MRFF Steps on Military Atheists’ Toes

Despite the often unified front of Michael Weinstein and his allies, it seems even his supporters are sometimes put off by his methods.

From Jason Torpy, at the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, referring to the USAFA invitation of USMC Lt (Ret) Clebe McClary to the National Prayer Luncheon:

[Recently] a sign promoting leadership based on religion was removed based on MAAF intervention and the understanding of [Air Force] Academy officials. Resolution was simple because of open dialogue.

The invitation to Clebe McClary, a speaker whose website promotes a Christian military, to keynote the Academy’s official prayer breakfast Feb 10th caused concern among a number of organizations. MAAF reached out to the Academy and Clebe McClary directly. The Academy opened positive dialogue, but unfortunately the issue went to court before a collaborative solution could be reached. (emphasis added)

Seems the MAAF thought they were having a “positive dialogue” right up to the point Weinstein “unfortunately” filed his lawsuit.


  • What sign promoted leadership based on religion?

  • There are times when dialogue can resolve an issue and times when it can’t. MRFF has resolved plenty of problems by simply talking to those involved, including getting one objectionable speaker disinvited from the Air Force Academy without having to take it to the media or into court. This was never made public because MRFF’s agreement with the Academy was that if they quietly disinvited this particular speaker, we would not publicize that they had invited them to the Academy in the first place. In that case, the Academy kept up its end of this agreement, and MRFF kept up its end, so nobody ever heard about it. MRFF also got the Academy to disinvite another speaker, Brigitte Gabriel, without going to court, which we did make public because there was no agreement not to make that one public.

    In the case of Clebe McClary, MRFF did not believe that a successful resolution was possible through dialogue, mainly because time was running out. Jason Torpy may have thought the was making progress, but with only a few days left until the prayer luncheon, and no indication from the Academy that any sort of dialogue was going to resolve the situation, we decided that going to court to try to stop McClary from appearing was the only option. If Jason Torpy wants to think that his dialogue with the Academy had some chance of success, when the Academy was clearly unwilling to budge just days before the event despite all the letters and objections to this speaker, he can think that. If he wants to blame MRFF going into court for his failure to negotiate a solution, he’s free to do that. Jason had weeks to negotiate with the Academy before MRFF even considered going into court, and obviously had not succeeded in all that time. MRFF didn’t go into court until just days before the luncheon was scheduled to take place, and no other option seemed possible.

    MRFF and MAAF have a very good working relationship, and often collaborate on issues of interest to both of our organizations. But, we are two separate organizations, and occasionally strongly disagree about how certain situations should be handled. The Air Force Academy’s prayer luncheon was one of those situations. MRFF chooses to keep these disagreements private, but MAAF doesn’t. This doesn’t mean there’s some irreparable rift between our organizations, as much as JD would like to see that.

  • Well, by the time I posted my above comment, Jason Torpy had already emailed Mikey Weinstein saying that he was changing the wording quoted by JD because he didn’t mean it in the way it came across. Jason clarified in his email that he thought MRFF’s court action was “100% valid,” and that his use of the word “unfortunately” was not referring to MRFF bringing a lawsuit, but that “‘unfortunately’ referred to the fact that [the Academy] didn’t resolve a serious problem fast enough” and resulted in MRFF having no option buy to go into court.

    Jason said in his email that he had reworded the sentence to “be more clear about my meaning.” Here’s Jason’s new wording:
    “The Academy opened positive dialogue, but unfortunately the issue was serious and urgent enough to generate court action before a collaborative solution could be reached.”

    I was a bit harsh on Jason in my above comment, because I also misinterpreted what he meant, but now that he’s clarified what he intended by that sentence, MRFF and MAAF have absolutely no problem with each other. Sorry JD, I know how much you’d like to see MRFF and its allies have a falling out, but that’s just not happening here.

    I trust that you will update your post to reflect Jason’s clarification of his comment.

  • It’s a shame that Mr. Torpy changed his tune. But I can tell you that the cadets I’ve talked to at the Academy — Atheists, Pagans, Buddhists, Christians, etc. — have all said they don’t want MRFF’s “help.” Chris, your organization needs to focus on cases like Fort Bragg and Fort Carson, where cases of religious discrimination are clear-cut and ongoing.

  • Mr. Torpy did not “change his tune.” He realized that his statement was being taken wrong, and reworded it so that it was clear what he was saying.

    As for the cadets at the Academy not wanting MRFF’s help, you tell that to all the cadets who keep contacting us asking for our help, like the group of about 100 cadets who are currently pretending to be fundamentalist Christians because they feel like they have no choice but to live a lie in order to fit in and remain in good standing.

  • @Chris Rodda

    Hmmm I was told that my statement “I feel completely inundated by religion (mainly Christianity) in our society” was merely “militant-atheist drama” and “phony soap-opera”. It’s all part of my “martir-complex”(sic), or so I am told.

    Maybe that’s what’s going on with these cadets?

  • @Nate
    There are no further details on the ‘violation’ the MAAF helped ‘fix.’

    @Chris Rodda
    How is it that USAFA’s culture is so “Christian” that “100 cadets” have to pretend to be Christian “to fit in and remain in good standing…”

    …yet there are cadets in neighboring rooms who are Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, pagan, and various other “non-fundamentalists” who don’t feel the need to pretend?

  • @Chris Rodda – I’ll believe that “100 cadets” number as soon as I see names. Not before.

  • Regarding this comment from @JD

    “How is it that USAFA’s culture is so “Christian” that “100 cadets” have to pretend to be Christian “to fit in and remain in good standing…”

    …yet there are cadets in neighboring rooms who are Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, pagan, and various other “non-fundamentalists” who don’t feel the need to pretend?”

    It depends on each cadet’s specific environment and each cadet’s perceptions of the importance of fitting in. I’ll give you an example from my own experience:

    As a freshman, when I was initially assigned a cadet sponsor, I had an introductory phone conversation with the wife of my officer sponsor. She asked me what religion I was and I told her that I was Catholic (I was a practicing Catholic at the time). Her response… “Oh. (awkward pause) We normally get Baptist cadets. But I suppose that’s OK.”

    Clearly, if it was important to me to fit in – if it was my desire to join this particular group of cadets and this particular sponsor – I could have felt pressure to pretend I was interested in becoming a Baptist. Obviously you can project this scenario onto career-related circumstances and see how the pressure would be even greater.

    Again, the fact that you are (and were, as a cadet) deeply entrenched in the prevailing religious theme at USAFA explains why you would be so puzzled on this matter.

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