My, but this just gets more and more interesting, in a bizarre "what on earth can these people be thinking?" sort of way.
Air Force Chaplain Tells of Academy Proselytizing - New York Times
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: May 12, 2005
A chaplain at the Air Force Academy has described a "systemic and pervasive" problem of religious proselytizing at the academy and says a religious tolerance program she helped create to deal with the problem was watered down after it was shown to officers, including the major general who is the Air Force's chief chaplain. The academy chaplain, Capt. MeLinda Morton, 48, spoke publicly for the first time as an Air Force task force arrived at the academy in Colorado Springs on Tuesday to investigate accusations that officers, staff members and senior cadets inappropriately used their positions to push their evangelical Christian beliefs on Air Force cadets.
The academy began developing the tolerance program, called Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People, or R.S.V.P., in response to a survey it took last year. The survey found that more than half of the cadets said they had heard derogatory religious comments or jokes at the academy. For more than a year, the Air Force has been struggling to respond to accusations from some alumni, staff members and cadets that evangelical Christians in leadership positions at the academy were creating a discriminatory climate. Air Force officials say the task force they dispatched this week shows that they are taking the accusations seriously. The investigators are to make a preliminary report on May 23.
In an interview on Tuesday, Captain Morton, a Lutheran who has been a chaplain at the academy for two and a half years, said that the initial reception to the tolerance program helped illustrate the climate. She said the R.S.V.P. program was significantly altered after it was screened last fall for 300 academy staff members and officers. Military officials confirmed that the program had been altered but said changes were routine in the development of such training programs [...] Critics including Captain Morton attribute the problem in part to the academy's location in Colorado Springs, headquarters to dozens of the largest evangelical ministries and churches. They say there is significant crossover between the leadership of the academy and those organizations and churches in or near Colorado Springs, including Focus on the Family, the Navigators and the Officers' Christian Fellowship. [...] Captain Morton said she had decided to step forward without authorization from the public affairs office because: "It's the Constitution, not just a nice rule we can follow or not follow. We all raised our hands and said we'd follow it, and that includes the First Amendment, that includes not using your power to advance your religious agenda."
She added, "I realize this is the end of my Air Force career."
Air Force Academy chaplain says she was fired for speaking out on religious climate
By Robert Weller and Jon Sarche
The Associated Press
A top Air Force Academy chaplain said today she was fired for speaking up about anti-Semitism and other reports of religious intolerance among cadets and staff, including allegations that evangelical Christians wield too much influence.
Capt. Melinda Morton said she was fired last week by her boss, Col. Michael Whittington, after he pressured her to deny a professor's account of a religious service for new cadets last year.
Both chaplains had been scheduled to leave the school this year, with Whittington, the chief chaplain, retiring and Morton, his executive officer, scheduled for an overseas assignment.
She called that an excuse to get rid of her. "I believe I was fired and I believe the other staff would say I was fired and that was the point of doing it," she said in a telephone interview.
An academy spokesman, Lt. Col. Laurent Fox, denied the claim. "She's still working and she's still a chaplain," he said.
Fox said Morton's reassignment was moved up 30 days to accommodate Whittington's retirement in June, which originally had been planned for July. He said Whittington wants a new executive officer in place before he leaves. The academy said Whittington was unavailable because he was being interviewed for a Pentagon investigation into more than 50 complaints of religious intolerance in the past several years, including cases in which one Jewish cadet was reportedly told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
Morton said she was pressured to deny a report by Yale Divinity School professor Kristen Leslie that a chaplain told 600 cadets during basic training last year "to go back to their tents and tell their fellow cadets that those who are not born again will burn in the fires of hell."
"I was told by Chaplain Whittington that if someone was going to be loyal to the chaplaincy and the Air Force, then someone would take a certain view of the Yale report and view Dr. Leslie as disloyal," Morton said....
You know ... given that a major investigation is underway -- the second in as many years -- you'd think that the academy's administration would see the value in not doing something as boneheaded as changing the appointment of a whistleblower. Granted that it's only a 30 day shift in appointment. Granted that they didn't change her appointment; she's still going to what she herself has described as a nice station. Nonetheless, it's hard to see this as anything other than the academy administration exercising what punitive powers they possess in this situation, and it's hard to see what they gain by making this 30-day shift.
To be sure, it reads less as punitive and more as wanting to get her out of the way of investigators, now that they're starting to appear on campus. If she's off in Okinawa -- one of the articles I've read cited that as her next appointment -- and redoing her arrangements to move, changing scheduling, etc, until then, she's going to be more difficult to contact. Not impossible, of course, but given an investigation that likely most in AFA administration wishes would just disappear, "difficult" may suffice.Posted by iain at May 13, 2005 12:25 PM