Is Air Force Losing Its Religion?

Members question top officials about reports that an academy cadet had to remove a Bible quote from a whiteboard.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 14, 2014, 11:07 a.m.

Des­pite an on­go­ing fight about re­tir­ing the A-10 and in­vest­ig­a­tions in­to cheat­ing scan­dals, per­haps the most con­ten­tious mo­ment of a House com­mit­tee hear­ing on the Air Force budget on Fri­day fo­cused on re­li­gious free­dom.

Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Randy For­bes of Vir­gin­ia, who is in the run­ning to be the next Armed Ser­vices chair­man, asked about re­ports from earli­er this week that a ca­det at the Air Force Academy was forced to take a Bible quote down from a white­board.

“Per­haps the most of­fens­ive, the Air Force said this was a teach­ing mo­ment, that the ca­det’s ac­tion of put­ting the Bible verse on [the white­board] was in­ap­pro­pri­ate based on lead­er­ship prin­ciples,” For­bes said, adding that he was go­ing off of in­form­a­tion he re­ceived from the Air Force.

For­bes said he was told the ca­det “had no in­ten­tion to of­fend any­one or any group” and that the boards had been used in the past to dis­play in­spir­a­tion­al quotes. For­bes com­pared put­ting the Bible quote up to law­makers hanging an “In God We Trust” sign in their of­fices.

Air Force Sec­ret­ary De­borah Lee James said she was told by Lt. Gen. Michelle John­son, the su­per­in­tend­ent of the academy, that the ca­det was told by a class­mate that the Bible quote made them un­com­fort­able, and the ca­det offered to take it down.

But For­bes dis­puted that ac­count.

“No, ma­dame sec­ret­ary, that’s not true, by your own facts. If you’ll read what your li­ais­on of­ficer has giv­en to me, “¦ the Air Force com­mand­er “¦ went to that ca­det,” For­bes said. “… Can you ima­gine a young ca­det when he’s forced with the en­tire chain of com­mand com­ing in there and telling him ba­sic­ally this is in­ap­pro­pri­ate?”

But Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, pushed back, say­ing, “We re­move hun­dreds of quotes from those boards, be­cause they’re not in their room, they’re in the hall­way. They’re used for both per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al mes­saging, just to make sure we all un­der­stand that con­text.”

Welsh stressed that the facts of what happened are still be­ing es­tab­lished.

But a hand­ful of Re­pub­lic­an com­mit­tee mem­bers backed For­bes and voiced their con­cerns over the re­ports.

GOP Rep. Mi­chael Con­away of Texas said he is wor­ried that “we have in­di­vidu­als who are so in­sec­ure and un­sure of them­selves that they can’t co­ex­ist with a free ex­pres­sion “¦ of tra­di­tion­al re­li­gious views.”¦ I won­der if they are the right folks for that busi­ness.”

And Re­pub­lic­an Rep. John Flem­ing of Louisi­ana cited an art­icle by Fox News’ Todd Star­nes over al­leg­a­tions that Gideons In­ter­na­tion­al, a Chris­ti­an or­gan­iz­a­tion, was not al­lowed to hand out Bibles at an Air Force base.

“You have to get the facts right on every one of these cases. And try and stay un­emo­tion­al un­til you know what happened,” Welsh said. “I would not be­lieve an art­icle by Mr. Star­nes, for starters.”¦ I know there are cases when he has not had his facts right in art­icles. I would be happy to ex­plain them to you, with him in the room.”

Welsh ad­ded that the “single biggest frus­tra­tion” of his job is “the per­cep­tion that some­how there is re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion in­side the Air Force. It is not true.”

Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Rob Bish­op of Utah ad­ded a light­hearted mo­ment to the spir­ited back-and-forths, ask­ing: “If I’m of­fen­ded by your budget, will you take it down?”

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×