Amid the recent furor over the Air Force Academy's alleged failure to uphold the law protecting gays in the military, the academy released a statement Thursday assuring the public that its culture does not inhibit gay cadets "in any way."
But it appears not all of the academy's gay cadets are buying it.
One of these cadets sent a letter on Thursday to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group dedicated to maintaining the separation of church and state in the United States military. At the cadet's request, the MRFF said it would not release their name, because the cadet is not openly gay. Despite the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell more than two years ago if a cadet is gay and out at the Air Force Academy, their career is "finished," the letter says.
"If I and the many other cadets I know who are LGB came out it would be devastating for our cadet and future Air Force careers," it continues.
The controversy began earlier this week when news broke that Mike Rosebush, who oversees the “Character and Leadership” coaching program, previously worked as an ex-gay therapist, a controversial practice that purports to make gay people straight. He was also the vice president of the Focus on the Family Institute, an anti-gay organization that promotes the therapy.
The academy's statement describes a meeting between its leadership and cadets that belong to Spectrum, the school's gay-straight alliance. According to the statement, cadets in Spectrum are "proud to be in the Air Force," and the academy is a "safe and validating place to be LGBQ."
Air Force Capt. Michelle L. Reinstatler, an instructor in the English department who was at the meeting, said in the statement, "Several cadets have told me they are frustrated with the articles disparaging USAFA; these articles do not take into account the extensive support our LGBQ cadets have received from Academy leadership or the reality of the Academy's inclusive environment."
The Air Force Academy released a statement from Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff, on Friday saying the academy is looking into the matter.
"The Air Force is comprised of a rich workforce whose backgrounds reflect various races, origins, orientations, ethnicities, languages, cultures and life experiences," it said. "We promote an atmosphere of inclusion throughout our ranks and strive to ensure every Airman is treated with dignity and respect."
Edith Disler, the director of LGBT affairs to the MRFF and a former faculty member at the academy, said that when she read the school's description of the meeting between high-level officials and gay cadets she "laughed."
"Do you really think they're going to have an open and engaging conversation? I don't think so."
Disler is gay, which was not publicly known when she taught at the academy because she retired in 2009 before the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. "They've made gestures," she said, of the academy's attempts to obey the new law. "It's a big deal that they have an LGBTQ affinity group, and I'm glad there are some that feel they can attend it, but I think the overarching power structure is unchanged. The power structure is that people are silent."
The full text of the anonymous gay cadet's letter, which was sent to Mikey Weinstein, the founder and head of MRFF:
I am writing this to you today as a client of the MRFF. I happen to be gay. Please keep all of my information confidential as you always do.
I happen to not be out and have no intention of ever being out while I attend USAFA. I am a current cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. I am a Christian. I am also an athlete on one of USAFA's most publicized NCAA intercollegiate teams here. I have been a client of the MRFF for a while now. It's the only help we have and it's a great source of security for me and other gay cadets. So thank you always for that.
I saw USAFA's self serving press release today about how "happy" all the gay cadets are here. How nice of all of the powers that be to meet with the Spectrum Club all of the sudden now that they're in the shits with the media and getting jacked up everywhere for hiring Rosebush. Of course to be in Spectrum you have to out yourself. If I and the many other cadets I know who are LGB came out it would be devastating for our cadet and future Air Force careers. I could never stay on my intercollegiate team. Being LGB here is like not being an "all in" Christian. You're finished.
What a crock that press release is. What a crock the academy leaders are for keeping Rosebush here. Anyways, I don't have time to elaborate. Mikey you know how bad it is because we tell you and you have seen it. Those of us who are LGB live in the worst fear of being outted at any moment and suffering for it. Maybe Rosebush can magically make us all "ungay"? Do you know how it makes us feel to know that our school has a man like that here? And how many other Rosebushes are here? If people can't see it now they never will. Having USAFA keep a person like Rosebush on staff at CCLD here shames all of us. He believes we made a choice to be LGB. He believes us to be "sick" with that gay disease. He believes we are sinning and will go to hell if we don't repent through Jesus and "choose" to be straight. And he has a "counseling" plan to make us all straight? Doesn't anyone of the highger ups here know how that makes us feel? It takes away our dignity as human beings. It takes away everything of value.
MIkey, I have to go study. Have finals. Hope this helps explain how so many of us feel destroyed now. Thank you and the MRFF for calling on the Air Force to fire Rosebush. As if that will ever happen.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect a statement released Friday from Air Force personnel.