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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 21, 2010

Academy probe satisfies critic

 •  Ban on flash drives eases


By DAN ELLIOTT
Associated Press

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. A religious liberty advocate said Friday that Air Force Academy officials have convinced him they're serious about investigating a possible case of religious harassment, easing his earlier doubts.

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, expressed skepticism earlier this month that the academy was doing enough after a large wooden cross was found at a campus worship space for pagans and followers of other Earth-centered religions.

Weinstein said his doubts were eased after a conversation with the academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michael Gould. He said miscommunication within the academy caused his original concern.

The investigation is still under way, and officials don't know if the placement of the cross was malicious, innocent or something in between, said Academy spokeswoman Capt. Corinna Jones.

"Everything is not always as it seems," Jones said.

Jones said investigators have been conducting interviews but she did not know whether anyone has been identified as a suspect or any arrests have been made. She said she didn't know when the investigation might be wrapped up.

Weinstein, an Albuquerque, N.M., attorney and a 1977 graduate of the academy, started the Military Religious Freedom Foundation after cadets reported in 2004 they had been harassed or ostracized over their religious beliefs, or because they were not religious.

Weinstein has accused fundamentalist Christians at the academy and elsewhere in the military of improperly pressuring subordinates to convert.

"When you put that uniform on, there's only one religion: patriotism," he told a gathering of more than 350 cadets, officers and others Friday.

Weinstein repeatedly said he doesn't oppose Christianity or any religion but that it[0x19]s wrong for members of the military to use their position to promote their faith.

Weinstein said cadets need a better education in First Amendment freedoms. He said a donor to his foundation has offered to help fund a semester-long class at the academy on the subject.