BROOMFIELD, Colo. — The superintendent of the Air Force Academy acknowledged to leaders of a national Jewish group Friday that religious intolerance permeates the military school.
“As a commander, I know I have problems in my cadet wing,” Lt. Gen. John Rosa said at a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League’s executive committee. “I have issues in my staff, and I have issues in my faculty — and that’s my whole organization.”
He said he admonished the academy’s No. 2 commander, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, for sending an e-mail promoting National Prayer Day.
“We sat down and said, ‘This is not right,’ and he acknowledged that,” Rosa said, adding there had been other incidents that crossed the line. “Perception is reality. We don’t have respect.”
The academy has been under investigation because of complaints that evangelical Christians have harassed cadets who do not share their faith. Some cadets have complained of anti-Semitic slurs, and one of the top chaplains at the school claims she was fired because she criticized what she saw as proselytizing at the academy.
Academy leaders deny the claim, saying Capt. MeLinda Morton was simply reassigned to Japan. The Defense Department’s inspector general is investigating.
Rosa said he has spoken with academy critics and agrees with many of their complaints. He said he didn’t learn of a Yale University memo issued last year on religious intolerance at the school near Colorado Springs until much later.
Rosa said the problem is “something that keeps me awake at night.”
“If everything goes well, it’s probably going to take six years to fix it,” he added.
Mikey Weinstein, an academy graduate who has become a leading critic, said Rosa’s acknowledgment “is too little and too late.”
“We need new leadership at the Air Force Academy,” said Weinstein, who has sent two sons to the academy.
Abe Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said he was convinced the general wants to do the right thing.
“We walked away with the feeling that the man is committed to solving the problem. The question is whether the system will let him,” Foxman said after meeting with Rosa for 90 minutes earlier Friday.
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