June 2005 Church & State | Featured

Americans United’s report detailing instances of religious bias at the Air Force Academy garnered an enormous amount of national media attention. Several newspapers also editorialized about the matter.

Here are some excerpts.

End Unconstitutional Proselytizing

Whatever is ailing the Air Force Academy, and the academy has had its share of ailments over the years, campus pressure on cadets to adopt a particular set of religious beliefs will not cure it. Last year, academy officials promised to do something about widespread complaints of unconstitutional proselytizing of academy students by evangelists whose efforts were blessed by authority figures in the chain of command. An authorized investigation by the Yale Divinity School and local news reports documented numerous instances of pressure on cadets to adopt Christian beliefs and practices. Such pressure came from dozens of faculty members and chaplains, and even the football coach, with his “Team Jesus Christ” banner….

Right now, it is hard to believe that there can be true reform from within. It is time for the higher chain of command to deproselytize this institution of national defense.

The New York Times

Strength Through Diversity

The Air Force Academy needs to straighten up and fly right. Favoritism and discrimination based on religious belief cannot be tolerated in a U.S. military institution.

Just two years after a scandal over sexual assaults of female cadets, the Academy again must show that it can educate Americans of all backgrounds. The country and the military gain both efficiency and world respect when they use the strengths of this country’s diversity.


‘Official’ Religion Not Needed

While no one is trying to take religion out of the military, there is a clear need to set firm boundaries of what is and what is not permissible in a setting that involves the country’s future military leadership. Whatever the outcome of the task force, the academy is on notice to foster a climate of religious tolerance….

To respect the religious practices of all its cadets, the academy leaders will have to demonstrate they understand that there is no “official” religion of the U.S. military. Religion, after all, is not an order. It’s a personal choice of faith.

Chicago Tribune

No Tyranny At The Academy

The accusations of religious intolerance reflect several complex trends that could infect the entire military. First, academy culture seems to permit targeting, even assault, of whole subgroups in its community, whether women or those who are not evangelical Christians. Second, the academy seems to tacitly accept that one religious culture 90 percent of cadets are Christian may tyrannize the other.

In a school designed to prepare Air Force leaders, such failures of discipline eventually may weaken the Air Force itself. Just as dangerous, when military leaders adopt deformed values sexual predation or its acceptance, contempt for women and aggression toward minorities they discredit the very society we ask our soldiers to defend.

Houston Chronicle

Intolerance Must End

This isn’t evangelism; it’s attempted coercion. Our national defense depends on junior officers leading disciplined lives of constant compliance. But the Constitution guarantees that their religious beliefs remain their own.

America’s armed forces have a long tradition of religious tolerance. Its heroes have come from almost every faith, a fact exemplified by the military’s varied chaplains, including rabbis, ministers and priests. Intolerance at the academy must end.

Philadelphia Inquirer