Judge dismisses lawsuit against Air Force Academy


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Evangelical Christians and legal experts are applauding a federal judge for tossing out a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force Academy Oct. 27, one which had accused the academy of creating an atmosphere which fostered religious discrimination.

U.S. District Judge James A. Parker in New Mexico ruled that Albuquerque-based lawyer Mikey Weinstein and the handful of other former cadets who brought the legal action had provided no proof to their "vague" allegations that the academy was biased in favor of evangelical Christians and improperly allowed Christian cadets to proselytize those of other faiths.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Kevin Theriot said the judge wisely ruled that since the former cadets who filed the suit were no longer at the academy, the legal action served no purpose.

"He dismissed a completely baseless suit," Theriot said. "The plaintiffs were trying to get the court to prohibit, not only people at the academy, but anyone in the Air Force from sharing their faith with their fellow servicemen while they were on duty. And that would have been an incredibly intrusive restriction on religious speech and the ability of people of faith—any faith—to share their faith."

The U.S. Air Force also applauded Parker's ruling.

"We believe academy officials performed properly and that this litigation is one important step in the direction in judicial recognition of that," Major Gen. Jack Rives, the top judicial officer of the Air Force, said.

Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has vowed to re-file the lawsuit.

"Our fight is far from over," he said in a news release. "Religious bias and the outrageous violations of the separation of church and state continue to spread rampantly throughout our military."

In an interview, he elaborated on his written statement.

"Basically we're going to use the guidance given by the judge in this dismissal action as coordinates to guide our dagger to the heart of dominionist, Christian, evangelical unconstitutional activity in the military," Weinstein said. "We will stab at that heart over and over again until we bring dominionist Christians back into compliance with our wonderful U.S. Constitution."

The lawsuit stems from allegations, which surfaced in 2005 during the course of a rape and sexual-abuse scandal at the academy, in which Weinstein and other graduates claimed that evangelical officers and cadets routinely imposed their religion on others at the academy.

Cadets were supposedly coerced into prayers at mandatory academy events and pressured to engage in evangelical religious practices, such as Bible study.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State Director Barry Lynn demanded an investigation into what he called "these very serious, systematic violations of the Constitution."

But an Air Force panel looking into åthe charges concluded no overt religious discrimination existed at the academy—even though some individual cadets and staff may have been insensitive in the way they discussed religious beliefs.

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