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Sep 24 2011

Air Force Academy Apparently Finds Wild Cow Milking More Important Than Religious Freedom

So, what do you think happens when the Chief of Staff of the Air Force issues an important memorandum to the whole Air Force? If you guessed that it gets distributed to the whole Air Force, you would, of course, be correct. And that’s exactly what happened earlier this month when General Norton Schwartz, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, issued his watershed edict on “Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion.” This memorandum properly made its way down the chains of command at Air Force Bases everywhere, with one notable exception — the Air Force Academy, where the top leadership have apparently decided to keep it to themselves.

General Schwartz’s memorandum came on the heels of the recent revelation by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) that a mandatory part of the Air Force’s nuclear missile launch officer “ethics” training was a Christian theological presentation, nicknamed the “Jesus Loves Nukes speech” by some nuclear missile officers. Things moved fast once the content of this training was exposed by Truthout at the end of July. Not only did the Air Force immediately suspend the “Jesus Loves Nukes” training, but a review of all of the Air Force’s so-called “ethics” training, much of which is chock full of inappropriate and unconstitutional religious content, was initiated.

This memorandum, the clearest blanket statement of Air Force policy on religious activity ever issued, from the boss of every member of the Air Force, from cadets to generals, stated in no uncertain terms that no commander or supervisor can promote, or even give the appearance of promoting, their personal religious beliefs to any subordinate personnel.

As expected, MRFF quickly began receiving a slew of emails from personnel all over the Air Force as they read General Schwartz’s words, both expressing their elation and congratulating MRFF on being the catalyst for what is being lauded as a huge turning point in the quest for unconditional religious freedom in the military. But then, the bubble burst. Emails began coming in from the Air Force Academy, from both cadets and staff, wondering why they hadn’t heard anything about this incredibly important edict from the Chief of Staff until they read about it from sources outside of the Academy, like the September 16 article from the Air Force Times.

Well, it seems that the leadership at the Academy, namely the Academy’s Superintendent, Lieutenant General Mike Gould, and the Dean of Faculty, Brigadier General Dana Born, decided to keep General Schwartz’s pronouncement to themselves and a small group of senior officers, and not let it go beyond their weekly staff meeting. Wouldn’t want all those pesky underlings to know that their Chief of Staff had just put into writing a definitive policy that would stop so many of the religion problems plaguing the Academy, now would we, Generals Gould and Born?

So, how are the staff and cadets at the Academy reacting to the withholding of General Schwartz’s memorandum? Well, with a combination of disbelief and nausea. As one staff member emailed to MRFF:

“This just makes me sick to my stomach. Absolutely no mention of Gen Schwartz’s letter of religious neutrality. You would think that something as significant as this letter would make it down to all personnel at USAFA, especially the cadets. Hasn’t been a single peep from the people behind the curtain. Nothing to see here!”

Even a cadet, who knew what the big “ALMAJCOM-FOA-DRU/CC” at the top of the memorandum meant — that all Major Commands and the commanders of every Field Operating Agency and Direct Reporting Unit should have gotten this thing — wrote to MRFF, asking:

“Wasn’t the letter supposed to be distributed to anyone in the Air Force with commander in their job title? Which Air Officer in COMMANDING or Squadron COMMANDER, even the Flight COMMANDERS have seen this? Pretty sure that would be none of them…such a sad problem here.”

What struck others was the sheer irony that General Schwartz’s memorandum wasn’t sent out to the entire Academy via its “Dist P” mailing list, the same base wide email distribution list that has been used to distribute exactly the kind of religious announcements from commanders that the memorandum specifically says commanders can’t send out.

As one Academy official put it:

“[S]o far the Academy leadership has not sent an electronic copy of the letter in the type of blanket, base-wide e-mail (called ‘Dist P’) that is used to announce prayer luncheons and chaplains programs or the need for volunteers at a wild cow-milking competition. Apparently, wild cow-milking is more important than CSAF guidance here.”

Yes, this email, clearly a matter of far greater import than an edict from the Chief of Staff on what is one of the most contentious issues at the Academy, recently went out to the entire Academy via the “Dist P” mailing list.

To: Dist P

Subject: 2011 Wild Cow Milking (WCM) schedule so far

All,

Due to last minute cancellations with the 2 USAFA cow-milking teams we (USAFA) are in dire need of replacements. If you are interested, see attachments and get back with me soon. Event is Saturday, 16 July 2011.

And here’s what didn’t didn’t make the cut:

MEMORANDUM FOR ALMAJCOM-FOA-DRU/CC

FROM: HQ USAF/CC

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330-1670

SUBJECT: Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion

Leaders at all levels must balance Constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and its prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline.

Chaplain Corps programs, including activities such as religious studies, faith sharing, and prayer meetings, are vital to commanders’ support of individual Airmen’s needs and provide opportunities for the free exercise of religion. Although commanders are responsible for these programs they must refrain from appearing to officially endorse religion generally or any particular religion. Therefore, I expect chaplains, not commanders, to notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs.

Our chaplains are trained to provide advice to leadership on matters related to the free exercise of religion and to help commanders care for all of their people, regardless of their beliefs. If you have concerns involving the preservation of government neutrality regarding religious beliefs, consult with your chaplain and staff judge advocate before you act.

NORTON A. SCHWARTZ

General, USAF

Chief of Staff

Is it any wonder that cadets and staff at the Air Force Academy have lost all faith (no pun intended) in the Academy’s leadership?

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Tim DeLaney

    From Wiki: “The Academy is a Direct Reporting Unit within the Air Force, so the Superintendent reports directly to the Air Force Chief of Staff”

    Is it possible General Schwartz made an exception for the Academy? I cannot imagine the Superintendent ignoring an order from his immediate superior. It would seem most peculiar that the future leadership of the Air Force should be excepted from such an important order.

  2. 2
    Draken

    Ah, but the Chief of Staff didn’t mention any time limit, now, did he? So the lead of the Academy can procrastinate until, well, until an officer threatens to step over the line I guess. May the Schwartz be with them.

  3. 3
    jufulu

    What is it about the Air Force Academy that lets it continuously get away with this shit? For as long as I can remember (I’m 56), I keep hearing stories about the theocratic bent of the AFA ( not just “the boys will boys” crap”). I want names and some ass kicking.

    (/rant)

    This is why it is so important that people, like the MRFF, keep holding the military’s feet to the fire.

  4. 4
    Aquaria

    What is it about the Air Force Academy that lets it continuously get away with this shit?

    It’s quite typical for an authoritarian nation to have a military that not only is never held accountable for its abuses of power/civil rights but also is infested with religious nutbaggery.

    Welcome to the Fascist States of America.

  5. 5
    rmw1982

    I do wonder if the Academy’s location in Colorado Springs (home of Focus on the Family and New Life Church) plays a roll in its theocratic bent, as jufulu rightly describes it.

  6. 6
    Pinky

    I can see a future history book, written in a country other than the Fascist States of America:

    “The religious group Dominionists had been infiltrating the old USA military for years. The military, where people were taught never to question authority, was the prime environment to inculcate the Dominion’s brand of fundamental ridged control. Working from the leadership on down, the Dominionists changed the US military from an honorable fighting force protecting America from external aggressors to its current role of internal secret police.

    The first overt sign of mutiny was the head of the Air Force Academy refusing to abide by then Chief of Staff, General Schwartz’s order to: “Maintain Government Neutrality Regarding Religion.” From that point the battle for control of the military and the American government became a shooting war. After several weeks of bloody civil war, the Dominionist faction took over control of the country once known as the: “United States of America.” The Dominionists changed the name of the area they had control of to the “United States of God”, installing their own puppet, Michele Bachmann as President for life. President Bachmann was referred to as the “Batshit Insane Queen of Jesusland” by free citizens living in the Bear Republic.

    The west coast states maintained their independence as the “Bear Republic”

    The Bear Republic kept “Anti-Infiltration Teams” to hunt down and dispose of proselytizers from Jesusland who for years continued to sneak into the country singly or in pairs to knock on the doors of Bear Republic citizens early Saturday mornings interrupting their sleep so the proselytizers could deliver their so-called “message from god.” It was the worst form of terrorism.

    During the 21st century civil war the Teabaggers did not acquit themselves well. One of the free thinking bloggers of the time; Phillip IV, predicted with great accuracy the future of the Tea Party when he wrote:

    I’m pretty sure that “American Revolution II: Teabaggin’ Boogaloo” would turn into such a sad farce that their later apologists would probably simply use the “it wasn’t really meant to be a war, it was planned as a piece of Dadaist performance art from the get-go” tack. After all, that would be the most charitable explanation for a 90 % attrition rate equally distributed between “shot in back during in-fighting” and “shot own foot while drunk”.

    Phillip IV (resistance code name) voluntarily remained in the US of God, along with other brave resistance fighters, to operate an underground railroad for the terror filled non-believers who wished to escape to Bear Republic. Phillip IV lived for many years doing his (or Her?) dangerous work until one of the people he thought he was helping turned him in to a god-bot for 30 dollars. Pinky, a peer Phillip IV helped get into the Bear Republic, failed to see the irony of the details surrounding Phillip’s betrayal.

    From the textbook: “American History: The Ruinous Reign of the Dominionists.” Printed in Dover, UK.

  7. 7
    Pierce R. Butler

    Draken @ # 2: … the Chief of Staff didn’t mention any time limit, now, did he?

    Somehow I don’t think that bit of brig-lawyering goes very far in any armed service.

    IANAJAG, nor do I play one on tv, but I still find it very hard to imagine no “insubordination” or “dereliction” regulations apply in this case. Failure to reprimand could undermine the rest of Schwartz’s chieftaincy.

  8. 8
    ogremk5

    It’s a very common thing in the military (though it’s more often attributed to sergeants rather then generals).

    When one receives an order that one doesn’t like, then one drag ones feet in responding to the order. This in the hope that the order will be not followed up on, quickly countermanded, or the receiver of the order can convince the issuer of the order that it’s “not a good idea”.

    Like I said, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a general doing this. I’m sure they have, but it’s never been documented this quickly.

    Just think about what this will do to the US military. “If the boss doesn’t respond instantly to an order, why do I have to?”

    Then we get a whole bunch of military types thinking instead of following orders. There’s no telling where that could end. (heh, might turn around and bite the dominionists in the butt)

  9. 9
    jamesramsey

    @6 Pinky,

    It’s been done. There’s a short story from 1940 by Robert Heinlein call “If this goes on–”

    Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_This_Goes_On%E2%80%94

    Actually, I always thought Sun Myung Moon fit the role of Nehemiah Scudder

  10. 10
    Pinky

    Jamesramsey thanks for commenting. I am an Heinlein fan from way back, I think I first read “If this goes on–” over 35 years ago.

    I once wondered about Rev. Moon’s ability to influence US politics (doesn’t he own the Washington Post?). He seems to have been very quiet lately, maybe a little too quiet.

    Some other writers portraying religious dystopias are Margaret Atwood’s: “The Handmaid’s Tale” ; John Wyndham’s: “The Chrysalids”; John Brunner’s: “The Shockwave Rider” and the list continues…

    I enjoy reading dystopia fiction, but these last few years I worry they seem more a road-map to the future of the US than harmless escapism.

  11. 11
    jamesramsey

    @9 Pinky,

    Moon owns the Washington Times.

    I like the fact that Heinlein works in a Masonic conspiracy, though in a good way, into his story.

    With each day that passes, I see such stories as less dystopic and more prophetic.

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