- By Tre’ Goins-Phillips
- Published: March 25th, 2014
Religious liberty was threatened when a cadet was forced to remove scripture posted outside his dorm door
“I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” one Air Force cadet wrote on a small whiteboard pinned right outside his dorm room.
And crucified he was. Little did the cadet know that quoting Galatians 2:20 would cause such widespread national controversy.
“It massively poured fundamentalist Christian gasoline on an already raging out-of-control conflagration of fundamentalist Christian tyranny, exceptionalism and supremacy at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” Mikey Weinstein, director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said. “Had it been in his room — no problem. It clearly elevated one religious faith over all others.”
According to Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary, Weinstein was quick to file his complaint. Two hours and nine minutes after his critique was submitted, the verse had been erased from the cadet’s whiteboard.
Weinstein claimed to have received 29 complaints from cadets and four from personnel before he contacted the Air Force Academy. Weinstein credited Lt. Col. Denise Cooper with resolving the issue.
“She immediately said this is wrong and will use it as a teachable moment,” Weinstein said.
His aggrandized statements get to the heart of the issue: polarization through sensationalism. By my account, Weinstein saw an opportunity to cash in on big controversy, so he did, attempting to knock Christianity down along the way.
Unfortunately, Weinstein’s comments seem to be the stock answer from our “tolerance” addicted society.
The unnamed cadet responsible for the scripture-clad whiteboard wields authority as a mentor and leader among his squadron.
“The scripture was below the cadet’s name on a whiteboard and could cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality,” Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, superintendent for the academy, said.
At what point did confidence in your beliefs — any beliefs — become a negative? We do not silence or inhibit nonreligious beliefs for fear they may prevent impartiality. In fact, in most realms of our society, we praise individualism and celebrate diversity. In light of this, why are religious beliefs being silenced?
“If the cadet didn’t violate any rules, then why was the quote removed?” Michael Berry, director of military affairs at the Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian advocacy and legal defense organization, said. “It appears that the Air Force now believes Bible verses are a violation of the AFI 1-1.”
Regarding religious freedom, the AFI 1-1 states, “(Airmen) should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.”
Furthermore, the academy’s actions violate Department of Defense instruction 1300.17, a new regulation established by the Pentagon to protect religious liberty.
“Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely-held beliefs of service members in accordance with the policies and procedures in this instruction,” the regulation states.
In both cases, under both the Air Force regulation and the Department of Defense regulation, the Christian cadet had every right to post scripture to his whiteboard.
Since the posting of the Bible verse, and the subsequent erasing of it, many cadets have picked up their markers and posted quotes from the Bible, the Quran and other nonreligious texts.
Berry plans to address the issue with the academy, and Weinstein plans to file a lawsuit against the Air Force Academy to ensure church-state separation is protected on the Air Force campus.