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New Air Force Academy Leader Off to Good Start

The Air Force Academy has a new dean of faculty, Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost, and he seems to be getting off to a good start by giving a talk to all faculty to remind them that they cannot proselytize while doing their jobs, especially during class. Mikey Weinstein reprints a letter from someone at the academy.

Dear Mikey,

Today I witnessed what I can only describe as the USAFA’s February Miracle—or Hell Freezing Over, given the snowfall and plunging temps we’re seeing. Today, BG Andy Armacost, Dean of the Faculty, during an address to the entire Faculty, addressed religious discrimination within the military in certainly the most direct, clear, and concise terms I’ve heard by any senior leader since the publication of AFI1-1. Frankly, I’m still in (pleasant) shock and think that you’ll hear from others, too, once the shock starts to wear off. Here’s how it all transpired…

The entire faculty was in our largest lecture hall, F-1, during a twice per semester “Dean’s Call.” After presenting awards and other typical duties, he began to discuss the recently released result of the unit climate survey within the faculty. After going over several positives, he said that he wanted to address specifically some of the negatives cited in the responses and written comments. The third topic on his list was religious discrimination. He said that 3.4% (or something like that) cited religious discrimination as something that negatively affected the climate on the faculty. He then added that written comments on the subject represented both sides of the issue, with some writing that it “wasn’t easy being Jewish” on the faculty, or that they didn’t feel comfortable identifying themselves as non-christian. Others thought that their rights to express their christian faith openly were being chilled by recent directives. He discussed those point for a few seconds and then described a question that was posed to him during new instructor training (during early Jan or last summer, I don’t know when). Apparently, an instructor asked if he/she was allowed, during their self-introduction to their cadets on the first day of class, to cite their christian faith as an important aspect of their lives.

Gen Armacost said that we all had an obligation to get to know our cadets and our colleagues and to establish relationships that strengthen our institution BUT, and he said this quite clearly, the instructor should NOT announce their religious belief in class, to people he/she did not know, to people she/he had just met, to people over whom the instructor had a power relationship because no cadet or subordinate should ever have even the slightest concern that his/her religious (or other) personal belief could be a basis for judging them in the classroom—and he added race, sexual orientation, and gender to this, too. I almost gasped in delight.

He then said that everyone had a personal right to practice their personal religion so long as it did not affect their job or mission and that he respected everyone’s personal beliefs. He said that in the holiday’s he greats his friends that he knows are christian by saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ he says ‘Happy Hannukah’ to his jewish friends, and ‘Eid Mubarrak’ to his muslim friends. To the friends he knows are atheist, he says ‘Have a good break.’ To everyone else whom he doesn’t know so well, he say ‘Happy Holidays’ or something non-sectarian.

THEN, he actually read from AFI1-1 verbatim including the lines about not proselytizing and the importance of the Air Force not showing favoritism or endorsement for one belief system over another. I was almost giddy at this point. FINALLY, someone with the guts to publicly say what’s been documented, signed, and published (if not read aloud) by Air Force leadership. Clear guidance that it’s NOT okay within the military hierarchy to bring your religion (or declare your lack thereof) in the classroom or the department office. Clearly, this is in response to the near constant pressure exerted by the MRFF over the last few years with the myriad violations of AFI1-1 we’ve seen at the Academy—before and even after it was published. Clearly, he was separating himself from his predecessor who went so far (according to reports) as tasking one of her senior leaders to conduct a counter-insurgency analysis within the faculty of MRFF supporters, and (earlier in her career) even put her name on a public advertisement in the base paper (with her rank included) declaring the “real” meaning of Christmas and inviting all to the christian faith.

He also announced the formation of a new Ombuds program on the faculty that will help resolve issues like this (among others) without using the chain of command or endangering the careers of faculty members and cadets—a great step towards building trust.

This was a watershed day for our Faculty, in my humble opinion. We can thank the MRFF and all of the hundreds of MRFF clients (cadets and faculty) at USAFA that have played a role in this day coming, as we thank Gen Armacost for his brave words. I’m sure he knows that the knives will be coming out for him soon, too. In the meantime, though, I hope this “bug” he’s caught turns into a full-fledged virus of courage and we can hear similar words of support for all airmen from our other senior leaders.
Sincerely,
A Senior USAFA Faculty Member

This is great news. And it’s sure to cause the Christian right to lose their mind and scream about mythical oppression.

Comments

  1. petemoulton says

    “This is great news. And it’s sure to cause the Christian right to lose their mind and scream about mythical oppression.”

    From my standpoint, this is double the great news. Anything that pisses off the American Taliban is just wonderful, as far as I’m concerned.

  2. tiredofusernamerules says

    Only four more service academies to go, although I don’t know if Merchant Marine counts in this context.

  3. eric says

    @2 – AIUI the rest don’t have anywhere near the same problem. I’m not saying the others are perfect models of secularism, but the USAF’s (high level of) support for evangelical christianity was the exception, not the rule.

  4. says

    The article is a critical of Weinstein, in that the writer says that Weinstein has given the USAF Academy’s officials “a lot of guff”. That is bullshit. Weinstein has done what he’s able to do, to make them aware of the unconstitutional, illegal and against existing regulation practices engaged in by the GODbots who have charge of the students.

    The general could have gone one better (at least) then he did by announcing that there is, as of the beginning of his tenure, a “zero tolerance” policy for proselytization by Academy employees–not just teachers and staff.

  5. Michael Heath says

    tiredofusernamerules writes:

    Only four more service academies to go, although I don’t know if Merchant Marine counts in this context.

    It’s my understanding that the USAF academy is far worse at protecting its charges’ religious freedom rights and abusing its powers than the other service academies. So this attempt to improve climate at this academy might not reach the level already enjoyed by at least some of the other academies.

  6. says

    @3:

    Well, you know that they have, “Slipped the surly bonds of earth…et fucking cetera” and they are WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY closer to JESUS than any ground pounders, jarheads or swabbies*. So, yeah it makes sense, they got their heads up in the clouds; well, up somewhere, anyway.

    * With the possible exception of them swabbie and jarhead naval/marine air pilots–the USCG only flies about 30-40K max, they don’t count!–but they’re all pagans and atheists, anyway!!

  7. Artor says

    Wow, this IS pretty awesome news! I wonder how long it will be before Armicost is forced out of his job?

  8. daved says

    The MRFF isn’t declaring victory just yet, and neither are the cadets. The statement from the Dean is a great start — but we haven’t see anything yet from Lt Gen Michelle Johnson, who is he USAF Superintendant. Let’s see something from her, first.

  9. steve84 says

    @eric
    West Point is pretty bad too. See Blake Page.

    The USAF is the worst because it’s located in Colorado Springs, the literal headquarters of evangelical Christianity. But that doesn’t mean that the Army isn’t infested by fundamentalism as well.

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