West Point Cadets in Sombreros OK. They Just Can’t Pray.

westpointhatA US Military Academy Facebook photo from their University of Texas at El Paso football victory raised the ire of activists, as it showed the cadets wearing sombreros while being hosted by the largely Hispanic community [emphasis added]:

The school should apologize for the image and take it down, said Lisa Navarrete, an official with the National Council of La Raza, a nonprofit group in Washington that focuses on immigration and other Latino issues. The use of sombreros to represent Latino people is an “old-school and dated stereotype” that offends many people, Navarrete said.

“I am a huge sports fan, so I understand that trashing your opponents in silly and not-so-silly ways is part of the game,” she said. “But I am also old enough to remember when banana peels were thrown at Georgetown University basketball players. Ugly bigotry is still ugly and offensive, even in the context of entertainment.”

With regard to the public perception of West Point events, LtGen Robert Caslen, the West Point Superintendent, previously indicated the offense of others was the standard by which West Point’s events should be judged. Referring to a video in which football players prayed — and which was taken down after Michael “Mikey” Weinstein was “offended” — LtGen Caslen said [emphasis added]

[We] took the video down because it was clear that when some of the complaints started coming in it was offensive to people. So why do we want to put a video that’s going to be offensive to people…its like grinding salt into the wound.

So, naturally, West Point had the same response to La Raza, right? West Point said [emphasis added]:

“The photo was posted as part of the game’s festivities and West Point has no plans to remove the photo,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker said. “America’s diversity has always been one of the Army’s greatest strengths, as people of different backgrounds and cultures share their unique experiences and perspective to benefit all.”

West Point let out a big sigh and collectively rolled its eyes, and the photo will stay. Note, too, that in its response West Point actively defended West Point’s culture of inclusion — something it didn’t remotely try to do regarding the prayer, even though “90%” of people supported the right of Army cadets to pray.

The sombrero complaint came from the parent of a cadet, and La Raza wasn’t the only group expressing offense [emphasis added]:

It remains baffling that West Point leaves the photograph online, said Brent A. Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). It crosses a line from making fun of UTEP to ethnic and racial stereotyping, he said.

Interesting that Wilkes used the same phrase as LtGen Caslen talking about the prayer: “It crosses a line…”

West Point is willing to stand up to accusations of ethnic and racial stereotyping against La Raza and LULAC — despite activist groups claiming cadets’ choice of costumes was racially offensive.

West Point isn’t willing to stand up to criticisms of a football team prayer by an anti-Christian activist — despite laws and policies requiring the government to not only protect religious freedom, but also to not create an environment seemingly hostile to religion.

It seems people have decided what really matters.



  • Is it really that hard for you to understand? The first amendment to the US constitution states that the government shall be neutral – show no favoritism or bias – when it comes to issues of religion. This doesn’t matter if 1% of the people believe in a given religion or 99%. Children who take social studies or government classes in high school understand this by the second week of class. Why can’t you? Or rather, why do you PRETEND not to? Why do you in essence LIE and claim ignorance of the fundamental nature of the very first amendment of the US constitution and the various rulings and results that come out of this?

    Nobody – not one person – claims that “cadets cannot pray” at graduation or anywhere. What is states is that there can be no appearance of or actual government favoritism of one religion or creed over another. This includes “pretend spontaneous” prayers and it certainly includes invocations of a religious nature.

    For a site that claims to be “Christian”, you seem to put a lot of effort into lying about the nature of events. The Jesus that I am familiar with would be more concerned about lying than “defending the faith by any means necessary.” Maybe your Jesus differs and so in your world view your deliberate mischaracteriztions and feigned ignorance that are tantamout to lying are ok, but, well, that’s sad.

    • @Sam
      You are passionate, but your passion is potentially making you miss your own bias.

      The First Amendment does not categorically prohibit “invocations of a religious nature.” It is a gross misreading of the US Constitution to assert that any association with religion is banned. Further, an aggressive prohibition of association with religion would do the very thing you assert is impermissible — it would show favor or disfavor to one viewpoint on an issue of religion. “Neutral” does not equate to “no religion.”

      Finally, the idea that an assistant coach cannot say a prayer in front of a group of 18-25 year old adults has no basis in the Constitution or law. You might read up on that.

      Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t make them a liar.

  • Sam,

    I agree with JD that it is a gross misreading of the US Constitution to assert that any association with religion is banned, especially when you state: “…This includes “pretend spontaneous” prayers and it certainly includes invocations of a religious.”

    Hopefully, in the future, you can interact with CFP with some collegiality about matters that pertain to our recurrent constitutionality, in lieu of making haphazard statements (pretend, lie, ignorance, claim to be Christian, deliberate characterizations, feigned ignorance, etc), which do not prove anyone’s fabricating a story or committing yellow journalism.

    Consider Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S. Ct. 1811 (2014). This case shows the expected behavior of all Americans regarding prayer, since the constitution safe guards every Americans right to exercise their faith, despite the willful ignorance of those who desire to veto another persons right just because they are offended, or want to complain.

    Here are some quotes for you to review:

    * The First Amendment is not a majority rule, and government may not seek to define permissible
    categories of religious speech. Once it invites prayer into the public sphere, government must permit a
    prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfettered by what an
    administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian. Id. at 1822-23.

    * Even those who disagree as to religious doctrine may find common ground in the desire to show
    respect for the divine in all aspects of their lives and being. Our tradition assumes that adult citizens,
    firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a
    person of a different faith. Id. at 1823.

    * Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not
    made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious
    views in a legislative forum . . . . Id. at 1826.

    * Town of Greece reminds us “the Constitution does not guarantee citizens a right entirely to avoid ideas
    with which they disagree”. Id.