USAFA Religious Respect Conference Highlights Success
US Air Force Academy PA Don Branum writes a post-event update on last week’s Religious Respect Conference, and it contains some amazingly positive comments on the environment of religious freedom at USAFA [emphasis added]:
Cadet 4th Class Wasim Soomro [from a Muslim family] captured the attention of the attendees with a recollection of his experiences.
Soomro didn’t have to put his faith aside for BCT. The military guidance officer for Soomro’s unit, Cadet Squadron 39, visited him on his second night of basic cadet training. The officer knew from Soomro’s biography that he was Muslim and wanted to know how to meet his religious needs.
“He asked me what times of day I was supposed to pray,” Soomro said. “I told him the morning was huge, and then the midday…”
“We had basic wake-ups, where we’re given 30 seconds to shave, and by the time we get out the door, we’re already late,” he said. “But the third morning of basic, I got a knock on my door five minutes before that to pray. I may have prayed more consistently at basic than I did at home.”
Scott Levin, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Rocky Mountain Region: “This is a changing culture. It’s not just in the classroom — it’s in the cafeteria, it’s on the parade field. When it’s a peer who reaches out, it’s culture. When people in his unit are freely asking about his religion, and when he feels free to answer, that’s a culture change, so congratulations.”
Establishing an understanding of diverse backgrounds encourages respect, said Brig. Gen. Cathy Chilton, the mobilization assistant to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould.
“Not understanding religion leads to fear,” she said. “Even though it’s different from the way I believe … it really does help you to be able to get along, to understand where they’re coming from. The military is a team — we can’t do what we do without being a team.”
While those are only snippets, they are an outstanding report on religious freedom from all sides: Those of religious faith are allowed to exercise their beliefs without undue restriction, and the USAFA leadership is encouraging an understanding, respect, and discussion of religion — not the “virtue” of ignoring it or banning it, as some seem to advocate.
That sound you just heard was the collective wind being taken out of Michael Weinstein’s sails.