On Feb 10th, 2011, Lt Clebe McClary, Vietnam hero and evangelical Christian speaker, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at US Air Force Academy's official prayer luncheon. This luncheon is advertised through official channels to the non-cadet staff although cadets may attend. MAAF and other organizations presented a number of concerns about Lt McClary's official website, which presented a message promoting a Christian military. The Academy was also asked about whether it has a preference for evangelical Christian speakers at these types of events. MAAF maintains its objection to official military prayer events, and this keynote speaker presented a special concern.
MAAF reached out to Academy officials to craft an official statement that would directly address our concerns about the prayer event. In phone conversations, Academy officials listened and started moving forward to craft a meaningful response. The response we requested included denouncing McClary's "Lord's Army" and "Marine for Christ" commentary. We also requested assurances of more religious diversity in future keynote speakers. Officials recognized the importance of having no implication that anyone be required to go. They pointed out that the venue for the luncheon can accommodate less than 10% of the Wing staff, before cadets, which implies that there will be little room for unwilling participants. USAFA also plans to publish a video of the event.
Lt Clebe McClary could step up and resolve at least some of the problems about the event. He is a war hero and private citizen who promotes a Christian military on his website. Reports from his supporters say that the message on his website is not really representative of his talks. After phone calls and emails from MAAF for the last two weeks, Lt McClary has declined to respond. With no communication, the assumption must be that website represents his intentions.
MAAF continues to reach out for real action to find solutions to issues at the Academy and other areas. Lawsuits and media involvement shouldn't be required to prevent issues. In this instance, many concerns remain and the Academy is scheduled to have a keynote speaker at a prayer breakfast who promotes a Christian military. With the recent MRFF lawsuit, the Academy is unwilling to comment further. While this issue has unfortunately been lost to the courts, I am hopefully that collaboration will work in other areas.
follow-up: While there were no official references, McClary has entirely changed his website, moving the "US Marine for Christ" and "Lord's Army" references to the front page. McClary's message as listed on his site has a political agenda to subvert the military for evangelical Christianity. This should eliminate him from consideration for any official government event.