Activists Call for End to West Point Prayers

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has called on the US Military Academy at West Point to “stop including prayer during official events.”

In a letter to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon and other officials, Americans United asserted that the academy’s prayer policy runs afoul of the Constitution and violates the rights of cadets.

West Point responded simply by saying there are no mandatory prayers at the Academy.  Americans United seems to believe the First Amendment was written to protect offended ears, not speech.  Their letter supports — unwittingly or not — the stereotype that merely being exposed to a ‘religious act’ is offensive and therefore illegal [emphasis added]: 

Being forced to attend an event that includes a prayer is at the heart of the kind of religious coercion that the Constitution prohibits…

It is unclear why the AU focused on West Point, given that all the military academies — and the entire US military and government, for that matter — have official, “required” events which include prayer.  The only reason to call out West Point is because West Point was recently in the news, which makes it a decision based on public relations, not principle.

The entire argument dismisses the fact US troops are adults who make a wide variety of decisions for themselves every day.  Hearing a prayer is no more “religious coercion” than seeing a poster for Burger King on post is “dietary coercion.”  Still, former Army Sergeant, atheist, and Michael Weinstein “client” Dustin Chalker once said the same thing [capitalization original]:

Being present [when a prayer is given] IS participation. Being forced to stand in silent respect IS participation.

As has been stated before, the sensitivity and assumed gullibility that requires the US government to “protect” people from exposure to ideas seems localized around a few individuals motivated by personal agendas.  Most atheists in the US military are content to “stand in silent respect” when chaplains pray, as are those religious troops who may have a different faith.

Apparently, by the standards of Weinstein’s clients and the AU, watching the NFL on TV qualifies as “playing professional football.”

In an interesting contrast, while West Point is being accused of being a secret religious cabal, Annapolis is being portrayed as a drug-filled party school.


  • So…I suppose Dustin Chalker would prefer to “force” Christians to “participate” in his Atheism by “standing in silent respect” while prayers are conspicuously not said. Would be amusing if there were not people of consequence who take these unserious arguments seriously.

  • .
    Why do people get so upset about Christian praying in public? I am so sick of this.
    If we pray God forbid the earth will shake under our feet. If we pray in the name of Jesus Christ will the sky fall?????????????????? When I attend an event and there is no prayer offered I do not file a suit. If I attend an event where a Muslim or other faith prayer is offered I just do not participate. I do not become offended. Grow up and figure out we do not get everything we want in life.

  • @Natalie Simpson
    Hi Natalie. It’s not a matter of being offended, it’s a matter of being law abiding citizens and following Constitutional provison.

    You may not be aware of this but the US Supreme Court ruled in Lemon Vs. Kurznam, (1971) tha government, including the armed forces and public education, may not favor, promote, elevate or proselytize one religion over another or religion over non-religion. It may not be offensive to some to have to attend and listen to Christian-only prayers if they are of different or no beliefs but it is against the law. Therefore I suggest that all religious practice be restricted to private meetings of like thinking people at a church, residence or other meeting place wherein all attending are of the same religion or are attending at the invitation of a member. No military meeting, formation, meal, assembly or command ordered function should feature one religion’s prayers over another or prayer over non-prayer.

  • @Richard

    Therefore I suggest that all religious practice be restricted to private meetings…

    You know, there are countries in the world that already have policies like this. They generally top the list of worst offenders when it comes to religious freedom. It seems you’d be right at home.

  • @JD

    No, JD. I’m right at home here in the USA where people are protected from religious intrusion and hegemony and are guaranteed freedom of thought and speech. Just as you may not shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, you may not require, through command authority or other coercion, an individual or group to attend, participate or even stand silently in a religious service, rite or meeting. Religion must be practiced within the parameters established for it by the First Amendment and all the Supreme Court case law, rulings and decisions made a part thereof. When religion, or those who practice it, exceed their constitutionally established boundaries, they become traitors to the constitution and must be treated as such.

    The United States of America is a secular country in which all religions may flourish but none dominate. Therefore attempts to gain religious dominance in government, including the armed forces, is illegal and the perpetrators prosecuted.

    Irrespective of any religious or biblical directive to gain membership through coercion or compromise the law of the land is the US Constittion and no religious document may be substituted for it.