Multi-medaled war veteran “too evangelical” to speak at Air Force Academy
An organization that is a frequent foe of religion demanded recently that the top officer of the U.S. Air Force Academy be ousted for planning to invite an evangelical Christian to address the school’s prayer luncheon.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation took issue with the academy’s selection of retired Marine First Lt. Clebe McClary, a multi-medaled soldier, to speak at the school’s National Prayer Luncheon scheduled for February, according to Fox News.
The MRFF said McClary (who among other awards was given the silver star and bronze star by the President of the United States, three Purple Hearts and The Outstanding Young Man of America Award), is too evangelical.
The MRRF said the academy’s superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould should be removed as head of the school because he invited McClary. Mikey Weinstein, MRRF founder said, “We’re done. Gould needs to go,” Fox News reported.
A letter that was featured in Veterans Today, and which the staff cosigned, said the academy’s prayer luncheon is “provincial, hateful and exclusionary,” and said the school’s culture is “dominionist.”
Veterans Today also cited Article VI of the Constitution which says, “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Weinstein said McClary is too evangelical adding, “To him, USMC will always mean a U.S. Marine for Christ,” referring to McClary’s website. He called this “anathema” adding that it is not globally inclusive, The Gazette said.
According to Spero News, a 2005 report indicated that in terms of religious liberty, the academy showed no “overt religious discrimination.” At the time, Weinstein complained that evangelical Protestants receive preferential treatment.
Courage under fire
McClary won the Silver and Bronze Awards from the President for showing courage under fire and concern for his men when he was in Vietnam. In 1968 he was critically wounded by enemy fire, his website says.
His website says McClary lost one eye, one arm, and was told he would never walk again. He spent over two years in military hospitals and underwent 30 major surgeries. His dedication to overcoming circumstance, however, has made him an inspiration to others.
Lt. Col. John Bryan, spokesman of the academy said McClary is “a nationally recognized motivational speaker,” and an inspiration for “overcoming obstacles rather than religious philosophy,” according to The Gazette.
Initially the academy invited former Secretary of State Colin Powell, but he declined due to schedule conflicts. As keynote speaker, McClary will be paid $2,500 plus airfare reimbursement, The Gazette reported.
The academy stood behind Gould, noting that the luncheon is optional and “McClary is part of a broad spectrum of religious views,” according to The Washington Post.
In the recent past, Weinstein took issue with the academy because he was not included during a conference that was held regarding the school’s practices with regard to religious tolerance, The Gazette said.
William Donohue, in a commentary he wrote on Spero News, said The Catholic League stands by both Gould and McClary. Donohue wrote, “What’s at stake is religious liberty.”