Air Force Academy cadets: No anti-gay culture, issues with ‘ex-gay’ activist

U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

COLORADO SPRINGS — A group of openly gay U.S. Air Force Academy cadets said Friday they have had no negative interaction with, or objections to the continued employment of a former conversion therapy counselor and long-time proponent of the “ex-gay” movement.

The cadets, members of Spectrum, the Academy’s equivalent to a gay-straight alliance, were responding to recent reports that Dr. Mike Rosebush — who once served as a director for the now-defunct Exodus International, a Christian ministry devoted to performing the controversial gay-to-straight “reparative” therapy” — is now employed at the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development.

Rosebush is also 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.

But in a call with Academy officials and members of the press Friday, one cadet offered that neither he, nor a majority of his peers had even heard of Rosebush or his background.

“It disappoints me that someone like that is on our faculty,” said one cadet, “but he is allowed to think what he wants. As long as he doesn’t pressure others, it’s fine.”

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 or their daily interactions with each other. They denied suggestions that the academy has fostered an anti-gay culture.

The controversy erupted earlier this week when a gay activist-blogger alleged that Rosebush could potentially utilize his position as a “Chief” for the Academy’s Center of Character and Leadership Development counseling teams to influence or promote anti-gay animus at the academy.

But when contacted by LGBTQ Nation, Academy chief spokesperson David Cannon said that the issues raised, including Rosebush’s title and job description, were “substantially and factually inaccurate.”

LGBTQ Nation was able to confirm that Rosebush works as a Senior Operations Research Analyst for the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development, was hired by the academy in 2009, and moved into his current position in 2011. His employment is not a recent development, as implied by some blogs.

According to Cannon, Rosebush does not have direct or daily contact with cadets in a capacity as a counselor, and that his job is to execute administrative plans to assist the counselors and staff who do work directly with the cadets.

Rosebush’s employment at the Academy had also been questioned by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an organization that advocates for the separation of church and state in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The MRFF sent a letter this week to Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning demanding that the Air Force terminate Rosebush’s employment at the Academy.

The MRFF also cites a letter it claims it received from one cadet, who wrote: “If I and the many other cadets I know who are LGB came out it would be devastating for our cadet and future Air Force careers.”

On Friday, Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, an LGBT advocacy group focused on service members and their families, 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.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson said in a prepared statement that while the Academy would be reviewing the hiring process regarding Rosebush’s employment, “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.”

“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,” said Johnson.

A statement issued by Acting U.S. Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning’s office said it had “the utmost confidence in Lt. Gen. Johnson’s ability to lead her organization.”

The Blue Alliance, an Academy LGBT alumni association, said they were supportive of the Academy’s efforts to maintain “full transparency” over the issue of Rosebush’s employment, and that Academy officials have positively addressed their concerns.

But MRFF president Michael Weinstein told LGBTQ Nation Friday, that his organization is not satisfied with the Academy’s response, and said the Academy is being disingenuous as to the “real world” impact having any anti-gay activist on staff.

Rosebush has declined to make any statements to the media.

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