USAFA Inspires Religious Respect, MRFF Inspires Cadet Disrespect
The US Air Force Academy is holding a Religious Respect Conference this week, inviting “religious and First Amendment advocacy groups” to meet with cadets and chaplains on the topics of religious tolerance and dignity.
On the topic of training in religious respect, the Academy had a noble goal for its future officers:
“The…goal is teaching an ethic of respect regardless of who people are, whether they follow one faith or another faith or no faith at all,” said Chaplain (Col.) Robert Bruno…”What we are trying to teach is a fundamental ethic of respect. We recognize the inherent dignity of every human being…”
“We agree to disagree agreeably, civilly, respectfully, professionally,” he said.
On accommodation, Jewish Chaplain (Maj) Joshua Narrowe made an excellent point: Individuals have the responsibility to request accommodation. The DoD can’t preemptively address every possible scenario.
“The important learning lesson is this: When we had class on Saturdays, I couldn’t do anything,” Narrowe said. “I didn’t make a move — because who am I requesting religious accommodations for? Is it for me, or is it for the cadets? I had to wait for cadets to come to me and say, ‘Rabbi, I have [class on] Jewish Shabbat, can you help?'”
In short, USAFA seems to have excellent concepts in place for preparing its future officers to lead in the US Air Force.
However, Michael Weinstein — perennial critic of both religious freedom and USAFA — took issue:
The United States Air Force Academy has deliberately planned and marketed this ignominious propaganda travesty, which they disingenuously call a ‘Religious Respect Conference’, in a blatantly stealth and mean-spirited, exclusivist manner which reeks of bigoted travesty and blatant betrayal of good faith and inclusive diversity.
What the thesaurus-challenged pontificator was trying to say was atheists weren’t invited this year, something fellow atheist critic Jason Torpy had already pointed out, albeit with slightly fewer adjectives. (Torpy was (questionably) invited to the last event.)
The issue of atheists is complicated somewhat by the fact atheism is not a recognized religion. To that point, atheists have occasionally been prevented from obtaining access to chapel resources — because if they are granted access, the chapel may be forced to grant access to every non-religious group, which exceeds the mandate and resources of the chaplaincy. In addition, granting atheists such access can imply a governmental position that does not exist. In short, USAFA knows its obligations to treat atheists with respect, but not as a religion.
Not everyone agrees, as someone explained after USAFA “freethinkers” were invited at the last minute:
Its such poor form the way the chaplaincy carried this out…It’s shameful and something desperately needs to be done about the chaplaincy…I’m appaled [sic] by the hypocrisy I see everyday within our chaplain core [sic]. They are snakes in the grass whispering about how to monopolize the academy atmoshpere [sic] like they did in years past. Calling it diverse because they include an individual buddhist, jew, or muslim [sic] into their christian dominated talks is a despicable facade. For the few people (Chaplains) who are apparently qualified to directly advise commanders on questions of morale, ethics and general welfare I can think of no I [sic] trust less. Brantingham and Bruno are lying through their teeth about inclusiveness and this RRC event is the perfect example of that. I’ve had enough.
That comment smells strongly of Michael Weinstein’s vitriol, but it lacks his alliterative appellations and gratuitous use of adjectives.
That comment didn’t come from an external critic. It came from a self-identified USAFA cadet.
Cadet “Z-Bo” stepped out in grandiose fashion. The objective of the conference is to discuss USAFA efforts on respect — yet this cadet can’t even show the respect required of him for an officer. The very regulation for which Michael Weinstein claimed credit — AFI 1-1 — says
You are personally responsible for what you say and post on social networking services and any other medium. Regardless of the method of communication used, Air Force standards must be observed at all times, both on and off-duty.
While Chaplains may lack command authority, they still merit respect for their rank and position. It is wholly inappropriate (and potentially punishable) for a cadet — or anyone else, quite frankly — to call them “snakes in the grass” and liars. That doesn’t mean he has to agree, but as Chaplain Bruno aptly said, “we need to disagree…professionally.”
But this is what Michael Weinstein inspires. Weinstein is the quintessential playground bully who resorts to namecalling and character attacks when things don’t go his way. He’s free to do that, however, because he’s a civilian. Cadet Z-Bo, on the other hand, has at least a few years of military service in front of him and needs to have learned a little better over his time at USAFA. Guess who he’ll have to work with when he graduates in a few months? Not just those “snakes,” but other officers, enlisted troops, even civilians with whom he might have a variety of disagreements. It looks like the cadet could have benefited from some of that respect training and a little remedial training on military protocol. Instead, he’s taken on the mantle of the vitriol of Weinstein.
So, on one hand, you have the US Air Force Academy trying to teach 4,000 future officers mutual respect, their obligations as military officers, and the character they’ll need to serve in a religiously diverse environment both within the military and even in combat.
On the other hand, you have the mantra of Michael Weinstein — who wants bloodied noses, heads on pikes, and seems to advocate calling others bigots and liars to no end but his own mean-spiritedness and self-aggrandizement.
Who do you think has the best interests of future US military leaders at heart?
Incidentally, if, as a cadet, you’re going to insult a Colonel — who has more years of military service than you do years of life — you might want to consider how many identifying details you choose to give.