The US Air Force Academy’s invitation of a controversial motivational speaker, a former Marine who says USMC stands for United States Marines for Christ, to speak at its annual prayer luncheon, has drawn cries from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Lt. Clebe McClary, a born-again Christian and war veteran who lost an eye and arm in Vietnam, has received endorsements from the late Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, and says he is now a member of the “Lord’s Army.”
The Air Force Academy invited McClary to speak at the Feb. 10 event, which was inspired by the annual National Prayer Breakfast in DC. Church-state separation advocates have long been critical of the Air Force Academy’s tolerance for, and indeed promotion of proselytizing and coercive evangelizing of cadets. MMRF’s objection to McClary is only the latest in a ongoing battle between MMRF and the Air Force Academy.
MMRF became involved after one of its members who attends the academy complained about McClary, saying that attendance at the luncheon is technically optional, but “strongly encouraged.” According to MMRF president Mikey Weinstein’s letter to the Academy, which is supported by by the ACLU of Colorado, Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans Today, and Christian, Muslim, and atheist groups:
According to former Lt. McClary’s own website, “Clebe is what he likes to call a complete Marine. To him, USMC will always mean a U.S. Marine for Christ,” a statement that prompted one of MRFF’s many clients currently stationed at the Academy to write that they “can only conclude that anyone that doesn’t share [McClary’s] particular religious view must be an ‘incomplete Marine,’ (or soldier, or sailor, or airman) unworthy of the uniform.”
Former Lt. McClary has also made statements such as: “I was a good person, playing the role people expected of me. I grew up in church and believed in the right things: the Bible, tithing, good morals and clean habits….” and “I almost went to hell with high morals”…(apparently because) “I never invited Jesus Christ into my heart as Savior or let Him become the Lord of my life.” Thus, former Lt. McClary’s self-admitted “message” makes it quite clear that the United States Air Force Academy’s primary mission of pristine and peerless character and leadership development for its cadet population, and concomitantly cultivating excellence in integrity, courage, honor, trustworthiness, and responsibility amount to absolutely nothing at all in the eyes of his own version of fundamentalist Christianity. Notwithstanding achieving its own mission of preparing Academy cadets to be the very best United States Air Force ocers possible, these very same Air Force Academy cadets and staff will still be consigned to hell unless they accept former Lt. McClary’s own version of Christianity. Such statements are not only antithetical to the clear mission of the United States Air Force Academy, they are totally anathema to the purportedly globally inclusive purpose of this National Prayer Luncheon.
MMRF is demanding that the academy withdraw its invitation and find a speaker more inclusive of all students’ religious beliefs. In a news release, Weinstein said, “Egregiously sectarian statements like [those] from former Lt. McClary blatantly exclude not only non-Christians, but also the many Christians who do not subscribe to a particularly fundamentalist view of Christianity.”