Col Linell Letendre to be Next USAFA Dean
“This is wonderful news for our cadets, our faculty, and our Academy,” said Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. “Linell’s leadership and commitment to world-class education and leader development will be invaluable to the USAFA team. She has a tremendous perspective that will integrate and elevate our institution and our Air Force leaders of tomorrow.”
The elevation of Col Letendre, a USAF JAG, to Permanent Professor and Department Head was highlighted here four years ago, largely because of her public record on issues of religious liberty within the Air Force. She was, for example, one of a few Air Force lawyers who advised the Air Force on Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaints against ChristianFighterPilot.com. She has reportedly towed the official Air Force line even when it conflicted with her personal opinion, though her personal opinion is fairly well-known — as well as sometimes contrary to official policies and legal precedent. As previously noted [emphasis added],
Letendre has said military members “absolutely” have the right to religious free exercise in their personal capacities…and she has allowed that such free exercise can extend even to potentially official settings and in uniform.
On the other hand, Letendre has also made clear that she feels prayer at military functions is indefensible constitutionally…
Letendre is also on record buying in to Mikey Weinstein’s claim about the Trijicon gun sights, talking vaguely at one point about “how many problems they caused” without forthrightly acknowledging the Bible-verse serial numbers caused exactly zero problems; Letendre apparently accepted conjecture as fact.
Perhaps more troubling, [then-] LtCol Letendre has demonstrated a somewhat negative attitude toward what even she admits is one of the more common legal issues of the current age: the potential conflict between convictions of faith and the government’s acceptance of homosexuality. For example, when presenting a hypothetical conflict between a “religious” troop and the repeal of DADT, Letendre repeatedly set up the offended troop as one who “refused to serve” with a homosexual. That straw man minimizes the actual conflicts of those who feel the moral obligation not to affirm homosexuality, or those who express religious beliefs in opposition to it.
Col Letendre also famously equated those who morally oppose homosexuality with racists, saying congressional bills written to protect religious freedom were equivalent to racist legislation in the 1940s.
More recently, Col Letendre co-authored a short paper that attempted to convey a perspective on the conflict of “Right vs Right,” or when professional obligations and personal beliefs are in opposition. Regrettably, the paper implied a problematic conclusion — that is, professional obligations simply overrule personal beliefs. Period.
The military oath of office demands that servicemembers be willing and able to subordinate their personal beliefs to their professional obligations.
There is insufficient room here to discuss the problems with the thesis presented by Col Letendre and her co-author, Dr. Martin Cook. Briefly, take one recent example:
Did Col Leland Bohannon have a professional obligation to sign a spouse appreciation certificate for a retiring subordinate who was homosexual, despite his conflicting personal beliefs?
That scenario does one of two things, depending on your response:
- It takes the wind out of the sails of the condescendingly simple proposition by Col Letendre and Cook; or,
- It elevates “professional obligation” to mindless compliance, which creates an environment of veritable hostility toward individual character — one of the core development areas of USAFA and the cornerstone to American military honor.
For the record, you’ll recall the official Air Force response resulted in the former, while one could argue the Letendre/Cook paper argues for the latter.
Barring an unusual occurrence, Col Letendre will soon be BGen Letendre, USAFA Dean of Faculty — essentially a “life” position until she chooses to retire. Her “personal beliefs” (and her “professional obligations”), in addition to her occasional ideological alignment with Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, could make the next few years…interesting.