Air Force Academy Spiritual Fitness Month “Has Crossed the Line,” Says MRFF | New

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Military Religious Freedom Foundation wants Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark court-martialed, saying Academy leadership unconstitutionally violated Air Force standards Force by declaring the month of August “Spiritual Fitness Month” and by organizing religious activities for cadets during regular duty hours.

The activities, promoted by Air Force chaplains on general USAFA PA channels and held in the main academic building, specifically violate Air Force Instruction 1-1 (para 2.12), former professor of the Academy and Brig. General Marty France (retired), a member of the MRFF board of directors, told Clark in an August 31 letter of complaint.

AFI 1-1 discusses “government neutrality regarding religion” and paragraph 2.12 states that Air Force leaders “shall ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed as formally endorsing or disapproving or extending preferential treatment to any faith, belief, or lack of belief.” (Italics added.)

Academy Spiritual Fitness Month, MRFF Founder Mikey Weinstein Recounts the Indiahas “clearly” violated this standard.

“We’re not saying you can’t have chaplains [involved] …but you can’t walk into the college building and get up there and say, “It’s spiritual fitness month,” Weinstein says. “It’s a very busy and competitive environment. The military is an incredibly confrontational, communal, ritual – and tribal place.

As France argues in the MRFF’s Aug. 31 letter to Clark, “this strikes me (and many others) as an endorsement of the idea that one must be religious to be fit for service – especially since ‘it reads as if ALL activities surrounding this stated ‘month’ are Chapel/Chaplain related. From the press release: ‘Air Force Instruction 90-5001, Integrated Resilience, defines spiritual fitness as “the ability to adhere to beliefs, principles, or values ​​necessary to persevere and prevail in the accomplishment of missions.” For those looking for help in developing their spiritual well-being, look no further than the Chaplain Corps. The U.S. Air Force Academy Chaplains have declared August “Spiritual Fitness Month to build spiritual momentum into the new academic year.”

“Two-minute videos from the non-religious perspective?” The letter from France continued, referring to a series of videos that were released in public areas of Fairchild Hall for Spiritual Fitness Month. “Why does EVERYTHING go (apparently) through the chaplains? Were there retreats for non-religious cadets or were they all sponsored/led by chaplains? Was the Cadet Secular Alliance (Freethinkers) involved? I understand from my sources that they were not consulted at all this year. I spoke to over 100 of them in the class of 2026 during [Basic Cadet Training] on a July evening, so I know the demand must be there among the many “nones” out there.

“How dare the Air Force put out a big memo on August 9 bragging about pushing for diversity, when they excluded in this last thing [Spiritual Fitness Month] not just Buddhist, Hindu, Native American spiritualist, Tao, Shinto – I could go through a million other religions,” Weinstein says, adding that MRFF estimates in the military, probably “within 30%” of the military are atheists , agnostic, secular or humanist.

By promoting Spiritual Fitness Month without regard to these military members, he says, “what they are doing is dividing and destroying unit cohesion.”

In response to France’s letter of August 31, Clark wrote on the evening of September 5: “These events [sic] were voluntary, and I’m comfortable with everything that happened during Spiritual Fitness Month.

The India called the Air Force Academy for comment on September 1 and received this email from a spokesperson: “[O]Our answer: Our press article speaks for itself.

The link is to an August 19 article on the USAFA news site, titled “Strengthening Our Spiritual Resilience,” by Chaplain Col. Julian Gaither, which begins with “Fitness. When the average person thinks of being fit, it’s easy to think of cardio training and strength training. This is not the case for those serving in the Air Force and Space Force. Comprehensive Airman Fitness teaches that to have “overall fitness and resilience” one must work on one’s physical well-being and one’s mental, social and spiritual strength.

“Air Force Instruction 90-5001, Integrated Resilience, defines spiritual fitness as “the ability to adhere to the beliefs, principles, or values ​​necessary to persevere and prevail in the accomplishment of missions. For those looking for support to develop their spiritual well-being, look no further than the Chaplain Corps. »

The second paragraph, of course, is the same one cited by France as evidence in MRFF’s complaint.

In a Sept. 6 email to Col. Ben Jonsson (to whom Clark had referred France as the new USAFA contact for MRFF-related matters), France wrote in part that Clark’s response “reminds me of a reasonably famous saying: ‘The fish don’t ‘notice the water.’ Sure [Clark] saw nothing wrong with the way “Spiritual Fitness Month” was conducted because it was a concept he personally embraced, as did the chaplains who used this event to evangelize cadets and staff. It reminded me of white friends who lived their whole lives in a white upper middle class world and then said, “I just don’t see any racism or prejudice around me in my life.”

“Whereas [Clark] can also claim that it was correct because everything was “voluntary”, we also know that in the hierarchical army, the events in which the commander speaks, or in the event that the publicity is listed as the leader who will present the speaker or even just will attend an event, subordinates of that commander (who controls their promotions, assignments, and opportunities) seldom consider participation to be entirely voluntary, especially when it takes place during the normal duty day. A commander’s priorities naturally become those of his subordinates.

France said in the letter that the MRFF had been contacted privately by people from the Academy who did not wish to complain publicly for fear of reprisals. The argument over spiritual fitness month is the latest in a long battle over the MRFF’s claim that the Academy promotes fundamentalist Christian ideology and favors cadets who embrace it. See previous India reports here, here and here.

“We’ve seen this time and time again,” Weinstein says. “They will talk about the color of the skin. They will talk about gender. They won’t talk about Jesus.

Asked what response the MRFF wants to see from the Academy, Weinstein tells the India“Clark is complicit. … We are asking that someone be court-martialed for this. is Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12 It basically states that leaders at all levels of the Air Force must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed as supporting a faith rather than another or no faith. Well, it clearly does that. … We want people to be court-martialed, starting with General Clark.

“The problem is that we have a virulent fundamentalist Christian nationalist zeal,” adds Weinstein, “not just throughout this country, but inextricably woven into the very fabric of the Pentagon. … You have this zeal to bring people into the Kingdom and, unfortunately, El Paso County is kind of ground zero for fundamentalist Christian nationalism in the Vatican – and the Air Force Academy is just no exception. And it hurts me to say that,” says Weinstein, an Academy graduate himself.

“I want it to be very clear how pernicious, pervasive and systemic this is,” he says. “It’s horrible; they won’t care. … And as I said before, when you tell someone they lack courage, intelligence, patriotism, bravery, fearlessness and reliability because of their religious faith or lack thereof, there is literally no difference between that and telling someone they are stupid because of the color of their skin or because they were born female. There is no difference.

In its September 6 response to Clark, France reiterated that the MRFF has no problem with the Chaplains Office having its own Spiritual Fitness Month and advertising it through its own web pages and lists. to serve cadets and staff who voluntarily use chaplains. services and support. “They may even release information that non-religious cadets can view, as long as it is very clear that it is coming from the chaplains office and not the commanding officer,” France wrote.

“What we oppose is the endorsement of specifically religious activity and the perception that ‘spirit form’ through religion is a necessary or sufficient condition for honorable and courageous service in the military. (or success in the USAFA) – public videos in common use areas during the day of service and General Clark’s endorsement and speaker introduction and other events crossed the line. There have been similar instances in the past when the appearance of command endorsement of religious matters in the USAFA elicited a strong and contentious response.


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