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Originally published Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Promotion sought for officer in bias probe at Air Force Academy

The Pentagon said yesterday it wants to promote a top commander at the Air Force Academy — a born-again Christian who has been the...

The Associated Press

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Pentagon said yesterday it wants to promote a top commander at the Air Force Academy — a born-again Christian who has been the subject of complaints that he improperly mixes religion with education.

The announcement about Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida came one day before the scheduled arrival of a task force investigating allegations that cadets were pressured to attend religious services, that public prayers were held before official events, and that Jewish cadets were harassed and insulted at the Colorado Springs school.

Cadets, faculty and staff were sent e-mails yesterday announcing the task force's visit and encouraging meetings with officials investigating complaints of religious intolerance.

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."

Later he issued a memo stating that cadets are accountable first to their God.

Through a spokesman, Weida declined to comment yesterday on either the religious-tolerance issue or his pending promotion. Academy officials earlier 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 religious-tolerance inquiry.

Keck said the board recommends promotions based on an officer's record and potential.

"I am absolutely shocked that anyone would get a promotion in the middle of an investigation in which he is a central figure," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

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