Update: USAFA Responds to Football Prayer Complaint
The news coverage of Michael “Mikey” Weistein’s attack against US Air Force Academy football players taking a knee in the end zone before the game is now widespread. As a result, USAFA has released a statement which sheds some interesting light on the situation [emphasis added]:
“The Air Force Academy Inspector General opened a third-party complaint and referred the issue to the athletic department for an informal inquiry,” Academy spokesman Meade Warthen said in an email to Air Force Times.
As explained in AFI 90-301, a “third party complaint” is either anonymous or one the IG decides to open up on its own. Given the context, it seems the USAFA IG took the initiative to look into the accusations in Weinstein’s press release. In other words, it remains very likely no one filed a complaint with USAFA.
Perhaps more importantly, however, USAFA continued [emphasis added]:
Friday morning we received an opposing viewpoint requesting cadets continue to be afforded the right to pray. Thus, we are being prudent and deliberate in our review of this issue.
In the past, most organizations (and most cadets) of faith would have remained on the sidelines, declining to engage in this aspect of the American “culture war.” After all, every Christian would acknowledge there is no Biblical command to pray in the end zone. But that doesn’t mean Christians in America should disengage from the culture.
Now, most thrusts by Mikey Weinstein are met with a parry by one religious liberty group or another. The result has generally been that Weinstein’s accusations have been rebuffed — or, when the military has reacted to him, those actions have been reversed. In this case, it may have even been a cadet or a graduate who filed the “counter-complaint.” Regardless, USAFA is on notice that they cannot simply acquiesce to Mikey Weinstein to “make it go away.” Instead, if they are going to “review” it, they must do so with every perspective in mind.
Given past events and political sensitivities, the outcome of this “investigation” is likely foregone: USAFA will probably issue a statement at some point saying that football players will be allowed to continue praying in the end zone if they choose — but USAFA will also make strong reassurances — for Mikey Weinstein’s benefit — that cadets cannot be forced to do so and may complain if they feel coerced. USAFA will likely spend more time saying it ‘respects the rights of cadets to have no faith’ than it will defending the rights of cadets with faith to practice it. Historically, that has been how these events have played out.
That said, perhaps the outcome will be more positive, and USAFA will strongly defend the USAFA cadets’ religious liberties and right to practice their faith without government interference. After all, the official Air Force policy already states
You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.
Cadets should be able to pray in the end zone with confidence, and those who have different viewpoints should respect their right to do so.