Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy sent a letter today to U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent, Lt. Gen Michael C. Gould, raising concerns about the upcoming Prayer Breakfast at the Academy and the choice of speakers. Rev. Gaddy has been an outspoken advocate for religious freedom in the military and participated in a conference on religious respect at the Academy this past November at Gen. Gould’s invitation.
Interfaith Alliance is working to build a constructive relationship with the military based on open and direct communication to ensure that religious freedom is respected. However, when Interfaith Alliance feels the military has fallen short, as in this case, it will speak out. Of particular concern is the Air Force Academy’s selection of Lt. Clebe McClary to keynote a prayer breakfast that it is hosting. McClary has a history of troubling rhetoric that inappropriately combines religious doctrine with military service. His invitation to speak is a step backward from the progress that was made at the religious respect conference. Of equal concern are questions about whether members of the military will feel compelled to attend.
Concerns about the prayer breakfast were first brought to the attention of Interfaith Alliance by Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a long-time leader on these issues.
In his letter to Gen. Gould, Rev. Gaddy said “For me, the issues at the center of this controversy are not so much what is legal, but what is wise. Given the history of USAFA regarding religious respect, an issue which you discussed honestly and eloquently, making appropriate choices is as important as obeying laws… even without the context of the Academy’s history as a factor, what I have heard of Lt. McClary is cause enough for concern over his invitation to speak at this event”
Prayer breakfasts involving government officials create dangerous entanglements between the institutions of religion and government and send a discouraging message to those whose beliefs fall outside the message of these events. This concern is amplified in the context of a prayer breakfast sponsored by the military in that soldiers and cadets may – rightly or wrongly – feel there is an implicit message that they should attend.
Interfaith Alliance remains committed to working with the Air Force Academy and the broader armed forces to put policies and procedures in place that protect the appropriate boundaries between religion and the Military.
A copy of the letter is available upon request.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.