Air Force Academy not religiously neutral


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CentralTexas
October 6, 2005, 02:51 PM
Air Force Sued Over Religious Intolerance By TIM KORTE, Associated Press Writer
50 minutes ago

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A New Mexico man sued the Air Force on Thursday, claiming Air Force Academy senior officers and cadets illegally imposed Christianity on others at the school.

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The suit was filed in federal court by Mikey Weinstein, an academy graduate and outspoken critic of the school's handling of religion.

Over the past decade or more, the suit claims, academy leaders have fostered an environment of religious intolerance at the Colorado school, in violation of the First Amendment.

Weinstein claims that evangelical Christians at the school have coerced attendance at religious services and prayers at official events, among other things.

"It's a shocking disgrace that I had to file this thing," Weinstein told The Associated Press.

The Air Force declined immediate comment.

Cadets, watchdog groups and a former chaplain at the academy have alleged that religious intolerance is widespread at the school. On Aug. 29, the Air Force issued guidelines discouraging public prayer at official functions and urging commanders to be sensitive about personal expressions of religious faith.

There have been complaints at the academy that a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and that another Jew was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet. A banner in the football team's locker room read: "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

Also, there have been complaints that cadets were pressured to attend chapel, that academy staffers put New Testament verses in government e-mail, and that cadets used the e-mail system to encourage others to see the Mel Gibson movie "The Passion of the Christ."

Weinstein, who is Jewish and lives in Albuquerque, said the Air Force has violated cadets' right to worship as they choose.

"My problem is not with Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity or even evangelical Christianity," he said. "It's that whenever a religion in this case a group of people tries to engage the machinery of the state, it is constitutionally repugnant and violative."

The lawsuit, which names the Air Force and its acting secretary, Pete Geren, as defendants, asks the Air Force to prohibit its members including chaplains from evangelizing and proselytizing or in any related way attempting "to involuntarily convert, pressure, exhort or persuade a fellow member of the USAF to accept their own religious beliefs while on duty."

In June, an Air Force task force said it found no overt religious discrimination but observed a lack of sensitivity among some and confusion over what is permissible in sharing one's faith.

After a July visit to the academy, a team from the Yale Divinity School issued a report last month saying it found lingering problems among the academy's chaplains, whose activities may conflict with the goals of school leaders and the Air Force overall.

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Sam
October 6, 2005, 03:09 PM
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa MPH!

Sam

skidmark
October 6, 2005, 03:45 PM
I've followed this since it first became a news story about 18 months ago.

I'm about as tolerant as a guy can get over you having your own religion, but from what I've read from some of the Congressional & DOD hearings on this, there have been some activities that went over the line. I do not recall anything about cadets not being allowed to practice their own religion, but there was quite a bit of stuff going on that looked, walked and sounded like superiors (commissioned and cadet) pushing their religious beliefs and practices on subordinate cadets. It seemed to be more than "a lack of sensetivity" there.

I am not sure what the Yale School of Devinity report says (have not see that yet) but if USAFA do follow through with the plans laid out following the DOD hearings, this will straighten itself out quietly and quickly. I am not sure why the lawsuit was filed at this time, or why it only seeks an injunction to force the USAFA to do what it has already set in motion to do. But the skeptic in me thinks this graduate of USAFA sees $$ on his horizon.

stay safe.

skidmark :uhoh:

Sam
October 6, 2005, 06:23 PM
The only remarkable thing about it is that young Curtiss never bothered to do anything about it himself. Appears that no one else did either. Personally I am very P.Oed that these paragons of character didn't have the gonads to do something about it themselves. When they had something legitimate that they could and should have complained about, they sat on their thumbs till daddy called to fix it.

I am paying good money to have a million dollar education shoved up their posterior 1 nickle at at time to "build character and leadership" and want the money spent on people with character who might have the potential to become leaders.

Don't want to hear about adverse impact, being thrown out of school or any of that crap. These are supposed to be people of character, people who are supposed to lead your children(and maybe some of you) off to the wars, and make the hard decisions, and can't come up with the balls to stop an abuse.
Pitch the whole lot. :fire:

Sam

Hawkmoon
October 6, 2005, 09:26 PM
Might I be so bold as to remind everyone that this is coming out of the very same Air Force Academy that denied for more than a decade that female cadets were being subjected to sexual harrassment and went about their educations in constant danger of being raped or sexually assaulted by their superiors.

I have no idea how it happened, but the USAFA is an absolute disgrace. IMHO every administrator and instructor at the place should be shown the highway, and an entirely new team brought in.

XLMiguel
October 7, 2005, 10:16 AM
A fish rots from the head down. This kind of crap wouldn't be going on if it weren't tolerated (and maybe even encouraged) at the top. to me, this sounds like basic bulllying by people who are insecure in ther 'Faith' such that they can't tolerate the possibility that some one may have another belief system that is just as valid as their own. 'Christian' fascists are just as dangerous as Islamic or any other kind of religious fascist. "Faith' is just that - trust in an unproveable belief. If you want people to respect yours, you damn well better understand it's a two way street.

Lord, preserve me from your 'followers'.

AirForceShooter
October 7, 2005, 10:55 AM
I'm with HawkMoon.
The place needs a cleaning.

AFS

Hacker15E
October 7, 2005, 11:00 AM
The USAF in general has become increasingly Christian-slanted during the 11 years I've been in. This is no surprise to me...

At least somebody's finally saying something about it.

RealGun
October 7, 2005, 11:05 AM
The military and the Church both thrive on people being regimented. Marry the two and you have some seriously controlling people who will harass anyone who isn't in line with their program but is unable to freely reject it. There are many signs that this country will have an ongoing conflict about separation of Church and state. Government schools shouldn't even have chaplains, let alone prayers in which everyone is expected to participate. Churches are free to locate near those schools to serve student needs but not on their property and certainly not on their payroll.

SteveS
October 7, 2005, 12:49 PM
The military and the Church both thrive on people being regimented. Marry the two and you have some seriously controlling people who will harass anyone who isn't in line with their program but is unable to freely reject it.

Which church are you talking about? I have never belonged to a church like you describe, but then again, maybe that is just my experience.

pax
October 7, 2005, 12:55 PM
Um.

From the forum rules (http://www.thehighroad.org/code-of-conduct.html):We have learned from bitter experience that discussions of abortion, religion and sexual orientation often degenerate into less-than-polite arguments or claims that "my God is better than your God". For this reason, we do not discuss such subjects on THR, and any threads dealing primarily with these subjects will be closed or deleted immediately. Threads which deal with other subjects, but which mention abortion, religion or sexual orientation as a side issue, may be allowed to continue, but will be closely scrutinized, and closed or deleted if they "cross the line".
As long as folks restrict themselves to discussing the civil liberties aspect of this topic, the thread will stay open.

If it degenerates into "all Christians are slime" vs "athiests suck!" (as it appears to be doing) -- it'll be closed, posthaste.

pax

Keaner
October 7, 2005, 01:14 PM
In my experience (sorry pax if this is over the line), ALOT people suck when it comes to religion. I have no problem with you practicing what you wish, but don't force me to follow.

Although, I am quite guilty of this when it comes to guns. Every time I find someone on the fence (OK, slightly less anti then Brady, and even then...), I try to convince them to the Fun Side of the Firearms Arguement (FSFA). I am quite successful, but mostly because I am convincing my peers. I would never attempt to force someone to believe what I believe as their superior.

This shines more as an abuse of power than a religious issue.

Buck Snort
October 8, 2005, 06:20 AM
Its a cry'n shame to have watch some of our finest educational institutions degenerate into theocracies that make people's live miserable just because everyone does not fall into line behind a particular belief system. I don't have a lot of hope for the future of this country and this is one of the reasons why.

Hacker15E
October 8, 2005, 10:05 AM
some of our finest educational institutions

Are we still talking about the Air Force Academy????

SalukiFan
October 8, 2005, 10:22 PM
It's sad to see this going on at the Air Force Academy. The anti-Semitism especially rankles me. This article reminded me of when I was a cadet in Air Force ROTC when I was in college. There was some interesting stuff going on concerning religion then.

One of the officers in the cadre was very active in Officers' Christian Fellowship. He was a nice guy, a full-bird colonel who was easy to get along with. He often held Bible studies, as a matter-of-fact, I'm pretty sure that he held them at his house.

Well, pretty soon a lot of the cadets were going to Bible studies and getting very buddy-buddy with the Colonel. When I expressed surprise to one cadet that he'd suddenly "got religion" he said that he could really care less but that cadets could get in good with the cadre if they attended. Not being Christian, I couldn't really fake it and go for the sake of getting noticed by the Colonel and other cadre members in the OCF and I began to wonder if this wasn't holding me back somehow.

I didn't stick around for my butter bar but this article made me think of that situation. It's a tough call because of course the Christians in the military have every right to get together and have Bible Studies and that kind of thing but have to be careful about pressuring people to attend.

In the case of the colonel in my case, I'm not even sure that he realized what was going on with people feeling like they needed to go to Bible studies and OCF meetings to get ahead. So if there wasn't intent, could there still be coercion or a religiously intolerant environment?

matis
October 8, 2005, 11:49 PM
For me this is not a simple situation.

I believe that the country is declining on almost every measurable social parameter:

-decline of marriage and the exploding out-of-wedlock birthrate
-single-parent households trying to raise children alone
-the near-collapse of the socialist school system: discipline is outlawed and -- forget the students -- the teachers themselves lack language and math skills or knowledge of history and the founding of this country (but they do have a strong union, don't they?).
-the cheapening and coarsening of the media and the public discourse
-the belief in moral equivalence: aggressors AND their victims who defend themselves are equally condemned as "violent".
-the stupid belief that peace can be maintained without a strong military.
-the socialism that appeals to those who are not taught to stand on their own 2 feet.
-the socialist belief that we can create a heaven on earth through government control.

And so on.


I see all this rot growing in direct proportion to the religious decline in the country.

I am not arguing about the truth or falsity of religious theology. But the values and morals that made the West and especially this country unique, strong and rich are rooted in Judeo-Christian religion, whether one likes it or not. Values like liberty and freedom, private property, respect for the individual and holding him morally responsible, contract law -- these are all rooted in the Bible, like it or not.


So I favor and support religious revival and since the vast majority in the USA are (or used to be) Christian, I strongly support the return to Christianity.

On the other hand, as I Jew, I faced strong anti-semitism growing up in Canada. Name-calling ("dirty Jew, Christ Killer") and physical beatings, as well abuse by teachers in high-school, later facing refusal to hire me and so on.

So I well understand what may be motivating Weintein to sue.

Problem (for me) is to find a way to support the Christian back-lash to the liberal take-over, without allowing (some) majority Christians to push others around.

The problem is real but the solution is NOT to oppose all religious expression in public places. I do NOT believe there is a danger of the USA becoming a Christian totalitarian theocracy as some fear. The idea is, to me, ludicrous.

If that were going to happen here, it would have a long time ago, when religion was universally accepted.


Perhaps even bringing suit can be appropriate in some such circumstances.

But if I felt it necessary, I would sue to stop the specific abuse and NOT to remove religion from all public arenas.

I'm not sure what I would do if I faced this in the Air Force Academy: probably get myself thrown out because I have a short fuse and won't accept this kind of abuse from anybody.


Since I now have contact with believing Christians, I usually indicate early on, that I want them as allies. But that I am NOT open to being prosletyzed. I can usually succeed in getting this across.

Most can understand and accept this. A few don't get it and of them I make short shrift.


My belief is that Jews and Christians need each other in the fight to turn this country around. There are not enough Jews to do it and anyway, Christian values are basically Jewish ones.


To those liberal Jews who mistrust Christianity for its past sins against us, it is important to never forget and to always be alert.

But I say pay closer attention to the leftists you often ally yourselves with. It is from their ranks that todays anti-semites and Israel haters arise.

But here and now, the enemy is certainly NOT the Christians.

Today, in most places, but especially here in the states, BELIEVING Christians are usually supportive of Jews and of Israel. It is the left that we have to fear. (I do include the liberal, mainline, declining churches among the left.)

Admittedly they are only 8-10% of Jews, but if believing Jews and believing Christians do not unite to turn back the tide of barbarism we are falling back into, then nothing can help us.



Islam, I won't even go into here. But the Islamo-fascists want to finish what Hitler started, and then go after the Christians and the rest of the infidels. "First the Saturday people and then the Sunday people," they say. And there are far more of them, at least 1.2 billion -- than there were Nazis -- and they are everywhere. And the left supports them!

That is an even larger reason, -- think SURVIVAL -- for Jews to support and ally themselves with believing Christians.


Suing to remove all religion from public places and from government is cultural and political suicide for Americans.


matis

Sam
October 9, 2005, 12:02 AM
Matis + about 99,999

Sam

Nehemiah Scudder
October 9, 2005, 12:45 AM
Why not just lie and say you convert. That's the traditional solution, and It'd make everyone happy.

Lip service is the American Way, dammit!

Sergeant Bob
October 9, 2005, 01:21 AM
Just because someone files a lawsuit doesn't make it so.

RealGun
October 9, 2005, 09:49 AM
If that were going to happen here, it would have a long time ago, when religion was universally accepted.

Religion was never universally accepted. There was a time when religion was more dominant and controlling. For society it is not important to be mutually devout, but it is important to have a common standard of decency. The problem with religion being directly influential is that personal boundaries are not respected. You get with the program, or else. Either that or the environment is religious with no options.

Those who are enthralled with their faith seem to want to make it relevant to everything, and therein lies the problem. In social situations people should focus on their common interests. Unless their meeting is on the subject of religion, or shared religion is clearly implicit, personal faith should not be apparent nor require any acknowledgement. Thus I believe many peope of faith are inappropriate in how they express that faith. I would be much happier if they worried about their own souls. I don't believe their faith needs affirmation by involving others.

Religion is typically parental. I don't believe people look to government for parenting...that's not the constitutional intent anyway...so religion needs to be separate from a government intended to represent any number of religions and even an absence of religion.

In August I went to a music festival in VA, Galax Old Fiddler's Convention actually. People in attendance were from all over the world, yet the sponsoring group was from this one little town in rural VA. At the beginning of each evening's main stage events there was an opening ceremony that included a prayer, clearly Christian of the local Baptist variety. I remember being struck by how profoundly inappropriate that was considering that the crowd had made no concession that such was a common interest or belief. I also recall thinking that carrying on a conversation or moving around during the prayer would have been treated as socially unacceptable. One might stand or bow their head or clasp their hands believing they are socially compelled to rather than because they are actually participating willingly. It was really weird. And that's an impression of a former altar boy and choir member who attended a church college. This small town, religious umbrella thing is very familiar to me.

matis
October 9, 2005, 05:23 PM
Religion was never universally accepted. There was a time when religion was more dominant and controlling. For society it is not important to be mutually devout, but it is important to have a common standard of decency. (Realgun)
_______________________________________________________________


Whatever common standard of decency there is will be rooted in some kind of religion -- or there won't be any standard.

Non-religious types, especially Libertarians, assume that people are truly rational and mature enough in their development to respect the personal boundaries of others. They tend not to notice that this doesn't apply even to themselves.


I have concluded that while many of us value and use reason, we are not essentially rational beings. Nor are enough of us sufficiently responsible to be trusted to respect others. The tendency toward socialism is in my opinion evidence of that. And the need for laws and courts and police and militaries. And why we on this forum value the 2nd amendment.


It is not easy to learn sufficent self-control to be a responsible, honorable human being. Our human nature must first be tamed and that endeavor ends only with our death.

You may or you may not consider the Christian concept of original sin, or the Jewish one of the Azer Hora (evil impulse) to be true. But whether literally true or true as metaphor, these concepts certainly do address the human condition.

No approach that relies only on reason and science can even begin to tame human nature enough to make our society civil. We don't get to vote our desires when studying physical reality. Scientific method (although certainly corrupted by political and profit considerations) is inexorable in getting us closer and closer to reality, to "the truth".

But science is of no value at all in deciding how to design society. There "the truth" depends on what result you want to produce. Although we are taught to pay lip service to democracy and liberty (actually mutually exclusive) and fairness and equality and now diversity and multiculturalism and even justice for animals(!) -- those are not the goals of our governers, are they? There will always be those who seek power over others and they will always be in the ruling class, won't they? And they will always promise whatever it takes to get and stay there.

So I have concluded that the answer to taming human nature has proven to be religion and nothing else.


You were uncomfortable with Christian prayer at the concert? As a Jew, so probably would I have been. But how uncomfortable would we be in a religion-free society like, say the Soviet Union, or present day Vietnam, or North Korea?

Religion is true by agreement. And that agreement, if not enforced, will not exist. Some religions do not promote values that honor and empower people. The Judeo-Christian one is proven to have done so.

The best result of that value system is the USA. Why do we now have to build fences to keep people out when every other system builds them to keep their people from escaping?



With religion you have restraint on government because the religious obey a "higher" power. Without religion we are at the mercy of the human gods who would rule us, unchecked.


You can point to great injustices done by religions and you would be right. But as the Libertarians are so fond or repeating, "Utopia is not one of the options." There is no way to please everybody. Society will never be perfect -- at least not before Moshiach comes. Or for Christians -- before their Saviour comes, again.


Until then I believe that the US Constitution offered as perfect a solution as I have ever been able to find. And contrary to what todays atheists like to say, the founders were for the most part religious. They knew the dangers of theocracy and they tried to prevent that. But they also knew that without an educated and a MORAL people, we couldn't keep what they created for us.

Is it just my misconception, or does our march toward socialism not coincide with our turning our backs on our religious values and traditions?


Whatever value system prevails, it will prevail because it is enforced. "Nature" as is said, "abhors a vacuum." Forcing religion out of the public arena simply opens the space for something else. It is impossible for there to be nothing there.

I watch in horror our society devolving into barbarism. What I see replacing the religious values and traditions that have once made us great, is something that comes more and more to resemble Soddom and Gomorrha.

And since I have children and grandchildren, I will fight that with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might.


matis






.

White Horseradish
October 9, 2005, 05:53 PM
Oh, boy. Here we go. Can't have morals without religion, hence atheists are immoral. I won't bother arguing this. It's false. Look it up.

FYI, the Soviet Union was not religion-free. Communism was the state religion complete with saints, the holy book, rituals and priests. The Nazi Germany was quite religious. (Gott mit uns, anyone?) Was it also highly moral?

Your argument could possibly hold water if there was one universal religion that everyone followed. That's not the case, is it?

Nehemiah Scudder
October 9, 2005, 06:01 PM
90% of people in the U.S. hold strong religious beliefs. At least that's what the CIA world factbook says.

We're pretty religious in this country.

Sam
October 9, 2005, 06:18 PM
"We're pretty religious in this country".

Thus spake The Prophet!
And becoming more so, not necessarily a bad thing if not carried to extremes.


Sam

RealGun
October 9, 2005, 06:42 PM
90% of people in the U.S. hold strong religious beliefs. At least that's what the CIA world factbook says.

Hmm. I don't recall the CIA asking me. Near as I can tell, with a number that large, there are a lot of folks who didn't give an honest answer to any question about it, or there are a whole bunch of hypocrites. I would also question the "strong" part.

One does not have to be aggressively religious to be a fine, wholesome, upstanding citizen...indeed a good parent.

I see a fundamental conflict between evangelical religion and liberty.

I have heard all the arguments, but a government preoccupied with religion, especially one in particular, is a very bad thing. I am against the slightest association of religion with government for two reasons. First, the government represents everyone, all religions including those bona fide citizens to whom religion has no importance. Secondly, the slightest incursion is a Trojan Horse. We have already seen that every opening made for prayers or mentions of God is a stepping stone for the next level of zealots wanting to take over. Placing constraints on religious expression as part of government is not an attack on religion. It is a defense against an attack by religion on one of the fundamental principles of the US Constitution, demonstrating exactly why the Constitution says what it does.

matis
October 9, 2005, 06:46 PM
FYI, the Soviet Union was not religion-free. Communism was the state religion complete with saints, the holy book, rituals and priests. The Nazi Germany was quite religious. (Gott mit uns, anyone?) Was it also highly moral?

Your argument could possibly hold water if there was one universal religion that everyone followed. That's not the case, is it? (White Horseradish)
________________________________________________________________


I guess you're making my argument.

There will never be one universal religion.

But if the Soviet Union and the Nazis both had a state religion, then you do agree with me that it takes religion to inculcate values?

My point is that it is necessary to inculcate something. And inculcate means to start with children in the home and then to follow that up in school and wherever else, perhaps even in the Air Force Academy. It is not easy to tame this beast.


So we need only to determine which religions are malignant, which benign and which truly promote human welfare.


So YOU browse the history of the nations and decide for yourself which religions promote human welfare.


By the way, Minnesota IS in the USA, isn't it? Can I take any sort of hint from that?


matis

bigun15
October 9, 2005, 07:13 PM
It's been pretty well known for a while now that religion is a very touchy subject for many non-religious people. Is it really hard to a government to stay neutral?

Hawkmoon
October 11, 2005, 01:04 AM
Just because someone files a lawsuit doesn't make it so.
Correct.

Unfortunately, I have been aware of this situation since long before this report appeared, and I believe the problem is very real.

Air Force officers and instructors should stick to offeicering and instructing. The military (all branches) has chaplains, whose job it is to "minister" (literally) to the needs of the personnel. But at least in the Army, chaplains are "cross-trained." Smaller units can't have a Catholic chaplain and a Protestant chaplain and a Hebrew chaplain and a Muslim chaplain and a ...

So all chaplains get a basic exposure to the other mainstream religions/denominations, whatever. Enough so that when someone from another faith comes to them for help, they can at least understand the person's background and how his/her religion might play into whatever the problem is. They also get a handy-dandy "playbook" for conducting services according to the way denominations other than their own might do it. Of course, a non-Catholic chaplain can't administer the sacramants, but he CAN conduct a spiritual but non-sectarian service that fits a great many denominations at once.

Chaplains are supposed to assist people in practicing their (the individuals') faith ... not make converts. If any chaplains at the USAFA are prosletyzing rather than ministering, they NEED to be given the boot, posthaste.

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