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Air Force Academy's Orwellian "Religious Respect Conference" Indicates Clear Bias Against the Non-Religious

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The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado is an institution of inestimable worth to the United States military. In addition to being a service academy graduate and son of a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, I'm also the father of two sons, a son-in-law, and a daughter-in-law, each of whom are proud alumni of USAFA.  Even my brother-in-law is a proud alum of USAFA. As such, I know well the top-notch standards of stellar professionalism to which most faculty and staff adhere. Unfortunately, I'm also intimately aware of the nightmarish side of USAFA - one that entails ongoing ordeals of blatantly unconstitutional marginalization, humiliation, degradation and abject brutality for large segments of the military personnel on the academy's installation. The stomach-turning knowledge of this grim reality is backed up by the testimony of literally hundreds of cadets and staff at USAFA spanning a period of at least a dozen years now. My own family's torment at the hands of the sickening fundamentalist Christian presence at the academy was pivotal in compelling me to establish the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF:  www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org). Thus, it was with great skepticism and no small amount of disgust that we greeted the latest  "Religious Respect Conference" at USAFA. Clearly this event was to be a proverbial "dog-and-pony show" foolishly meant to assuage those of us who have been blowing the whistle on the ongoing religious civil rights abuses at USAFA for many years now. Sadly, our expectations of the dubious nature of the "Conference" were fully realized even before it began. One would need to hire a seasoned private investigator to decipher the Byzantine complexity and bureaucratic camouflage of the USAFA e-mails and related "public" announcements of this stealth "Religious Respect Conference." George Orwell's dystopian society of Oceania, and its lexicon of duplicitous "doublespeak," could not possibly be more accurately portrayed than in the reprehensible manner in which USAFA designed, announced, and conducted this specious spectacle.

The idea of USAFA blaring its triumphant horns at having "reformed" itself in the field of "Religious Respect" is an odd and uber-ignominious one – folly, indeed. The overtly theistic flavor of the "conference" was belied by the fact that the ever-expanding demographic of agnostic, atheist, humanist, and secular cadets on campus (collectively self-identified as "Freethinkers") was initially and comprehensively written out of the proceedings of this "respect" conference. It was only through a combination of chance and MRFF's loud advocacy in the local press that a literal 11th-hour invitation was callously extended to a cadet representative of the academy's Freethinkers. This "invitation" was classic ass-covering by USAFA and nothing more. According to trusted MRFF sources, in addition to being low-key to the point of achieving a "Where's Elmo?" level of total obscurity for most academy cadets and staff, the conference was all sizzle and no steak. Its treatment of religious liberties issues internal to USAFA was enormously superficial and utterly meaningless. It accomplished nothing in terms of challenging the prevailing tsunami of ambient fundamentalist Christian religiosity on campus.

The hideous spectacle of USAFA's head chaplain, Col. Robert Bruno, Dean of Faculty Dana Born ( who we just learned will be retiring!), and Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould taking any cognizable part in a "religious respect conference" is absolutely akin to a trio of intransigent felons celebrating time served in a penitentiary, effusively clapping one another on the back for "reforming" themselves despite all salient evidence to the contrary. Such a display is insultingly absurd on the face of it and indicates a crude and willful attempt at pedestrian deception.