“U.S. Marine for Christ” prompts suit at Colo. academy

February 3, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) Professors at the U.S. Air Force Academy have filed
suit in a bid to stop a school prayer luncheon headlined by a
motivational speaker who calls himself a "U.S. Marine for Christ."


Five faculty members joined the Military Religious Freedom
Foundation, which has spent years fighting proselytizing at the academy,
in filing suit Monday (Jan. 31).


The scheduled speaker for the annual National Prayer Luncheon on
Feb. 10 is Lt. Clebe McClary, a decorated disabled Vietnam veteran from
South Carolina.


"By making a fundamentalist Christian the keynote speaker at this
event, the government has promoted, elevated, endorsed and favored
Christianity over all other religions," they argued.


Academy spokesman Lt. Col. John Bryan said McClary was invited after
former Secretary of State Colin Powell could not attend. The event is
voluntary and paid for with a chaplains' offering fund and a $7
admission. As of Tuesday, 178 attendees from the 10,000 on base are
expected.


"He's not here to pass out Bibles and to have a sermon," Bryan said
of McClary. "Does he have personal Christian beliefs? Yes, he does. ...
We're committed to protecting somebody's right to practice any religion
they choose, or no religion, provided those practices don't violate
policy or law or impede mission accomplishment."


The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Washington-based Interfaith
Alliance, had warned the academy's superintendent that "inviting Lt.
McClary appears to be a step backward in creating a climate of religious
respect."