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Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Academy

Complaints by Air Force cadets of religious intolerance are getting media attention today. Among the current crop of complaints:

  • The Air Force is investigating a complaint from an atheist cadet who says the school is "systematically biased against any cadet that does not overtly espouse Christianity."
  • The official academy newspaper runs a Christmas ad every year praising Jesus and declaring him the only savior. Some 200 academy staff members, including some department heads, signed it. Whittington noted the ad was not published last December.
  • The academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility is to their God. He also strongly endorsed National Prayer Day that year. School spokesman Johnny Whitaker said Weida now runs his messages by several other commanders.
  • Some officer commission ceremonies were held at off-campus churches. In a letter dated April 6, Weida said the ceremonies would be held on campus from now on.

Here's some background, where we include more incidents, like the school's use of a "Team Jesus" banner and a dust-up over cadet support for Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ.

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  • Of your four points, the only one that concerns me is the first. Freed om of Religion is what we fight to protect- and that includes the General. Tolerance must cut both ways. The Commisioning ceremonies being held off site at local churches is particularly A OK with me- the Cadet recieving the commision should have that option- it his him/her who is putting their ass on the line for the rest of us, and if they want to involve their belief in God in theceremony, more power to them. What's next? No Reverend at the Military Funeral? Heaven forbid the Honor Guard may see a bible or something.... Christians should respect those who do not believe, but that respect should be returned.

    I spent four years in the air force and ones religous persuasion wasn't ever considered or thought. Whats going on here? These cultist are like a creeping black mold! I vote we begin an effort for a Two Million Citizen March for seperation of church an state. There is a real threat to america here and is far greater than the cold war ever was! I am disabled and wheel chair bound, but If needed I'll gladly tie myself to an old ford pick and tow myself do D.C. P A S S I T O N ! !

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#4)
    by roger on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 09:32:54 AM EST
    Gerry, Are you also "A OK" with the Jewish cadet who has been harrassed, and called a "christ killer"?

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#5)
    by pigwiggle on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 09:42:27 AM EST
    We need to be concerned about actual discrimination, not expressions of opinions, religious or otherwise, by government employees. It matters little if my boss (a state employee) admonishes that I follow the teachings of Christ. It matters when I am negatively effected by my refusal.

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#6)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 09:47:09 AM EST
    gerry, i'm supposed to respect someone who thinks i'm going to hell because i don't believe the same religous metaphor they do? F that!

    So what is he looking for at the Air Force Academy? Looks like to me he wants to overtly do his own Intolerance thing on others. by the way you just don't go to the Air Force Academy you have to work at it, and ask to be "Admitted to it.

    Roger, Of course that incident wasn't right - or Biblical for that matter. The academy has already taken action on every complaint (most of this is warmed-over old news) and has started a religious tolerance class to change the culture - let them work at it awhile before you judge their results.

    Dadler, Why wouldn't you respect them - aren't you to show respect fairly universally. Don't agree. Don't listen. Argue. Tell him there is no heaven and he's going to die and rot. But respect - most evangelicals only get up the guts to be evangelical with people they care about. Respect that they care where you are going to spend eternity if nothing else - to do not have to agree in order to respect.

    I am sorry, but anyone who tells me that they believe I am going to hell because of my religious beliefs isn't someone I would want having control over any part of my life. Claiming that unless I agree to publicly submit to the disparagement of my deeply held religious faith, I am an anti-Christian bigot... I don't even know where to begin the list of how wrong that is.

    I guess my point here is that you can say whatever positive things you want about your religion - but do not disparage mine or exclude it as a valid possible belief. Not if you want to hold any sort of authority over me sanctioned by the US government.

    Roger- "Are you also "A OK" with the Jewish cadet who has been harrassed, and called a "christ killer"?" Absolutuely not. That is disrespectful and anti-semitic, plus shows (IMHO) a rather self serving understanding of the bible. That said, I would be interested in the circumstances- Drill Sgts look for things to piss you you off and get under your skin, with good reason and purpose. dadler- "i'm supposed to respect someone who thinks i'm going to hell because i don't believe the same religous metaphor they do? F that!" And you therefore expect everyone to respect you and your beliefs? It works both ways. I had a muslim tell me he was glad to know me here, and he was sorry I was going to burn as a heathen in the afterlife. We got along great! RESPECT. I respected views, they are his and I have mine. Toleration goes both ways.

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jlvngstn on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 11:03:31 AM EST
    Why should any cadet be put in a position to challenge the belief system of any superior officer if it is not part of the obligations of service? Having discussions during active duty hours with proclamations of whose god is the right god puts undue pressure and exerts undue influence on cadet with varying faith opinions. Like Jesus? Keep him at home and in your chapel where he belongs. I refrain from using profanity at my work place because people find that offensive, i find jesus and allah talk as equally offensive. They are there to learn how to defend our country not serve god.

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#14)
    by Sailor on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 11:03:42 AM EST
    The academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility is to their God.
    That fellow needs to be fired. He doesn't understand the most basic thing about being in the military is swearing to uphold the constitution. If he can't get that right he needs another line of work.

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#15)
    by soccerdad on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 11:06:56 AM EST
    Christians should respect those who do not believe, but that respect should be returned.
    g.o. the cadets, from what’s available, do not seem to be pushing their religious belief (or lack of) on other cadets/cadre. have no problem with religionist, want to believe (more accurately fain belief in) ancient fables and superstitions that’s your biz, don't force it on me, entering a church may be "sacrileges" to some atheist. JCHFleetguy in this day and age, especially in the military, why would a "religious tolerance class" be needed. you wingers need to stop apologizing for the governments (and its subsidiaries) errant, unconstitutional behavior. pigwiggle if you don't think this will negatively affect the individuals targeted your either one or all of the following, never been in the military, worked for a very large corporation/organization, or apologetic (again).

    i use to think ppj was the biggest moron who posts at talk left, but gerry " my own private taliban" owen proved me wrong.

    ...their first responsibility is to their God. Except the "thou shall not kill" part, I presume.

    I expect there to be an announcement shortly that "God wrote the constitution". That will settle all this crap.

    Their first duty is to God? What about that little constitution thingy that you swore to defend? Criminy!

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#21)
    by pigwiggle on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:21:36 PM EST
    “pigwiggle if you don't think this will negatively affect the individuals targeted your either … “ You must be referring to another’s post; I said we should be concerned about discrimination not expression of opinion.

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jim Strain on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:24:18 PM EST
    As a manager, I would never ask a subordinate to so much as buy my kid's Girl Scout Cookies. The imbalance of power in the manager/subordinate relationship requires that I not impose any obligations (whether to buy a box of Thin Mints, or to come to Jesus) that are unrelated to the duties of their employment. Why can't our future officer corps -- supposedly a pretty smart group -- understand that?

    Gerry Owen wrote
    Drill Sgts look for things to piss you you off and get under your skin, with good reason and purpose.
    There are limits to what one ought to say as a drill sergeant. Saying, "I'll bet you wet the bed until you came here," is one thing. Saying, "I did your mama in the ass last night and she told me . . ," or "You are an evil Christ-killer," is the kind of thing which calls for immediate discipline. Do you agree Mr. Owen? Cheers, Alan Tomlinson

    pigwiggle, my bad and apologies, i mis-read and/or did not comprehend (i know you sensed that from my very first comment here) your post, twice. "third times a charm"! ds colloquiums: "ain't nothing but steers and queers come outta OK, and i don't see no horns on you or slap yourself on the back of your head, loosen up that dumb a^^ thats choking your brain or get your head outta your third point of contact or you must have schit for brains, last one, how tall are you, any height, didn't know they could stack schit that high"! just thinking of drill sergeants invokes fond memories. but three topics i never heard any comment (or jokes) about was religion/politics/race, whatever yours was, was yours.

    Which generals resigned after the 911 fiasco of only supposedly having two or three fighter jets to protect the entire air corridor between NYC and DC? Which generals resigned rather than carry off the illegal, unstaffed, underprovisioned, conspiratorial Iraq invasion? (other than Zinni). The problems go a lot deeper than the AFA winger who has lost sight of military ethics. There is a cancer on the military, and it is coming right out of the top brass in the Pentagon. Catch-22 keeps soldiers from getting out. Bush is a tumor, a bubo, a malignant growth. But that's just the ass of the Beast. The teeth end is in serious trouble, and the wingers just tra-la through the tulips. They don't support the troops, or the honor of the military. They support the policy, screw the troops. 1,560 dead soldiers. Not ONE weapon of mass destruction. Attacking a disarmed country in order to install airbases is TREASON.

    in this day and age, especially in the military, why would a "religious tolerance class" be needed. you wingers need to stop apologizing for the governments (and its subsidiaries) errant, unconstitutional behavior.
    Same reason last 3 jobs I held required sensitivity training on a number of issues (racism, sexism, ageism, religion, etc). We all view the world differently and must learn to work together without offense.

    Why is such a class necessary? Ten percent to remind the over-enthusiastic, ninety percent to mollify the bed-wetters.

    R. Aubery, A Link supporting your 10/90 ratio thesis? Thought so.

    mfox - The most basic thing that makes us different is that our founders believed that our rights came from God, and thus could not be taken away from us by man. That is an extremely important point. Think about it.

    Alan- "There are limits to what one ought to say as a drill sergeant. Saying, "I'll bet you wet the bed until you came here," is one thing. Saying, "I did your mama in the ass last night and she told me . . ," or "You are an evil Christ-killer," is the kind of thing which calls for immediate discipline. Do you agree Mr. Owen?" To an extent, yes. The purpose is to toughen you up mentally as well as physically to face whatever challenges you as a soldier may encounter- including interrogation. It is also designed to test your limits and show you as an individual what your weaknesses are. In that context, if a drill said that it is still wrong and should be addressed, although I would submit that it is not near as bad as if it was a CO or Top making the same comments in a regular unit setting. By the way, I had a Drill make comments about my dearly beloved mom, much in the same vein! I told him "Damn, Sarge- I thought my mom had standards!" I did pushups until he was tired, but it was worth it! Strain- I fully understand and appreciate your point about your business- but the Military isn't a job, it is a life. You live, sleep, eat, party, worship, relax, everything within the proximity of your unit. You HAVE to learn to tolerate and respect your fellow soldiers sometimes wacky beliefs and ideas- I served in a unit with two Jews, an Inuit Eskimo, a Cubano libre, and a Black Muslim, along with a couple of Holy rollers, a Mormon, and some freak from West Texas who claimed the Gulf War was the first sign of the coming apocalypse. This is on top of a bunch of your average run of mill middle american soldiers. There were many debates, as there always is. EVERYTHING is on the table open for discussion. In the end, we all were prepared to kill die do whatever for each other, because we were a team. It is a matter of respect- if some soldier can't handle seeing his CO's name in a religious ad, he probably needs to leave.

    Personally, I'd rather not be told that Jesus is defending me.

    Scar- I always figured Jesus was part of the welcoming commitee if you screwed up to terribly.

    Re: Religious Intolerance Alleged At Air Force Aca (none / 0) (#34)
    by aw on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 09:07:07 PM EST
    To take further what Jo Fish said: What happens when we get a jewish commander in chief? Will the fundamentalists in the military get away with calling him/her a Christ-killer?

    Jo- A LT behaving in such a manner wouldn't last long- First it is stupid and ridiculous for an officer to attempt to set his unit at odds with one another- that will get him at best transferred to a desk. Second, it wouldn't fly- Lt's have no real control, it is the Platoon sgt- who has years of experience to identify stupidity in leadership such as you describe, and either fix or get the offending Lt removed. The military is far from perfect, but it does do some things rather well, and building a cohesive team is one of them. I do not mean to offensive, but this has always bothered me. Why do Atheists care? If the Christians are all a bunch of ignorant rubes with imaginary play friends, what difference is it to a Atheist? I spent many many many calls to prayer in Muslim lands either standing off to side inconspicuously and respectfully- I never felt offended. If you are an enlightened atheist, who cares what the rest think if you are right?

    aw- I served under a Jew. Great officer. He refused his promotion to general until he could get on Iraqi soil (he also had a goal of taking a whiz in the Euphrates, but the war stopped before we got there). Average soldier doesn't rightly care, and will take everything in stride. As long as you perform as needed, no one really cares.

    Jew,Jew who is a jew? I no Nothing! I no Nothing about the camps? come on people see this for what it is! "Political Intolerance".

    Here are three statements about Jews: Jews are bad. Jews control US foreign policy. Jews will not be saved. Only the first qualifies as anti-Semitic. The second is a statement of fact and is either right or wrong. If right...what is anti-Semitic about that? If wrong...what is anti-Semitic about that? The third is a doctrinal statement from another religion and does not have any effect on whether Jews are saved. However, the over-sensitive, or the ADL fund-raisers, or the anti-Christians, or the bedwetters of any or no religion will insist that all are anti-Semitic. It would seem reasonable to be certain of what, exactly, was said when hearing about anti-Semitic remarks.

    Posted by Jim" our founders believed that our rights came from God, and thus could not be taken away from us by man." OT, but another lie from Jim. The founders believed that our rights derived from EQUAL creation, from EQUALITY and thus could not be taken away by GOVERNMENT. For instance, everyone should have an equal right of advancement. An even playing field. Not because God said so, but because IT'S RIGHT. Equal right to advancement means that government should not give no-bid contracts to people who have ZERO experience in a field, like say, GUARDING CURRENCY, as the CPA did with Custer Battles, a two-man operation which the CPA gave a $2 million loan, and a $25 million contract, without even bonding (since the company didn't exist until a month earlier). It is an utterly unequal government that you support. 82 of the largest US corporations paid ZERO taxes since Bush got in power. I guess they got their political donations' worth. We don't have impeachment rights or the right to recount clearly stolen elections. That has BUPKIS to do with Jehovah or Santa Claus. It's unconstitutional on its face, because it is unequal tyranny. So naturally the rascals bring up religion, so they can fleece their lessers.

    PIL - I wrote: "The most basic thing that makes us different is that our founders believed that our rights came from God, and thus could not be taken away from us by man." Here is what the Declaration of Independence says. "We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Libery and pursuit of happiness." If capable of connecting two thoughts, you should note the phrase that is in italics. Proved wrong again, you trudge onward into the depths of parnoia.

    Onward Christian Soldiers.

    Another quick point- in the service, everyone was always ripping each other to shreds verbally, and playing practical jokes on each other- the poorer taste the better, it seemed. It is part of the culture. The Military isn't a place for someone with easily hurt feelings or easily offended, and it shouldn't be. Those are self centered emotional responses that have no place in a combat unit.

    Gerry O - Good point, re-humor. It is almost always black, pointed and in many cases somewhat vulgar. But you will never sell that to those who have never been in the military and who really mistrust the military. There is one book I would recommend that might provide some insight. It is a collection of cartoonist/artist Bill Mauldin's WWII cartoons. Bill Mauldin cartoons samples

    above by me

    Thanks for the reminder PPJ. I'd almost forgotten about, and just dug out my lovely first edition of "Up Front" I got from a family member...too damn many years ago.

    Adept - As a collector, I am green with envy. And I am glad that we can find some common ground. Vietnam produced nothing even close.

    How can anyone not find common ground with Willie and Joe? Well, there's a few around here. ;) That volume is treasured for itself and the sentiment with it. As a fellow collector, be assured it's in good hands. I can't think of anything to compare with 'em either.

    I have "Up Front". What a book. Being born to a WW II grunt, I am familiar with most of the gear. Mauldin wrote for soldiers. He did such a good job at it that folks who've never served look at the 'toons and haven't a clue. Showed the one with the caption, "Wisht somebody'd tell ME there's a Santa Claus" to an exchange student. He thought it was about child molesting. Ah, well. I guess you had to be there.

    I might have a book of Willie and Joe around here, somewhere- If you are ever in Oklahoma City, the entire collection is posted at the 45th Infantry Museum. The military is pretty good at working things out, an they have a record that shows whatever they are doing it works- they win the wars and are the most successful and powerful fighting force in history.

    G. O. Yeah, they do okay. First, and to date, the most successful in integration.