Just days after Michael Weinstein claimed the US Air Force Academy was inappropriately asking USAFA cadets to donate toys to needy children, a news article was published indicating what Weinstein describes as a “cancer” is, indeed, widespread:
The cadets are even making donations to a local food bank.
Air Force Academy chaplains and the Cadet Interfaith Council [presented] a $1,200 check along with 125 cans of food to the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado at the food bank’s site in Colorado Springs, Colo.
By its nature the Cadet Interfaith Council obviously had a connection to the chaplains, but the food drive was a cadet-initiated, cadet-run event:
“The cadets have been running a canned food drive since Parents Weekend,” [Chaplain (Capt.) Shawn] Menchion said. “It ended in September, but the Interfaith Council extended the drive another month.”
Cadet 2nd Class Jessica Wong of Cadet Squadron 18 was the cadet in charge for the project.
Worse, these cadets even tried to — shockingly — encourage others to participate, without regard to personal religious affiliation:
Drop boxes were placed in the Cadet Chapel, in the Oasis lounge and in each of the four cadet groups, Menchion said.
Weinstein claimed a simple cadet email soliciting for Operation Christmas Child was “unconstitutional.” The article itself, which was not published by the chaplains, even solicited volunteers.
After Weinstein saved the world from the cadets’ involvement with Operation Christmas Child (or so he thought), this latest revelation is positive proof of Michael Weinstein’s conspiracy theory that LtGen Mike Gould, USAFA superintendent, is secretly running a Christian cabal intent on taking over the world.
You see, the Care and Share food bank was founded by a Franciscan Sister. Just as with Operation Christmas Child, this religious association — a “faith-based” entity — should have eliminated the ability of the cadets to run this community service activity or solicit donations from their fellow cadets. Cadets, Weinstein seems to think, aren’t adult enough to understand this and need to be protected from such predatory food bank operators.
All of this, of course, is ludicrous, and Weinstein’s assertions are the asinine rantings of a twelve-year-old bully.
The cadets are, indeed, supporting a local food bank, and they should be lauded for doing so — whether the food bank has a religious association or not. Their ability to support the food bank — including soliciting donations from other servicemembers and cadets — should also be unrelated to any association of the food bank with religion, despite Weinstein’s ridiculous assertions.
Just like Soldiers from Fort Carson — including commanding general MajGen Joseph Anderson — can support the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving food preparation for the 22nd year, while in their dress uniforms. The mere fact that the Salvation Army has a religious connection does not prohibit military involvement.
The logic of Weinstein’s claims about Operation Christmas Child is ridiculous.
Don’t expect to see any intellectual consistency from Weinstein over this, not that he’s displayed any before. Weinstein’s real issue was his personal obsession with Franklin Graham, whom he repeatedly described as “virulently Islamaphobic” and “extremist,” not the fact a cadet sent out an email. So long as the food bank isn’t associated with Samaritan’s Purse, they’ll probably avoid Weinstein’s interference.
As for Operation Christmas Child, Weinstein has gotten so much hate mail over his vitriol he’s probably even considering starting his own toy drive to try to prove he’s not a “scrooge.” More power to him, but if he wants to get it advertised at USAFA, he’ll have to go through the chaplains.
Presumably, that’s where all “faith-based” activities are supposed to be, after all.
Cadets and other military members are free to be the frequent volunteers for community service they so stereotypically are. There is no Air Force policy that dictates different treatment for community service linked to a religious organization. However, as usual, members of the military should confirm if any local policy on email use, advertising, or other forms of solicitation apply regardless of the form of service they wish to support.