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 »
THE QUESTION
How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
3 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

Source:
NO BATTLEGROUND STATES LEAN TRUMP
NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.

Source:
HOLCOMB IS A FORMER TOP AIDE
Indiana Lt. Gov. Tapped to Run for Pence’s Seat
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

On the second ballot, the Indiana Republican Party's Central Committee tapped Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb as their nominee to succeed Gov. Mike Pence this fall. "Holcomb was a top aide to former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Sen. Dan Coats and a former chairman of the state Republican Party."

Source:
AFTER ROLL CALL VOTE
Sanders May Officially Nominate Clinton
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Negotiations are underway to have Bernie Sanders officially nominate Hillary Clinton for president at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night, a move that would further signal party unity. According to a source familiar with the talks, the Vermont senator would nominate the presumptive Democratic nominee after the roll call vote."

Source:
THE REVOLUTION CONTINUES
Sanders to Channel His Movement into Local Races
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Bernie Sanders said he'll begin pivoting his campaign to an organization designed to help candidates at the local level around the country. At a breakfast for the Wisconsin delegation to the DNC this morning, he said the new group will "bring people into the political process around a progressive agenda," as it supports candidates "running for school board, for city council, for state legislature."

Source:
×