USAFA Accepts Pagans, Druids, witches, etc.
The Los Angeles Times is fast becoming a frequent commenter on all things military and religion, with the US Air Force Academy high on that list. In an unusual twist from the norm, its articles are biased toward the positive.
(For example, it published the original story about the baptism of US Marines to which Michael Weinstein objected, and most recently gave favorable coverage to the Camp Pendleton cross, now a controversy in its own right.)
In its most recent article on the topic, it notes the “Air Force Academy adapts to pagans, druids, witches and Wiccans:”
“We’re here to accommodate all religions, period,” [USAFA Chaplain (Maj) Darren] Duncan says. The building of the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle on the hilltop, he says, is no different from the past conversion of chapel rooms into worship spaces that serve this year’s 11 Muslim, 16 Buddhist and 10 Hindu cadets. There are also 43 self-identified atheist cadets whose beliefs, or lack of them, Duncan says are also to be respected.
Never one to let good will go unspoilt, the article quotes Michael Weinstein as saying he doesn’t buy it. Naturally.
Weinstein…says he has received hundreds of complaints from cadets who allege pressure by other cadets or superiors to profess faith in Christ and cites a desecration incident in 2010 when a cross was left at a previous Earth-based worship site.
To support his cause he cites unsubstantiated, anonymous complaints about vague issues, and an incident from 2010 that USAFA admits it can’t even prove was done with malice. Weinstein never has been good at defending his position. But wait, there’s more:
Weinstein says the presence of the powerful fundamental Christian organization, Focus on the Family, just a short hop down the highway from the academy only adds to tension for non-evangelicals.
Well, if Focus on the Family is close by, that must prove…something. Or else Weinstein wouldn’t bring it up, right?
While some might claim the military is trying to put on a good face when it publishes its own articles, the LA Times becomes only the latest outside observer to cite a ‘positive’ religious environment at USAFA, including quotations from cadets to support it:
[Cadet Nicole] Johnson acknowledges that her beliefs are often misunderstood, [but] she says she has taken no serious grief from other cadets, save occasional questions about whether pagans dance naked (she doesn’t) or whether she can cast a spell on commanding officers (she wouldn’t even if she could).
Much like the Jewish cadets and parents who have said similar things about the accepting environment at USAFA, there continues to be a steady stream of public examples of the positive religious atmosphere at the Air Force Academy — quite a contrast to Weinstein’s unsupported bombast.
Wait until Weinstein finally realizes one of the cadets didn’t convert to paganism until after coming to USAFA (despite the presence of Focus on the Family, no less). Kind of puts a dent in the whole sky-is-falling conspiracy theory that Christians at USAFA are coercively proselytizing and persecuting malleable, unsuspecting cadets. (Instead, it looks like the pagans are…)
Religious freedom isn’t perfect at the Air Force Academy, or anywhere else in the military, for that matter. But for an institution of millions from all walks of life, the US military does an admirable job of protecting the human liberty of religious freedom for its members — an often challenging, but gladly undertaken, proposition.