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The finger on the invisible hand

Air Force Academy 4: Christians on Patrol

Saturday, May 14, 2005

(SNN Colorado Springs) Chaplain Capt. Melinda Morton says that she was fired for pointing out religious intolerance inside the Air Force Academy. Despite her dismissal, the Air Force claims that she was not fired. Because of Morton’s claims, an investigation was started against Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida.

Despite her dismissal, the Air Force claims that she was not fired.

According to Capt. Morton, a Lutheran minister, evangelical Christians are given preferential treatment at the academy. This seems to hold with the data. Surveys of present and former cadets have shown that some students said they felt a heavy and sometimes offensive emphasis on evangelical Christianity, with praise for cadets who pronounce their "born-again" status and insults aimed at Jews, Roman Catholics and non-evangelical cadets. One staff chaplain reportedly told newly arrived freshmen last summer that anyone not born again "will burn in the fires of hell."

Capt. Morton says she was forced to go public with the allegations because working with within the chain of command wasn’t working. Furthermore, upon her complaints, she believes that the academy began making deceitful reports about what was happening. “Even when I brought it to the attention of my superior, this person was disinclined to make changes in the story they were putting out,” she said. Capt. Morton also believes that going public with her beliefs was what caused her to be removed from her Executive Officer position.

Morton said that she briefed her boss, Chaplain Col. Michael Whittington of her concerns, the woman who had been in the Air Force for over 20 years received a lecture on loyalty to the Air Force and the chaplain corp.

Newly arrived freshmen "will burn in the fires of hell."

A spokesperson for the Air Force Academy said that Morton’s allegations would have been taken more seriously had she gone through the proper chain of command. In another statement, the academy said that Morton was not being fired. Morton was just being removed from her duties and sent to Okinawa due to coincidence. Morton was chosen for Okinawa, as no positions were available in Antarctica or on the moon.

Morton’s complaints have sparked an investigation of Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida who issued memos to cadets telling them to "ask the Lord to give us the wisdom to discover the right. ... The Lord is in control. He has a plan" and stating that cadets are accountable first to their God. Unfortunately, the task force may never be able to fully investigate the claims against Weida, as he is being promoted to a position at the Pentagon, where he will head up a team that is developing faith bases weapons systems. Because of his promotion, he may not be able to fully participate in the investigation.

A Pentagon spokesman said he could not comment on whether the board that recommended Weida's promotion knew of the religious-tolerance inquiry. Furthermore, he said that promotions were based on an officer’s records and potential and any coincidence with the announcement of Weida’s promotion and the arrival of the investigative task force are purely coincidental.

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