In case you had any doubts about whether the attempt by the religious right to turn the Air Force Academy into a madrassah had the full backing of Academy leadership, this ought to resolve them:
By Patrick O’Driscoll, USA TODAY
COLORADO SPRINGS — An Air Force Academy chaplain who co-wrote a report last year that criticized “strident” evangelizing of cadets by Christian officers said Wednesday that she was fired by the academy’s head chaplain.
‘This isn’t about me and getting fired. It’s about malfeasance in the chaplaincy here,’ Melinda Morton said.
The chaplain, Capt. Melinda Morton, spoke out as a Pentagon task force began a three-day visit to the academy here to examine complaints of Christian religious bias on campus. It is to report back to the Pentagon by May 23.
Morton, a Lutheran minister and executive officer to the chief chaplain, Col. Michael Whittington, said in an interview that he dismissed her from that job last week. She said it happened after he pressured her to deny details of what happened at a religious service that was held during last summer’s training for new cadets.
Unless Capt. Morton is lying, Col. Whittington asked her to participate in a cover-up, she refused, and was fired as a result. Is there more than one way to read that fact pattern?
Friday’s Washington Post omits the cover-up charge, but makes it clear that the decision to relieve Capt. Morgan had support from the top; an official academy spokesman is quoted as offering a transparently silly defense of the move.
“The choice of a new executive officer was a standard transition,” said Lt. Col. Laurent Fox, an academy spokesman. “The situation is, both the commanding officer [of the chaplain unit] and the executive officer are scheduled to leave this post in a couple of months. It was decided to replace the executive officer now for reasons of continuity.”
Huh? Howzat again? Because the CO is going, you replace the XO now for continuity? Tell it to the Marines.
The Post also reports that Capt. Morgan is not scheduled to meet with the official DoD investigative panel whose hearings started Thursday. If the panel puts up with that, we’ll know that the Pentagon leadership wants a whitewash.
The Post quotes Capt. Morgan as saying that the problem isn’t merely in the Academy; she claims that the mainline Protestant denominations are increasingly marginal within the Air Force chaplain’s corps as a whole.
Time to make a serious fuss, I think. Of course, most Washington Democrats are too cowed by the charge of being “anti-religious” and “anti-military” to defend the religious freedom of our men and women in uniform. It would be good to hear a strong statement from Wesley Clark, for example. Or maybe Joe Lieberman.
As the history of the French Third Republic illustrates, sectarianism and the military make a very explosive mixture. Would it be too much to ask the Secretary of Defense to defend the religious liberty of the men and women who serve under him? Making it clear that retaliation against Capt. Morgan will not be tolerated would be a good start.
Or perhaps someone at the White House might be able to take a break from preaching about freedom in the Middle East to actually practicing it at home. (Well, I can hope, can’t I?)
Update: It gets worse. Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, the Colorado Springs XO, and one of the central actors making Colorado Springs hostile territory for mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews (not to mention the occasional Hindu, Buddhist, or agnostic) has just been recommended for a second star. Note that no one bothered to put the announcement on hold until the investigators could investigate. That sends a pretty clear signal to the panel about the preferences of the AF brass.
Second update: The American Jewish Committee is speaking out.