Air Force General in Probe Is Nominated for a 2nd Star
The Pentagon said Monday that it wanted to promote one of the top commanders at the Air Force Academy, a “born-again” Christian who has been the subject of complaints that he improperly mixed religion with education.
The announcement came one day before the scheduled arrival of a task force investigating allegations that cadets were pressured to attend religious services, public prayers were held before official events and Jewish cadets were harassed.
Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, the academy’s No. 2 officer, was nominated to receive the second star of a major general.
In an e-mail in May 2003, Weida urged cadets to “ask the Lord to give us the wisdom to discover the right.... The Lord is in control. He has a plan for ... every one of us.”
Later he issued a memo stating that cadets were accountable first to their God.
Through a spokesman, Weida declined to comment Monday. Earlier, academy officials said Weida now runs his messages by several other commanders before sending them.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Gary Keck said he could not comment on whether the board that recommended Weida’s promotion knew of the inquiry.
Keck said the board recommended promotions based on an officer’s record and potential. He said he had no specifics on Weida’s promotion.
The nomination angered critics of the academy.
“I am absolutely shocked that anyone would get a promotion in the middle of an investigation in which he is a central figure.... It casts doubt on the seriousness of this ongoing investigation,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. His group conducted an investigation of religious intolerance at the academy and has threatened a lawsuit.