which paraphrased Weinstein including cadets in his accusations. In addition, as Rodda noted, the letter was written to their allies, who did include cadets in their accusations. For example, the Veterans for Common Sense “demanded”
that Clebe McClary not be allowed to proselytize Academy cadets at the USAFA prayer breakfast scheduled for February 10, 2011.
For a group that complains about others’ citation of numbers (despite its own use of the same tool), Rodda is quick to do the same, saying the Academy can never gather enough supporters to “equal the number” of complaints about McClary’s “fundamentalist Christian supremacy.” In that regard, she may be correct, simply because far more people are willing to write a letter to complain than they are to write a letter to not-complain. (MRFF allies are encouraging letter-writing campaigns and providing the USAFA Supe’s address. There is no known call to action for the other side.)
Having seen Lt McClary’s presentation first-hand, I can be counted among those who do not think McClary’s presentation is proselytizing fundamentalist Christian supremacy. His “FIDO” philosophy, based on overcoming adversity, is a better summary of the philosophy of his message to military audiences.
Lt Col John Bryan posted a comment to the CSIndy’s article on the event noting:
Also important to note the luncheon will include readings from Muslim and Jewish faiths as well as Christian.
The luncheon is an all-inclusive, voluntary luncheon geared towards permanent party and staff at the Academy–not cadets.
Lt Col John Bryan
Director, USAFA Public Affairs
Like others, he is emphasizing that the event, and the invited speaker, meet all requirements for the military’s support of the religious freedom of its servicemembers — something Weinstein claims he supports. Other organizations have seen USAFA’s efforts in this regard as well, with Wayne Laugesen of the local Colorado Springs Gazette — often a supporter of Weinstein’s efforts — calling Weinstein a “censor” and even casting doubt on the honesty of Weinstein’s motives:
Gen. Gould, don’t let wrongheaded religious censors get you down…
For McClary’s religious beliefs, Weinstein and the ACLU want him effectively censored by punishing the person who invited him. They want prior restraint of a speech. They want to trample on academic freedom. They want Gen. Gould’s head because he would dare invite a speaker who loves Jesus…
Weinstein’s gloves-off effort to get Gould canned raises suspicions. Is he trying to create an environment of tolerance, or one of division? If a hero the caliber of McClary should not speak, because of his faith, it’s hard to see the academy as a place that tolerates freedom of speech, freedom of religion or academic freedom.
Those who claim to defend our inherent and constitutionally protected rights are acting as those who would oppress them.
Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word. (emphasis added)
Even the Associated Press called Weinstein “a frequent foe of religious practices at the” Air Force Academy — note, a foe, not a supporter of religious freedom.
This is another — but not the first, or second, or even third — indicator of Weinstein’s ongoing vendetta against Christianity. His self-founded organization, despite its name, has nothing to do with “religious freedom.”