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Chris Rodda

Chris Rodda

Posted: January 26, 2011 03:12 PM

The background: The speaker scheduled to appear at the U.S. Air Force Academy's National Prayer Luncheon on February 10 is former Marine Lt. Clebe McClary. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), supported by a number of other organizations, both religious and secular, has demanded that the Academy rescind its invitation to Lt. McClary, and choose a more appropriate and inclusive speaker for this event. Why? Because of McClary's divisive and highly sectarian fundamentalist Christian message. As stated on McClary's website, "Clebe is what he likes to call a complete Marine. To him USMC will always mean U.S. Marine for Christ." Other statements from McClary make it clear that, to him, only born again Christians are "real" Christians. McClary's message not only excludes members of all non-Christian religions, but many Christians as well, making him a completely inappropriate choice for an Air Force Academy event that should be inclusive of members of all faiths.

Former Marine and Vietnam veteran Bobby Muller, the founder of Vietnam Veterans of America, had the following to say about the Air Force Academy's choice of Lt. McClary to speak at the Prayer Luncheon:

As a former Marine lieutenant who, like Lt. Clebe McClary, was severely wounded while leading a mission in Vietnam, I am appalled by my fellow Marine's statement that a "complete" Marine is one who likes to think that U.S.M.C. stands for "U.S. Marine for Christ." I am even more appalled that the United States Air Force Academy has invited someone with such a religiously divisive and sectarian message to speak at its upcoming National Prayer Luncheon, an event that should be inclusive of Airmen of all faiths.

Lt. McClary lost an eye and an arm; I lost the ability to walk. Countless other Marines, of all religions and no religion, have also suffered life-changing and permanent injuries in the service of our country. Lt. McClary dishonorably, not to mention illegally, appears in the uniform of a Marine before both military and civilian audiences, not with the message of "Once a Marine, Always a Marine," but a message of "Once a Marine, now 'a member of the Lord's Army.'"

Proselytizing and Christian supremacy have no place in the United States military, and I urge the Air Force Academy to reconsider its choice of Lt. McClary as the speaker for its Prayer Luncheon, and to replace him with a speaker who can deliver a message that is inclusive of members of all faiths.

-- Bobby Muller

-- Advisory Board member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)
-- Founder and President for nine years of Vietnam Veterans of America, the only congressionally chartered veterans organization in the nation for Vietnam veterans
-- Nobel Peace Prize (1997), Co-Founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)


The Air Force Academy is, of course, denying that Lt. McClary is anything other than an entirely appropriate and inclusive inspirational speaker. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette:

An academy spokesman, Lt. Col. John Bryan, defended the choice of McClary and said the planned prayer gathering is optional and inclusive of a broad spectrum of religious views.

"Nobody is being forced or coerced to go to this luncheon," Bryan said.

Well, according to a USAF officer on staff at the Air Force Academy, speaking on behalf of himself and about a dozen officers there, Lt. Col. Bryan is lying. The officer who wrote the following to MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein is one of many current and former military personnel who have heard Lt. McClary speak on previous occasions, and can say from first hand experience that this speaker is most certainly not "inclusive of a broad spectrum of religious views," as Lt. Col. Bryan claims.

Subject: Lies, Lies and More Lies

Mr. Weinstein and MRFF, you do not know me but I am one of your clients anyway. I am one of your clients because I and many others here cannot breathe. We cannot breath one word of protest against the "serious committed Christian" bias that exists here at the Air Force Academy everywhere. I have run this e-mail message by another dozen or so officers here at USAFA to make sure that I can speak for them as well. And I can. One word or even one tiny action against "them" and you and your career are labeled as an "outsider." Lt. Gen. Mike Gould says he wants us all to have "fanatical institutional pride" in the Air Force Academy. He tells all of us that. The way it is here, no one understands unless they're here and tuned in enough to be aware of it all. Well, that "fanatical pride" is not considered proper unless it includes the right kind of "fanatical Christianity." What kind is that? Just the kind that is handed out by USMC Lt. McClary. I've heard him speak before and I know what he says and what he does to his audience. It made me sick then and will again when he speaks on Feb. 10 at the Falcon Club here at USAFA. Unless MRFF and your allies stop it from happening. If anyone of us beg to differ we're going to be hurt by the system here which is the people who are the "Christian" Christians. If that happens it's all over. I am also an Air Force Academy graduate and pilot. I am married with kids and my wife and I are Protestants but try to keep it very on the down low because we know we'd be judged poorly for not being "energetic Christians" as my boss likes to say. Like the time my boss asked me if Jesus was in control of my life or if I felt that I was the one in control and then gave me some literature from Focus on the Family as a "gift."

The leadership at the Academy LIES! Especially about you, personally, Mikey, and the MRFF. It has been made very clear to me and many others here by the leadership that you and MRFF are bad for USAFA and America. It is also been made very clear that we are expected to support USAFA by personally attending this "National Prayer Luncheon." I saw in the news that the Academy is trying to downplay this whole mess which the MRFF brought to the public by saying that it's "voluntary" to go to it and that this USMC Lt. is a just "motivational speaker" and that "nobody will be taking names." LIES! My USAFA boss and even his boss left it very clear that if we didn't go to this "patriotic Christian" event we'd be "letting him down." Seriously, "patriotic Christian" event? That says it all. Believe me please MRFF when I say that the names of the absent will very certainly be remembered. Am I going? In a word, hell yes. I have kids and need my job. I have been afraid to say anything to them for a very long time now. I've gotten good at hiding my hatred of it all. I'm used to it now. The feeling I have of being down for not standing up to the "energetic Christians" here is not as bad now as the feeling I would have of having my Air Force career derailed by a bad performance eval. You do not need to tell me what that makes me. I know what that makes me and I'm not proud of it. Thank you MRFF for fighting for those of us who have lost the will to fight. And in doing so lost a lot of our own dignity.

(Name, Rank, USAF Academy Staff position withheld)


In addition to the issues raised above, Lt. McClary also regularly violates Titles 10 and 18 of U.S. Code by appearing at his speaking engagements, both military and civilian, in a Marine uniform, something that, apparently, not a single military attendee at any of his numerous appearances on military bases has informed him is illegal.

Click here for MRFF's letter demanding that the Air Force Academy rescind its invitation to Lt. McClary, as well as the letters written by the other organizations supporting MRFF in its demand -- ACLU of Colorado, Veterans for Common Sense, Americans United, Veterans Today, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, California Council of Churches IMPACT, Colorado Coalition of Reason, United Atheist Front, and The American Muslim.