A number of groups seeking to defend religious liberty in the U.S. military have spoken out against an Air Force Academy's recent decision to erase a bible verse from a cadet's dorm room whiteboard.
The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty have both issued statements condemning the actions of the Colorado Springs-based Air Force Academy. The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition is headed by the Family Research Council and comprised of 24 groups, including The Liberty Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, and the Thomas More Law Center.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council's executive vice president, said in a statement that the academy's decision to erase a bible verse from a cadet's whiteboard "reflects that the cadets understand the Constitution and have a greater faith in the Constitution than their leaders. They are freely exercising their constitutional rights that they will be defending upon graduation."
Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, added that the incident "reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of religious freedom. Not only is the notion that cadets have to abandon or hide their faith as a requisite of military service not supported by law, it is actually discriminatory to brave men and women of faith that desire to serve their country."
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty also issued a statement denouncing the academy's decision. Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews (USAR retired) executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said in a statement that no American should be denied their religious freedom rights.
"No American, especially those who defend our freedom, should be denied his constitutionally protected religious liberties […] This cadet was clearly within his rights to express his faith in this non-disruptive way. We are grieved that the Air Force has decided to put this cadet and other Christians at the academy in the closet."
The incident occurred earlier this month when the Colorado-based Air Force Academy decided to erase a bible passage written by a cadet on the door to his dorm room after Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, issued a complaint to the academy.
The bible passage written by the unnamed cadet was from Galatians 2:20 and read: "I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
A spokesperson for the academy then told Fox News that the whiteboard message had been erased in response to a complaint, but also that the cadet who wrote the message would not be punished because the distinction between public space and private space at the academy was a "gray area."
Weinstein is now demanding that the cadet be punished for his actions, causing many legal groups to leap to the cadet's defense and offer legal aid should he need it. In response to the academy's decision to erase the whiteboard message, other cadets at the academy have begun writing their own religious messages on their whiteboards to show their solidarity. Some messages echo the original Galatians verse that ignited the conflict, while others are from other parts of the Bible or from the Quran.