Air Force Academy Coach Tweets to Evangelize God, Draws 'Church and State' Criticism
Air Force Academy Falcon's football tight end coach Steed Lobotzke's tweets involve promoting Christianity. Because the tweets were sent on a Twitter account that identifies Lobotzke as being with the academy's football program, Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is strenuously objecting to the coach's lack of separation of church and state, and wants accountability to be established.
Most of Lobotzke's tweets are related to academy football, including team and academy photos. But he also uses the Twitter account to evangelize and to cite Bible verses. In fact, one tweet from Nov. 17 appeared as Steed [email protected] : "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom 10:9."
Weinstein and MRFF leaders now are representing five members of the Academy's Athletic Department and three members of its "Fighting Falcon" football team as complainants who have come forward, stating this Twitter issue is "a disgrace to the Constitution of unlawful, fundamentalist Christian supremacy." MRFF legal counselors said they plan to file an official Inspector General Complaint to "protect the precious freedoms guaranteed by the separation of church and state in the nation's Constitution."
This isn't the first time Weinstein raised questions and allegations that the Air Force Academy favored Christianity. In 2004, then-Falcons coach Fisher DeBerry officially was reprimanded for hanging a banner in the football team's locker room that said, "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." The incident triggered a vow from academy's officials to instruct cadets in religious sensitivity, while balancing their right to freedom of expression with the prohibition of government establishment of religion contained in the U.S. Constitution.
Twelve years later, Weinstein's concerns about this football community issue arises in the wake of two other issues at the academy involving Christianity: AFA cadet wears uniform for Christian testimonial and Did dinosaurs and humans co-exist? Flier at USAFA says yes.
As Weinstein notes in an email to the Independent, "There is no disclaimer on his Twitter page saying that these are his own views and not the views of the Air Force Academy. In checking most of the other USAFA Football coaches twitter accounts, we did not find any evidence of them using their official accounts to promote their personal religion."
People's reaction on social media to Lobotzke's tweets vary. One person stated: "There is nothing wrong or unconstitutional about him tweeting out verses on his [Lobotzke's] own personal Twitter account. Mikey is just sensationalizing something out of nothing to get a rise out of people. The same with my employer, they cannot do anything about me tweeting out scripture verses on my own Twitter account. The same could be said for any person in Congress, if they tweeted anything out about their faith in Christ on their personal Twitter account, nothing could be done about it. It is called freedom of religion and freedom of speech."
While another person opposed, stating: "The coach works for the USAF Academy which is a government institution funded by the US taxpayer; therefore, he violated the separation clause of state and religion. The coach will be the one that will have astro-turf all over his face once Weinstein gets done with him. Again Congress has exempt itself from many federal rules and laws that most of us have to follow."
Weinstein leads a national movement to restore a wall separating church and state in the U.S. armed forces. His family has a distinguished U.S. military history spanning three consecutive generations of military academy graduates and 130-plus years of combined active duty military service.