A conservative coalition of 24 nonprofit and legal organizations has come together to announce that its members will offer assistance to cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy who face “repercussions” for writing Bible verses on whiteboards outside their bedroom doors.
The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, a group dedicated to “defending the religious freedoms of members of [the] Armed Forces and Veterans,” officially responded Thursday to the ongoing furor over the removal of a scripture message from a cadet’s bedroom door.
With the unnamed cadet’s fellow students responding to the scrubbing by placing verses from the Bible and the Koran on their own whiteboards, members of the coalition are now speaking out, claiming that the removal is a grave violation of religious liberty.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, vice president of the Family Research Council, a coalition member, said in a statement that cadets should be free to post their religious views outside their doors — space that is considered usable for both work and personal purposes.
“This reflects that the cadets understand the Constitution and have a greater faith in the Constitution than their leaders,” Boykin said of the posting of verses. “They are freely exercising their constitutional rights that they will be defending upon graduation.”
Gary McCaleb, another coalition member who serves as chief solicitor and executive vice president for strategy implementation at Alliance Defending Freedom, added that “suppressing religion is wrong whether it is done behind an Iron Curtain or in a dorm hallway.”
He said that religious discrimination has no place in the Air Force.
The latest response to the situation comes after Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told TheBlaze Wednesday that there is a “revolt” underway at the academy over the removal of the cadet’s Bible verse.
Weinstein told TheBlaze that 29 cadets and four faculty and staff members — 26 of whom he described as Catholic or Protestant — disagreed with the verse’s presence and reached out to his organization after the verse was posted on the whiteboard.
Weinstein said he then contacted the Air Force Academy with concerns and the verse was subsequently removed — but he noted that additional cadets had begun to post verses of their own. The academy then officially responded to the initial Bible verse removal on Wednesday evening.
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson said in a statement to TheBlaze that she was “pleased” with the way cadets at the academy have “raised and discussed a recent concern” over the issue, going on to offer the school’s account of what unfolded.
Rather than an attack on religious adherence, Johnson explained that the initial verse was removed after considering the cadet’s leadership role at the academy. She also indicated that the move was voluntarily made by the cadet following discussion over the issue.
“The scripture was below the cadet’s name on a white board and could cause subordinates to doubt the leader’s religious impartiality,” Johnson said. “With the mentorship of the active duty commanding officer as part of the discussion, the cadet squadron commander raised this potential perception and the cadet voluntarily elected to erase the scripture.”
Johnson’s statement did not address how other cadets who have posted scripture in solidarity and support will be handled, though it appears the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition is planning to assist any student who faces possible retribution.
TheBlaze is awaiting reply from the coalition to learn whether any cadets have taken advantage of the offer for assistance.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com