Last week, on the heels of the release of the alarming statistics on religious harassment at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Academy held a religious respect conference. Who wasn’t invited to this religious respect conference? The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) — the only organization representing service members of all religions as well as non-theists. Apparently, although now representing more than 20,000 service members in their battles against religious intolerance and harassment, MRFF was not invited because, according to LTC John Bryan, the Academy’s director of public affairs, “they are not involved in the process.”
One Academy faculty member, who called the conference a “travesty,” said of MRFF’s exclusion, “I’m very disappointed that they would, at this time, not invite [MRFF] … Why is it that a big supporter of religious freedom in the military is not here?”
The statistics on religious harassment, from the Academy’s bi-annual “climate survey,” were only made public after a demand from MRFF and a number of other organizations, both religious and secular, who signed onto MRFF’s letter to the Secretary of Defense.
One of the most serious issues highlighted in MRFF’s letter (an issue that would have been addressed at the Academy’s religious respect conference if MRFF had been invited) is the problem of fundamentalist Christian ministries being given free reign over Academy cadets — particularly a ministry called Cadets for Christ, described by the parents of several cadets recruited by this ministry as a “cult.”
Under the influence of Cadets for Christ, one recent Academy graduate is now completely estranged from her family. Why? because they are Catholic, and therefore unsaved according to Cadets for Christ founders Don and Anna Warrick.
The havoc being wreaked on the families of cadets who fall under the influence of the Warricks can only be adequately expressed by one of the families ripped apart by this “cult.” What follows is a “holiday letter” from the Baas family to the Warricks, with an introduction to Air Force Academy superintendent LTG Mike Gould, to whom this letter was also sent.
I, and everyone else at MRFF, would like to sincerely thank the Baas family for their courage in being willing to go public with their story.
From: Jean Baas
Date: November 20, 2010 10:19:07 PM CST
Subject: Don and Anna Warrick — Cadets for Christ
As many families write annual holiday letters to update relatives and friends of noteworthy events over the past year, we have chosen to write on behalf of ourselves and countless others that have fallen prey to the fundamentalist Christian religious cult, “Cadets for Christ” at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). We are Peter, Jean and Emily Baas. Lauren is 2010 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. To date, USAFA completely denies that unconstitutional proselytizing exists on their campus even though innumerable witness accounts and results of the recent climate survey irrefutably contradict their knowingly false and deliberately misleading public statements. We choose to share this letter with the public to give specific insight that this covert proselytizing operation is very much alive and prospering at the United States Air Force Academy.
Mr. and Mrs. Warrick:
As the holidays are upon us, let us give you an update of the Baas family. Lauren will not be coming home. Her presence will be missed enormously as we celebrate our holidays filled with love and rich in family tradition. Words cannot express the heartache YOU have caused. Do not attempt to trivialize these circumstances with the rationalization that we are merely a family that cannot accept the fact that their daughter has “chosen” to change religions and marry outside the Catholic faith. YOU KNOW, AS WELL AS WE, THIS STATEMENT IS SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH!!! You have taken Lauren’s mind and soul and twisted it to your fundamentalist Christian liking. She was brainwashed to believe she was “unenlightened” and an “unsaved fool” in the Catholic faith. She now lives in fear of God and feels “shameful” if she does not continually stand guard against “ungodly people.” You have trained your “soldiers of God” and now cowardly hide behind them. YOUR DESTRUCTIVE TEACHINGS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE ARE INCOMPREHENSIBLE!!! May God truly have mercy on your soul.
Did you ever have the guts to ask Lauren about her career goals before squelching them? From birth she was a very determined individual. As parents, we taught her to work hard and be persistent in any endeavor she chose to undertake. She completed elementary and high school with great pride and high academic achievement. Her next goal was to graduate from the United States Air Force Academy and become a USAF pilot. Of course, being a female, you made sure that goal was extinguished. In your words, she is the sheep and her career is to follow the male shepherd. HOW DARE YOU PLAY GOD!!!
Did you know that Lauren never experienced the thrill of dating someone? Growing up, she was always quiet, shy and spoke of getting her feet on the ground before entering the dating arena. Of course, you instructed her that God sent a USAFA Cadet over two years her junior, to be her life long partner. They never had the opportunity to date, as it would interfere with their “Bible study.” Five months into their relationship you were shoving “Biblical” marriage preparation materials down their throats!!! Don’t tell us that you had no part in orchestrating their engagement. YOUR SELFISH GOAL WAS TO PERPETUATE THE FUNDAMENTALIST EVANGELICAL MISSION!!!
Did you know that we speak for many families that have been destroyed by you? We know you are very aware that many parents do not come forward because they fear irreparably severing a now very fragile relationship with their child. You have taught our children to tolerate us so long as we do not question your “teachings.” If we do, we are to be cast aside and treated as if we are Satan himself. You have no regard for the family that has loved and nurtured these USAF Academy cadets into young adulthood. THEY BECOME EASY PREY WHEN THEY ARE RELIGIOUS, TRUSTING AND FAR AWAY FROM HOME……DON’T THEY?!!!
For the above reason, we have joined forces with the only entity willing to selflessly assist us and the only organization that understands the oppressive evil you perpetrate; the civil rights fighters at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Together with MRFF we will FIGHT FOR FREEDOM OF RELIGION at the United States Air Force Academy. We are keenly aware that Lauren must now denounce us because your “teachings” are being questioned. You cannot continue to destroy young USAF Academy cadets’ lives and the lives of their families. We have always taught our children to stand up for what is right and we will not let them down now. We will NEVER stop fighting against your vile, calculated and cold efforts to subvert the U.S. Constitution and teach our precious daughters that they are designated by your twisted version of Jesus to be a second-class citizen “sheep” consigned to doing the will of their assigned male overseers.
Peter, Jean, and Emily Baas
Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.