Last week, some troubling news came out of the United States Air Force Academy. Following a complaint from a local, anti-religious organization, a cadet was induced to erase a Bible verse from the whiteboard outside of his room. Here is the letter I sent to Air Force Academy Superintendent Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson and I await her reply.
Dear Lieutenant General Johnson,
I am deeply concerned and outraged by recent news reports indicating that an Air Force Cadet was forced to remove a Bible verse from the whiteboard posted outside his room. I was further troubled to learn that the apparent reason the Cadet in question had to remove this verse was due to the fact that he is in a position of leadership. This suggests that a Cadet in a leadership role may have less religious freedom than Cadets in the rank and file.
Religious liberty is a foundational component of America’s greatness, and was rightfully promised by the Constitution to all our nation’s citizens, including those who dedicate their lives to our nation’s defense. This truth should apply throughout all ranks, and those who pursue leadership positions should not be forced to sacrifice their religious freedom in order to lead.
Religious freedom and religious tolerance go hand in hand. Censoring Bible verses or any religious text for that matter, from personal or even common areas at the Air Force Academy suggests an apparent anti-religion bias rather than a rational approach that supports tolerance of all faiths. We are asking future officers to perhaps give even their very lives to protect and defend the Constitution and yet denying them rights from that same Constitution.
While initial reporting has indicated that the Cadet in question is facing no punishment, aside from being forced to remove the Bible verse, I would appreciate a full accounting of this incident. It may be that the officer who censored the Cadet should be the one who should be punished. I would also like an explanation of the apparent distinction drawn between those in leadership and other Cadet’s regarding religious freedom. I would also appreciate an explanation of the apparent influence the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has at the Air Force Academy in legal and media issues relating to decisions on Cadets’ religious practices over the past 5 years. The MRFF is an organization that seems to detest religious expression of any faith, and has become so outlandish in its claims that it should simply be ignored.
The brave men and women serving to protect the Constitutional rights of all Americans should not have their own Constitutional rights stifled as they carry out that task. I urge you to reconsider your decision to censor this Cadet’s religious beliefs, and to set the record straight on where the Air Force stands with regard to the religious liberty of all Cadets.
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It is an honor to serve you in Congress.
What’s Happening in Washington DC?
• On Friday, March 14th, in the House Armed Services Committee, I was able to question Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mike Walsh during a hearing on the Air Force’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget proposal. Topics included religious liberty, USAFA flight paths and budget, and firefighting capabilities out of Peterson AFB.
• On Thursday, March 13th, I was able to question Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki during his presentation on the VA’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget proposal. I was able to ask questions regarding the new VA Cemetery in Southern Colorado and on case backlogs.
View my questioning of Secretary Shinseki HERE
• On Tuesday, March 11th, I supported two bills designed to help employers deal with the impacts of Obamacare. H.R. 3474, the Hire More Heroes Act of 2013, passed overwhelmingly by a 406 to 1 margin, amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow employers to exclude employees who get their health care under TRICARE or from the Veterans Administration from the calculations used to determine whether an employer is an applicable large employer and therefore subject to the employer mandate under Obamacare. H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014, passed unanimously in the House, amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to ensure certain emergency services volunteers are not counted when determining the number of full-time employees or full-time equivalents of an employer for the purposes of the employer mandate in Obamacare. It is very important to help our employers navigate through the tangled labyrinth of Obamacare regulations. That’s why I supported these two common-sense bills designed to help our job creators more accurately account for the employees they are obligated to cover under Obamacare. By hiring our veterans, employers will be bringing on board hard-working individuals with exceptional skill sets, all while avoiding onerous mandates. Additionally, H.R. 3979 prevents our much needed volunteer fire departments from enduring additional hardships thanks to Obamacare’s short sighted mandates.
• Last week, I joined bipartisan House majorities in working to restore balance to our system of co-equal branches of government. H.R. 4138, the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014, passed by a bipartisan majority of 233 to 181. This bill establishes a procedure for the House of Representatives or the Senate to authorize a lawsuit against the executive branch for failing to faithfully execute the laws. Specifically, the bill allows the House or Senate to adopt a resolution authorizing a civil action if the President or any federal officer establishes or implements a policy to refrain from enforcing the law. H.R. 3973, the Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014, passed by a bipartisan majority of 244 to 171. This bill amends federal law to require the Attorney General to report to Congress any time a federal official establishes or implements a formal or informal policy to refrain from enforcing any provisions of federal law. The Founding Fathers set up a system with equal branches of government. As a former constitutional law professor, President Obama should know better when it comes to executive overreach. However, the President regularly ignores or delays provisions of laws that he dislikes. Examples include delaying vast sections of Obamacare, immigration law, welfare law, and environmental law. It is inappropriate for any President to overstep his constitutional limits, that is why the House took an important step this evening to stand up for our constitutional system of government.
• On Friday, March 14th, I joined a strong, bipartisan majority in passing H.R. 4015, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Act of 2014 by a vote of 238 to 181. I was happy to support a permanent Sustainable Growth Rate fix for our nation’s healthcare providers. This is a problem that Congress has worked to fix since 1997. For years, I have heard from Colorado doctors about their first-hand experiences dealing with these temporary and expensive “fixes”. This bipartisan, bicameral policy reform ends the temporary fixes that caused annual uncertainty and doubt in our medical community. The bill is also fully paid for by delaying the Obamacare individual mandate tax penalty for the next five years and will result in nearly $21 billion in deficit reduction. Under this legislation, providers would be able to focus on patient care without the twin burdens of financial and regulatory uncertainty hanging over their heads.
In Other News…
• Wednesday, March 12th marked 2,000 days since the Keystone XL Pipeline applications were submitted to the Obama Administration for approval. That’s 2,000 days preventing tens of thousands of Americans from working. That’s unacceptable and it’s why the Keystone Pipeline has been supported by bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress. Please click HERE to learn the facts about this important project.
• 5 Things the Keystone Pipeline Will Do to Build Our Economy
1) Create at least 42,100 jobs: Construction spending would support a combined total of approximately 42,100 jobs throughout the United States for the up to 2-year construction period. (SOURCE: Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. State Department, January 2014)
2) Create a more energy independent North America: Construction of the Pipeline would reduce U.S. dependency on non-Canadian foreign oil including oil from the Middle East. (SOURCE: Keystone XL Assessment, EnSys Energy & Systems, Inc, December 23, 2010)
3) $7 billion spent in the United States on the project: TransCanada reports, “the $7 billion oil pipeline is the largest infrastructure project on the books in the U.S. right now. (SOURCE: Media Advisory – TransCanada Releases Detailed Keystone XL Job Creation Data, Trans Canada, January 10, 2012)
4) Contribute approximately $3.4 billion to the U.S. GDP during construction: Construction of the proposed Project would contribute approximately $3.4 billion to the U.S. GDP. This figure includes not only earnings by workers, but all other income earned by businesses and individuals engaged in the production of goods and services demanded by the proposed Project. (SOURCE: Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. State Department, January 2014)
5) Generate tax revenue in several states and collectively boosts Gross State Products by billions: Property tax revenue during operations would be substantial for many counties, with an increase of 10 percent or more in 17 of the 27 counties with proposed Project facilities. (SOURCE: Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. State Department, January 2014)
• There has been quite a bit of national attention paid to the Bible verse whiteboard scandal at the Air Force Academy. Please click HERE to see Todd Starnes’ story from Fox News and click HERE to see Zac Crippen’s piece in The Federalist.
What Say You?
One of the most important things I can do is listen to my constituents. My staff and I get thousands of phone calls, emails, letters, and social media postings every week. Here is a sampling of what you are saying.
On my Facebook this week constituents shared their thoughts on the Bible verse whiteboard scandal at the Air Force Academy and my letter to Academy Superintendent Lt. General Johnson:
Comment: Our military has lost their cojones. We have let the minor rule the majority. What has happen to the rights of all? When did we lose the ability to say “kiss my a>>”.
Integrity in Leadership