Monday, June 06, 2005
U.S. Airforce Academy and Religion
An organization called Americans United for Separation of Church and State has documented what is happening inside the [Air Force] academy's walls. A 14-page report issued by the group [available here in pdf format] enumerates numerous incidents, all of which share a common denominator - promotion of religion by the academy and its highest-ranking officers. In one case, the coach of the academy's football team hung a large sign in the locker room reading, "I am a Christian first and last - I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." In another case, a chaplain at the base gave a lecture to a group of cadets. At the lecture's conclusion, he dispatched them to their friends who had not attended and instructed them to proselyte them (including lobbying Christians to "rediscover" Jesus). He also said they had to tell their friends that if they did not do so, they would "burn in the fires of Hell."
More examples: Soldiers who did not agree to take part in prayer services after dinner were marched outside the dining hall, with other cadets issuing orders to them; numerous mandatory events opened with the recitation of Protestant prayers; the back cover of the base newspaper's Christmas edition featured a large advertisement signed by 300 people, including many of the academy's highest-ranking officers, stating: "We believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and "There is salvation in no one else."
Aside from the systematic promotion of Christianity, and its evangelical denomination in particular, on the grounds of the Air Force Academy, the group also reported cases of discrimination against non-Christian pilot cadets. For instance, when Christian cadets wished to leave campus on Sunday and attend church or religious classes, the request was granted without difficulty and without the cadets losing vacation days; when under similar circumstances Jews asked to leave the base, they were not permitted, or had the days deducted from their vacation time. Moreover, Jews on the base reported that the strain of training activity on Saturdays was so intense that they often had no opportunity to attend services.