Weinstein Attacks USAFA Cadet for Class-wide Religious Email

The Colorado Springs Independent‘s Pam Zubeck — a veritable PR arm of Michael Weinstein’s MRFF — has a post stating a US Air Force Academy fourth class cadet (freshman) sent an inappropriate religious email to his classmates.  She said the cadet

has been “counseled” for sending an e-mail to the entire freshman class urging them to pray and citing specific Scriptures. [formatting original]

She then includes the content of the 500-word email, which had been sent only two days prior.  The email does, shockingly, “urge people to pray” and does, indeed, cite “specific Scriptures.”  What Zubeck fails to mention is the email is a forward of a daily devotional by Gloria Copeland, distributed on the same day the cadet forwarded it: 

Do Your Own Praying
Written by Gloria Copeland   

If you’re in trouble, you need to pray. That’s what the Bible says. Notice it doesn’t say your pastor or a friend needs to pray for you. It says you need to pray.

Too often we try to find a “quick fix” to our problems by asking everyone else to pray for us. There’s nothing wrong with having others pray for you, but you’ll never get to a place of lasting victory until you begin to pray yourself…

The only text that appears to have been original in the email was the final sentence:

Thank you for your time and consideration. (etc., whatever)

When asked, the Air Force Academy published a simple reply:

While everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs, proper use of official email and respect for others’ beliefs (or non-beliefs) is paramount. In the instance you’ve inquired about, we agree, the cadet made an error. We look at this as a teachable moment. The Squadron Commander and the Group Chaplain both counseled the freshman cadet for this lapse in judgment.

That doesn’t seem unreasonable, though the statement probably shouldn’t have included the action taken against the cadet to protect his privacy. (As the original email was probably forwarded to Weinstein, he likely has the cadet’s name.)  The Air Force Academy is an institution for teaching both academics and military leadership and officership, and this falls squarely in military training.  The cadet appears to have inappropriately sent out an unsolicited message to his 1,100 classmates using his official email.  That it contained a daily devotion is almost irrelevant, but since they’re talking to him about use of email, they might as well also tell him that official emails to mass audiences of the content he sent shouldn’t be sent unsolicited.

Particularly given the short time he’s been a cadet, and the benign nature of the email, words from the Squadron Commander seem appropriate, and the Group Chaplain can surely provide additional perspective.  Given history, it is highly unlikely he’ll be the last person in his class to run afoul of an email policy.

That wasn’t enough for Michael Weinstein, though.

“The academy ran out of teachable moments about 2006,” Weinstein says. “These are discipline moments.”

Being “counseled” as a fourth class cadet probably is discipline from their perspective, though Weinstein has previously expressed a preference for heads on pikes.  (Weinstein is hardly one to talk, though; he claims he punched an officer when he was a cadet and was never punished.)  Weinstein is a man with no relevant experience or credibility; he has never led an institution of higher learning nor even a unit while in the Air Force, yet he presumes to tell LtGen Gould how to run the Air Force Academy.  Classy.

Zubeck continued:

Weinstein called the prayer e-mail a “blatant violation” of Air Force Chief of Staff of Gen. Norton Schwartz’s Sept. 1 memo demanding religious neutrality.

That’s moronic.  General Schwartz’s memorandum on religious neutrality was directed toward commanders and leaders to prevent the perception of the “apparent use of their position” to endorse a religion.  The email at issue was distributed to peers, so no such relationship exists.  The email has nothing to do with General Schwartz’s memo.

it’s mystifying how a cadet who’s been at the academy since June could commit such an act, considering the academy claims that it adamantly teaches religious sensitivity from the time doolies arrive, Weinstein says.

To be clear, the class of 2015 has been at USAFA for 6 months (including their summer training in Jack’s Valley and all holidays).  It’s actually not mystifying at all.  While Weinstein may have required no instruction when he was a cadet in the 1970s (ignoring the whole hitting-an-officer story), kids these days do occasionally need to be taught, and/or retaught, a variety of subjects.  This is rarely more true than in the use of “social media,” including email, with which 18-year-olds at USAFA have extensive personal experience but no professional discretion. 

It is a near certainty those cadets have tested virtually every policy and restriction at USAFA, whether intentionally or not, despite the fact they’ve been “taught” the policies already.  In each case, the leadership responded in the way it determined appropriate.  Besides his zealotry to impose a personal agenda, Weinstein provides no reason to question their response.

Weinstein once had access directly to the Superintendent’s desk, but the door has long since shut in his face.  As a result, the only way Weinstein can attempt to exert influence — or profit from similar non-scandals — is to use the media to manufacture controversy.  In this case, Weinstein threw a tantrum, but no one seems to care.

The story hasn’t spread beyond Zubeck’s regional column.

One comment

  • “It is a near certainty those cadets have tested virtually every policy and restriction at USAFA, whether intentionally or not, despite the fact they’ve been “taught” the policies already.”

    That’s not near, that’s certainty.