2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Academy critic, buys billboard, TV ads in ongoing dispute

Published: November 19, 2013, 10:54 am, by Tom Roeder

BillboardrMilitary Religious Freedom Foundation leader Mikey Weinstein is venting his anger at the Air Force Academy with a billboard at Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard — the second time in a month that he’s voiced his opinion on the roadsides of Colorado Springs.

Weinstein has also launched a campaign of television advertisements.

“The Air Force Academy has become a fundamentalist Christian Military Ministry,” the television ad, running on cable, claims.

This time Weinstein is objecting to academy inaction over an email the foundation received from Allen Willoughby, a trainer at the academy’s preparatory school that criticized Weinstein for allegedly targeting Christian beliefs. The worker, who Weinstein describes as an “academy leader”, wrote  the e-mail to the foundation after another recent flap about the use of “so help me God” to conclude a cadet oath.

Here’s a excerpt from the Willoughby email, which was sent from a personal, rather than government account:

“Stop pushing your beliefs on us.  God will always be a part of the US Military even when you are gone to meet him face to face.  You know you can do a lot for the homeless veterans out here but you could care less about them but when it comes to Christians you are willing to fight against us, well you will never win and so you know the war has already been won.  I am on staff at USAFA and will talk about Jesus Christ my Lord and savior to everyone that I work with.  Do something productive with your life and Stop harassing the fine people at USAFA.  I really pray for your soul.”

Weinstein maintains that by doing nothing about the email, the Academy is encouraging persecution of of non-Christians.

“The brazen assertion by a leader at the United States Air Force Academy that he WILL proselytize to ‘everyone that I work with’ at the academy, and the Aaademy’s stunning, baseless defense of this individual, has provoked the latest barrage from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,” the foundation said in a news release.

The academy contends that Willoughby was acting as a private citizen and was protected by free speech rights.

“Mr. Allen Willoughby does not speak for the Air Force Academy and we absolutely do not tolerate proselytizing among our ranks,” a statement from the academy said. “Regarding the e-mail sent by Mr. Willoughby to the MRFF, we can confirm that Mr. Willoughby is a trainer at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, and yes, he did send an e-mail to the MRFF in his personal capacity and not as a representative of the Air Force Academy or the Prep School.”

An academy graduate, Weinstein has done battle with academy over religious issues for a decade.

His work, in part, led to a series of programs at the school training cadets and faculty in religious respect.

In October, Weinstein went around with the academy over the cadet honor oath, which requires cadets to pledge that they won’t lie, cheat steal, or tolerate those who break the code. Facing Weinstein’s criticism, the academy quickly moved to make the oaths ending “so help me God” optional.

That outcome didn’t satisfy Weinstein, who wants to religious reference banned altogether.

That flap led to Willoughby’s email, and others. Weinstein has been forwarding the worst of the criticism to the media, including several messages with anti-semitic themes.

Weinstein said he wants academy leaders to discipline Willoughby.

“This is the best example of how wretched the climate is there, the brazen boldness of Christian supremacy,” he said in a news release. “It’s an absolute disgrace. We want an apology to me, my family and the foundation, and we want him disciplined.”