Colorado Post Hosts Native American “Chapel”

In the wake of the article highlighting the Christian perspective on a neo-pagan congregation site at the Air Force Academy, a local military paper notes the presence of a Native American sweat lodge on Turkey Creek Ranch, an MWR facility of Fort Carson.  (Fort Carson was recently threatened over the cross on its hospital patch.)

Here, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, their families and supporters come to pray in a traditional Native American purification ceremony.

The religious site has been at the military facility since the 1990s:

The Turkey Creek Ranch sweat lodge was started in 1994 by two Native American military members who wanted a traditional place to pray. Fort Carson Army Installation gave them a permanent spot inside its Turkey Creek Ranch…

Though the military is sometimes accused of trying to take over the world for Christians, local Chaplains from the surrounding military bases expressed an admirable military view on the spiritual site:

There are no laws restricting free exercise of religion in the military. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Randall Kitchens…said Airmen are guaranteed the right to exercise their faith. Spirituality is one of four pillars in the Air Force – physical, social, emotional and spiritual, he said.  He supports Airmen who want to participate in the traditional purification ceremony.

“The Air Force isn’t here to establish religion,” he said. “Instead, we are here to accommodate each individual’s First Amendment rights.”

Chaplain (Maj) Cope Mitchell emphasized the importance of “spiritual fitness” to Soldiers.

“One thing we can learn from the Native American culture is the rites of cleansing – purification after battle,” he said. “There is a lot we are trying to learn about how do we reinvigorate Soldiers back into the community. (Sweat lodge) is an option here that has a lot of merit in reaching out that we all need to learn from.”

In speaking positively about a spiritual belief system, in public, the Chaplains do not establish a religion or imply a preference of one over another.  They are simply ministering to the unique needs of their servicemembers, as is their duty.

To hear some people complain, though, you’d think the use of faith in healing was forbidden by the Constitution.  Interestingly, though, they haven’t complained about the sweat lodge; they’ve only complained about Chaplains espousing the virtues of the Christian faith in healing.

Such conspiracy theorists notwithstanding, stories like these demonstrate the counterexample to the unsupported accusations of world domination: the US military supports, in general, the free exercise of its troops — even if that free exercise might be offensive to some parties, or even American adversaries.