Gay Air Academy Cadets tell reporters no issues with anti-gay activist
By Brody Levesque | COLORADO SPRINGS -- A group of openly gay USAF Academy cadets participated in a conference call with reporters Friday, telling journalists that they and many of their peers in the Cadet Wing had not experienced any problems with anti-gay activist and reparative therapy proponent Dr. Mike Rosebush.
The three are members of the USAFA's Spectrum, the Academy's equivalent to a 'Rainbow' support group for LGBT cadets, and at the request of the Academy were only identified by their first names.
The controversy had erupted earlier in this past week when a gay activist-blogger had written an article charging that Rosebush was potentially proselytizing to the cadets utilizing his position as a "Chief" for the Academy’s Center of Character and Leadership Development counseling teams.
When contacted by LGBTQ Nation, Academy spokesperson David Cannon said that the issues raised including Rosebush's actual job description were "substantially and factually inaccurate."
LGBTQ Nation verified that Rosebush, who works as a research analyst for the academy’s Center of Character and Leadership Development, was hired by the academy in 2009, and then moved into his current position in 2011.
His job is to execute administrative plans to assist the counselors and staff in helping the cadets with the programs offered by the center and as such does not have direct daily contact with cadets in a capacity as a counselor.
Rosebush is a former vice-president of Focus on the Family, one of the foremost anti-LGBT organizations in the country, has been a clinical member of NARTH (The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), and claims that he himself has been “cured” of homosexuality.
During the press call, cadets were asked if they had any direct experience with Rosebrush and one cadet offered that not only had he not heard of him before the activist community raised the issue, he said that a majority of his peers had no idea who he (Rosebrush) was. When asked if Rosebrush's presence at the Academy troubled them, all agreed that while his background was "troubling" for them and their LGB peers, they didn't have a problem with him per se as they just viewed him as another member of the staff.
“It disappoints me that someone like that is on our faculty,” one of the cadets said, “but he is allowed to think what he wants. As long as he doesn't’t pressure others, that’s fine.”
Awareness of Rosebrush's position at the Academy had also been questioned by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization that advocates for the separation of church and state in the U.S. Armed Forces, which sent a letter this week to Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning demanding that the Air Force terminate Rosebrush's employment at the Academy.
MRFF's letter was echoed Friday by Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, an LGBTQ equality rights advocacy group focused on servicemembers and their families, who called for an independent investigation of Rosebush’s hiring and the culture at the academy.
“We have grave concerns about how these gay and lesbian cadets are being treated, whether the Academy leadership is truly committed to creating a non-discriminatory culture, and whether an effective reporting and investigative system exists to give these future military leaders a proper avenue of redress,” Peters said in a prepared statement.
The Air Force secretary's office responded to the ongoing controversy and released a statement Friday stating;
"The Air Force is comprised of a rich workforce whose backgrounds reflect various races, origins, orientations, ethnicities, languages, cultures and life experiences. We promote an atmosphere of inclusion throughout our ranks and strive to ensure every Airman is treated with dignity and respect. If we fail to do that, at any level on the team, we break faith with our core values that hold us together.
The Air Force Academy and its leadership are looking into the personnel matter and are keeping us updated. We have the utmost confidence in Lt Gen Johnson's ability to lead her organization."
Regarding the allegations saying the Air Force's Academy not being a welcoming place for LGBQ cadets, the cadets pointed out that the Academy's Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson had met with LGB cadets Thursday to discuss the Rosebrush issue. All of the cadets participating in the press call felt that the Superintendent was acting in their best interests and those of their LGBT peers including cadets who are still closeted.
The cadets acknowledged that they all had faced homophobic and discriminatory individuals within the Cadet Wing, but characterized those interactions as isolated events that have little to do with Academy life and their daily interactions with each other. They denied suggestions that the academy has fostered an anti-gay culture.
USAF Captain Michelle L. Reinstatler, the Officer in Charge of Spectrum, (AF equivalent to faculty adviser) who also participated in the press call noted:
"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."
Academy's Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson a prepared statement said;
(...) "The Air Force's Academy respects the rights of all people and we endeavor to reinforce and foster a culture of dignity, respect and inclusion for all. The Academy prides itself on its inclusive environment and is absolutely a safe and validating place for all active duty Airmen, civilian Airmen and cadets - whether they are LGBQ or not.
Johnson also stated that the Academy would be reviewing the hiring process regarding Dr. Rosebush's employment at the Academy, acknowledging;
"We realize the hiring of Dr. Mike Rosebush is a raw and emotional issue to many people on both sides of the issue surrounding reports in the media about his background and alleged beliefs."
The Blue Alliance, an Academy LGBT alumni association, said that they were supportive of the Academy's efforts to maintain "full transparency" over the issue of Dr. Rosebush, and that Air Force Academy officials had positively addressed their concerns.
But, Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey Weinstein told LGBTQ Nation Friday, that his organisation is not satisfied with the Academy's reaction to the Rosebrush controversy, saying that MRFF's clients, many of them whom are LGBT at the Academy, are still fearful of a negative impact on their careers, and that the Academy is being disingenuous as to the "real world" impact having any anti-gay activist on staff and dealing with programs that affect the cadets.