Legal Group 'Outraged' After Air Force Academy Erases Bible Verse From Cadet's Whiteboard

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By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
March 13, 2014|10:43 am

The Liberty Institute expressed "outrage" at the decision of a Colorado-based Air Force Academy to have a cadet's Bible verse erased from the whiteboard that hangs outside of his dorm room.

The Bible passage was removed following a complaint from Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. A spokesperson for the academy said the cadet would not be punished for his Bible post.

"If the cadet didn't violate any rules, then why was the quote removed?" Michael Berry, Liberty Institute's senior counsel and director of Military Affairs, said in a statement.

"It appears that the Air Force now believes Bible verses are a violation of AFI 1-1," he added, referencing the Air Force's guidelines to proper cadet behavior that, among other things, requires a neutrality toward religion in the ranks.

"This is a blatant violation of 1300.17 and the Constitution," said Berry. "But the Air Force seems to think that AFI 1-1's neutrality towards religion requirement means forbidding religious freedom. If that's true, then I suggest the Air Force officials read DODI 1300.17, which supersedes AFI 1-1 and guarantees religious freedom for all service members."

The incident began when an unnamed cadet at the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy scrawled text from Galatians 2:20 on the miniature whiteboard that hung on the door leading to his dorm room. The verse read: "I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

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Weinstein reportedly contacted the academy, claiming 29 cadets and four faculty members had contacted him regarding the Bible verse, complaining that it was a blatant elevation of Christianity in a public space at the academy.

"It clearly elevated one religious faith (fundamentalist Christianity) over all others at an already virulently hyper-fundamentalist Christian institution," Weinstein told Fox News' Todd Starnes. "It massively poured fundamentalist Christian gasoline on an already raging out-of-control conflagration of fundamentalist Christian tyranny, exceptionalism and supremacy at USAFA."

Shortly after Weinstein contacted the academy, the verse was erased from the cadet's whiteboard. An academy spokesperson told Fox News that the verse had been erased because a "concern was raised." The spokesperson, Lt. Col. Brus Vidal, added that the cadet would not be punished for his whiteboard message, as there was no misconduct and the issue of personal versus public space at the academy is a "gray area."

Although Weinstein is reportedly demanding the cadet be punished, other members of the academy are reportedly rallying around the cadet and his freedom of speech rights by writing scriptures from the Quran and Bible on the whiteboards that line their dorm room doors.

Weinstein told The Blaze that the academy is currently in the midst of a "revolt" over the incident, with several cadets sending photos of their religious-themed whiteboards to show their solidarity. One whiteboard repeats the original verse from Galatians, while others include Quran verses, such as: "Always speak the truth. Shun the words that are deceitful and ostentatious."

Weinstein is now asking the academy to remove all religious scripture verses from the whiteboards and punish those who wrote the verses. He told The Blaze he is ready to take legal action against the academy if the issue continues.

"It's a toxic environment there," Weinstein argued. "When you have a law that is followed more in its breach than in its compliance … it's worse than if you didn't have the law at all."

The Liberty Institute has also said it is "ready to defend, for free, any cadet whose religious rights have been violated."

 

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