USAFA Pagan Circle has Christian History

A blog by a USAFA cadet reaffirms prior comments that the new pagan circle at the US Air Force Academy is in an area frequented for other purposes, and even has a unique spiritual history.

The area is collectively referred to as the “LZ,” and the clearing has been used–for years–as a station on the hill for which to conduct “training” for fourth class cadets.  The author of Wonderings and Wanderings has a post on the 14th of January that says his squadron used the LZ for training–3 days before the “cross incident” occurred (which, incidentally, was also a long weekend).  At the time, no one knew that it was intended to be a pagan circle.

Another quote, after he hears about the controversy and realizes what it is about, is telling:

I discovered it’s actually an earth-centered religion/Wicca worship center. That’s rather ironic, because it was one of my favorite places to pray last year, and I know some of my friends have gone up there to worship under the stars. It’s a great place to watch the sunset – God’s sunset.

Apparently, there’s a pretty big controversy about a cross that was placed up there, leaning on one of the rocks. First of all, I’m pretty sure I saw crosses there – like the one described – long before the earth-centered religious people set the rocks there. Second, it’s entirely possible that the cross-placer didn’t know it was an earth-centered worship center. It could just as easily be a God worship center, like it was before for me and others, without the rocks.

His commentary is consistent with others who have had or heard about similar experiences on the LZ.  (The LZ has also been used for a variety of other purposes, some more nefarious than others.)

He does agree that if the cross was placed as an affront, it was not an appropriate thing to do.  However, his observations highlight the fact that the pagan circle was not fully-known among cadets; that it was placed on a site frequented for other purposes; and that the site itself was used by Christians for their own private worship.  Even so, he expresses a supportive perspective for the freedoms of the pagans, an admirable and fairly common reaction, though hardly the face that is being put on Academy Christians right now.


  • JD, Wow! Please. I know it pains you to acknowledge the fight that goes on for religious freedom for all in the military, and especially at the AFA, but it is my opinion that you are attempting to defend the indefensible, and this is in direct contradiction to your previous posting on this, where you tried to hail the military as so welcoming of all. WEAK!! defense of the bigotry that occured, here.

    The USAFA news posted a story dated 1/26/10, and included a photo with this caption: “Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier uses white sage to consecrate a Pagan worship area on the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and the Visitor Center at the Air Force Academy just after sunrise on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2009. The chapel is scheduled to officially designate the circle as a Pagan chapel during a dedication ceremony in March 2010. Sergeant Longcrier is the Pagan lay leader at the Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)” This statement is also included in the article: “The circle that we secured in December is much bigger, better and closer to the cadet area,” he explained. “This will allow cadets to use the circle anytime they feel the need.” December would certainly fall before the 3 day weekend that you mentioned, which occurred in January.

    It is obvious to even a casual observer that this request for the Pagan chapel has been in the works for quite some time, and that this nonsense of the cross, and the suggestion that this was a “God” worship place before now didn’t just surface within this narrow little window of time, as you would like to suggest.

    Kind of blows your whole theory of the “accepting” attitude of the military towards those of the non-Christian persuasion right out of the water, and makes you appear as if you’re fumbling.

  • Your statements are a bit hard to follow.

    Are you suggesting that because Longcrier coordinated with the Chaplains in December that it was common knowledge in January that the LZ was a pagan area? If so, you appear to be questioning the integrity of not just the quoted cadet, but his entire squadron. I hope you’re relying on more than a late January news article to make that insinuation.

    I don’t know what “the suggestion that this was a “God” worship place before now didn’t just surface within this narrow little window of time” means. Are you agreeing that the use of the LZ for “God worship” has a long history that predates the pagan request?

    Please quote the statement you are calling a “defense of bigotry.”

  • Albatross,

    Your statements assume that all cadets have perfect SA on the LZ, the circle and it’s official status. A casual observer probably doesn’t know the history of the LZ. Sticking to the facts in your post, a SSgt layleader consecrated the circle in December, and the article was posted in the news a full month later.

    The Constitution allows for the assumption of innocence until proven guilty. The level of proof: that a military member deliberately put the posts in the cross configuration and also knew that the circle was already consecrated. Other facts: you can access the pagan circle without going through a secured area.

    Finally, I echo JD’s question: what statement did JD make that is defending bigotry? The cadet stated, JD has stated (and I agree) that if this was intentional as an affront to the religious consecration, then it is unprofessional and inappropriate.

  • JD, I’m not certain what HTML code your site supports, and I am uncertain how to do block text.

    Here is an excerpt from an article that talks about the history of the circle. It is from the Colorado Gazette. (Does your site accept hyperlinks?) The rocks used to build the worship area were being moved to the hilltop since last summer, when permission was granted to build the Pagan worship site on that location, not just since December as you suggest. This is the “narrow window” I’m talking about. This didn’t occur over a 3-4 period.

    “Until recently, the pagan group met at a brick-and-tile worship area in Jack’s Valley, a sprawling, wooded training area to the north of the academy’s cadet area. About a dozen cadets belong, the academy said, and an additional 30 service members in Colorado Springs identify themselves as pagans.

    The group’s path to prominence began last summer, after an inspection determined the aging site was no longer “structurally sound,” Ziegler said.

    The group’s lay leader, Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, asked permission in August to establish a new worship area, and the academy reviewed his request and agreed that an outdoor worship area was in fact a “religious requirement” for the Earth-centered spiritualists. They settled on a hilltop location near the Air Force Academy visitor center that overlooks the cadet area.

    “It’s a lot closer than having to go to Jack’s Valley all the time,” said academy spokesman Meade Warthington.

    The new worship area — informally established in December — makes use of large boulders that had to be moved from a hillside because they were at risk of falling, said John Van Winkle, another spokesman. Longcrier’s group contributed materials for a propane-fueled fire pit that anchors the site.

    There has been no additional taxpayer expense thus far, Van Winkle said.”

    I am definitely suggesting that other cadets knew that the site had been built as a worship site for Pagans, and that it has probably been a topic of bitterness for some, including the cadet above who evidences his contempt (IMO) by saying it’s a nice place to watch the sun set – “God’s sunset.” His distinction of whose sunset it is speaks volumes. A photo of Longcrier, taken on Dec 21, Winter Solstice, shows him walking away from the site after having performed a Pagan ritual. That was the unofficial consecration of the site. Their official ceremony is in March, I believe I read, but the worship site was already established. So what were those cadets doing up there, and what would they think of the chapel being used for “training” next long weekend.

  • Albatross,

    HTML will work in these comments. The switch you need is “blockquote.” If you put hyperlinks in your comment and it is held for moderation, it will be approved.

    You are very focused on the timeline and the movement of the rocks, but you are mistaken in your conclusion. The rocks were moved months before Longcrier’s request, and Longcrier himself said the location was “secured in December,” not earlier (re-read the Air Force press release).

    The MSNBC article I linked to elsewhere explains more details:

    The stones were moved to the hilltop last year because erosion threatened to make them unstable in their previous location near the visitors center. Crews arranged them in two concentric circles because they thought it would be a pleasant place for cadets to relax, Longcrier said.

    When Longcrier and academy chaplains were looking for an outdoor worship space, they discovered one already existed in the form of the circles.

    Even as the article you cited notes, the pagan area was “informally established in December.” Longcrier’s photo may have been taken in December, but it wasn’t published until late January. He, the Chaplains, and various pagans may have been well aware of what was going on, but there is no reason to believe that anyone else did. In fact, if the “bitterness” you cite was really so prevalent, aren’t you surprised that there wasn’t a single public murmur before the very positive news release?

    It is highly likely that it was not common knowledge among cadets. For your information, cadets routinely find out about stuff like that in the news, not from official channels. I understand you believe they should have known, but there is no factual basis for your belief.

    If you’re trying to say that this had been going on for such a long time that people just had to know about it, you are in error. What is your explanation now?

    I will note that Longcrier has installed “information boxes” with pamphlets at the circle, though I think they went up after the “cross incident.” I can’t confirm that, though I invite his correction.

    As to “what were those cadets doing up there,” they were doing the same thing that cadets have been doing for decades at that same location. You have failed to provide any evidence that they were informed of what that area had been designated. By all accounts, the first public statement of that decision was the Air Force Academy press release.

    I object to your decision to impugn that cadet’s integrity (as well as that of his squadron mates) with no evidence to support such a characterization. There is no call for you to denigrate his character without factual evidence to prove your insinuation that he is lying. You do yourself no favors by making baseless attacks on peoples’ characters.

  • Interestingly, the same “It will hurt military effectiveness” claim was used against Wiccans as is being used against gays.

  • Bigotry is “complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.”
    Learn it and be wise. Real bigotry has been shown by the reactionary and inflammatory words thrown by pagan zealots, pompous editorialists, and (unfortunately) an administration that should remain neutral to an issue that most likely was not meant to be an affront to anyone’s belief system. Tolerance, friends, tolerance.