'Tis the season when goodwill, family unity, fireside warmth, and generosity seemingly reign; the more discerning eye, however, clearly evinces the cold chill of holiday hypocrisy, crass commercialism, and spiritually vacant pseudo-religious posturing. Within the United States Armed Forces, one needn't wait for the scent of holiday spices and burning yule logs to witness a similarly ugly display.
All year 'round throughout the U.S. military, we hear of "good order, morale, and discipline" being the ultimate mandate of the day. The sad truth, however, is that instead of the rule of Constitutional law applying equitably across the ranks, we instead see the brutal rule of the jungle - "honor among thieves" - rife with state-sanctioned, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing, corruption, wretchedly obvious glad-handing, and an absolute dearth of accountability. The repercussions for our brave war-fighters and, consequently, the essence of American national security itself, are extraordinarily grave.
Case in point: my alma mater and the alma mater of 4 of my kids, the scandal-drenched United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, CO. Out of our 35,383 clients across the U.S. military (96% of whom are practicing Christians), the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) currently represents 435 cadet, staff, and faculty clients at USAFA alone. Of that number, 372 are practicing Protestants and Roman Catholics. Further, 27 of these clients identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB).
Despite pathetically disingenuous damage control efforts by newly-minted Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the Academy simply can't shrug off the pungent stench of Keystone Kops negligence and willful malfeasance which it has ignominiously accumulated over its last deplorable decade of serial scandals. Clearly, the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) agrees. The arresting news broke only a few days ago that the OSI allegedly "recruited" (read: strong-armed) multiple Academy cadet informants into forced participation in "FBI-style" sting operations to allegedly infiltrate those suspected of sexual assault and drug distributors among the ranks of Academy personnel. It is alleged by at least one former cadet, since expelled from USAFA, that the OSI instructed and even encouraged cadet informants to break laws, as well as the venerated Cadet Honor Code, to buttress the likelihood of the accomplishment of their informant "missions". They were further apparently promised by the OSI, it is alleged, that there would be no negative consequences for doing so. Suffice it to say that such "promises" by the OSI appear to be a load of crap. Minority cadets appear to have been disproportionately targeted by the OSI both as targets and informants. Having personally witnessed and experienced, as an Academy cadet, utterly outrageous acts of unconstitutional depravity that shocked the conscience from this very same OSI, I cannot say I am even remotely surprised. Stay Tuned.
These disgraceful revelations burst upon the scene contemporaneously with USAFA's senior leadership's absurd attempts to paint "happy faces" on their windows in order to obscure a blatantly intolerant and dreadfully oppressive anti-gay atmosphere at the Academy. Last month, the world learned that the Academy is employing Dr. Mike Rosebush, an Academy grad and allegedly "ex-gay" fundamentalist Christian whose entire professional career has been geared toward "curing homosexuality," fighting "unwanted same-sex attractions" among Christian men "acting upon their homoerotic temptations." Homophobia, thy name be USAFA.
Rosebush's position at USAFA? Well, according to the Air Force's own Global Address List, Rosebush is "Chief, Coaching Development" at the Academy's much vaunted and revered "Center for Character and Leadership Development." Meaning that Rosebush's "work" - and the mind clearly boggles here - sets the standard for what constitutes leaders within the Air Force Academy, specifically, and the United States Air Force, generally.
USAFA attempted to ridiculously counter this shocking news about Rosebush by essentially exhorting the public not to fear the possibility of any harm here. The Academy vociferously vouchsafed that Rosebush was absolutely NOT having ANY impact upon the "character and leadership development" of any cadets whatsoever. Indeed, perish the thought. And who could argue? After all, Rosebush is a senior official at the Academy's "Center for Character and Leadership Development." Thus, it would be simply ludicrous and counter intuitive in the extremis to presume that he would have ANY effect on the "character and leadership development" of Academy cadets, right? Um, wait? Hey, I told you the mind boggles.
USAFA's public (mis)information office sprang into full gear, parading openly LGBQ cadets before the microphones and cameras in a carefully stage-managed "Potemkin Village" production meant to create the utopian illusion of the Air Force Academy's pristine inclusion and sexual preference diversity. A MRFF cadet client at USAFA (whose identity is being kept confidential for justified fear of reprisal) publicly condemned these "self-serving" claims of providing a welcoming atmosphere for LGBQ cadets, staff, and faculty as a "crock" and a brutal affront to the human dignity of LGBQ personnel at USAFA. This Academy-staged spectacle of shame reminded me of the horrific tragedy of the infamous "orchestra" made up of concentration camp victims at Auschwitz.
Many of the worst marks of disgrace on the collective body of the Academy are the self-inflicted result of its Constitutionally derelict leaders violating the religious liberties of cadets, faculty, and staff. This affliction of the most basic civil rights of Air Force Academy personnel is wrought by means of aggressive fundamentalist Christian preaching and proselytizing while in uniform - a wholesale violation of the very same United States Constitution which these leaders have sworn to support and defend with their very lives.
Indeed, earlier this semester, 7 Academy cadets came to MRFF for guidance and assistance as new clients begging for help when their USAFA professor wrote the following "equation" on the blackboard whilst concomitantly declaring to his/her class that this mathematical formula was the "only one you will need to pass this class"; to wit, "1 Cross plus 3 Nails Equals 4given". This professor is an Academy grad him/herself, is on active duty and was in uniform at the time. Yes, we have a picture of the blackboard "equation". But our cadet clients are terrified to come forward. And they should be. A loving father of one of these cadets wrote me an e-mail explaining exactly why.
And, just last month, in my capacity as Founder and President of MRFF, I received a "hate" email that addressed the litanies of egregious, fundamentalist Christian supremacy religious violations that have earned weapons-grade infamy for the Academy. The email read, in part: "God will always be a part of the US Military even when you are gone to meet him face to face... I am on staff at USAFA and will talk about Jesus Christ my Lord and savior to everyone that I work with."
Who wrote this wonderful email? None other than Allen Willoughby, head athletic trainer and assistant athletic director at USAFA's prep school. Predictably, USAFA issued a statement universally defending and exonerating Willoughby, stating that the hate mail was sent "in his personal capacity," and that "no action is being taken against the individual." Of course, in today's military, "good leaders" cover up for one another, right? George Marshall spins in his grave. Hmm? I wonder what USAFA "leadership" would have done had Willoughby stated, instead, that he would "talk about male superiority over females and the virtues of sexual assault to everyone that I work with?"
Speaking of stinking, sexist misogyny and command-directed female exploitation, further south in Texas, a prostitution ring was discovered at Fort Hood. And who was the alleged pimp? None other than Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, a man employed by the U.S. military's sexual assault and harassment program who is said to have "tried to recruit [a young private] to have sex with high-ranking soldiers and sexually assaulted her during what she termed an 'interview.'" All signs so far indicate that this is merely the tip of an iceberg that lies extant across the military.
Meanwhile, our civil rights foundation perpetually receives a sadly steady torrent of anguished testimonials from myriad sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, cadets, midshipmen, national guardsmen, reservists and veterans regarding their own profound suffering at the hands of corrupt-to-the-bone so-called "leaders." These plaintive pleas for help have included forced attendance at military Holiday Balls with clear, Christian sectarian religious themes, the coerced swearing of religious oaths, mandatory "spiritual fitness" testing and a veritable plethora of other "spiritual rape" grievances large and small across the entirety of the United States armed forces home and abroad. Taken as a whole, this sea of unconstitutional oppression represents a vast, systemic and chronic internal war of attrition against the good order, morale, and discipline which is supposed to comprise the sterling sine qua non of the foundational essence of what our American military represents and fights for.
As the old Russian proverb goes, "a fish rots from the head down." The U.S. Military is the most technologically sophisticated and lethal organization ever devised by humankind, yet it often finds itself helplessly inert due to its own byzantine bureaucracy and those who resort to any and all means to jealously and zealously guard their personal privileges and those of their partners-in-crime. We at MRFF see the endless grievances of painful denigration and bigotry experienced by MRFF's armed forces clientele who are, in fact, our nation's bravest war fighters across the spectrum of the 4 DoD service branches. This despicable religious tyranny incontrovertibly illustrates that the careless and bullying use of martial hierarchy and misapplied physical force are a clear and present national security danger to the health and well-being of both military individuals and their respective organizations alike.
Presently, a new tactic is being employed and deployed. We are seeing a cowardly swarm of smarmy, fundamentalist Christian organizations such as the Family Research Council, American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and Officers' Christian Fellowship, endlessly whining and screaming that it is now THEY who are the "real" victims of "Obama's anti-Christian Defense Department." Those among the Pentagon's top brass and civilian legislatures who take these fraudulent, contrived and mendacious affirmations of victimhood seriously would do well to consider the real "Clear and Present Danger" to good order, morale, and discipline in America's mighty military:
It's the hypocrisy, stupid.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the "Iran-Contra" Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. Mikey is an honor graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News. He is the author of "With God On Our Side" (2006, St. Martin's Press) and "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" (2012, Vireo).