The creation of a “pagan area” under the auspices of the US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel was highly controversial more than a year ago. Originally, a “dedication” was scheduled in March 2010. It seems the ceremony was delayed more than a year.
USAFA announced it had dedicated the “Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle” last week on May 3rd. As previously discussed, the US military does not make a site “sacred,” so the “dedication” seems to have been more ceremonial or functional in nature.
Interestingly, the article seems to indicate a slight tweak on the original purpose of the outdoor chapel. Originally, USAFA was said to be adding “a worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions.” The new wording was somewhat more careful this year:
The circle’s original purpose was to accommodate the religious needs of the Earth-Centered Spirituality community. While priority is given to those groups and individuals, the space is available to all faith groups and individuals seeking an outdoor worship space.
It would seem that just as the earth-centered groups can use other chapel areas (including the unadorned “all faiths room” within the chapel proper), other groups can use the hilltop site for functions as well; say, an Easter sunrise service. While this is largely true of all of the cadet chapel areas, there are still designated faith areas in the rest of the chapel (ie, there is a Protestant Chapel, Jewish Chapel, etc.). The “all faiths” focus of this particular area may be why it is “Falcon Circle,” rather than the “USAFA Pagan Chapel.” It may also be an acknowledgement of the fact the area was used for religious (and other) purposes before it was appropriated for “earth centered” religions.
There may still be some confusion, however, as one article reported one of the cadets being “annoyed” over last year’s controversy, saying
This is our space. We’re trying to call a space our own.
While “they” have priority, the USAFA release indicates the area is not as exclusive as the cadet seems to think.
There may be a bit of corporate amnesia as well. The Colorado Springs Gazette recalled the controversy with:
Controversy sparked at the academy last year when a cross made from railroad ties was erected at another outdoor site that was used for Wiccan rites on the 18,500-acre base.
Except it wasn’t “another outdoor site.” It was this same location. (It also wasn’t Wicca.)
The ceremony itself focused largely on military religious freedom:
Chaplain Cuneio [said] “[The ceremony was] honoring a military members’ constitutional liberty to practice his or her faith, or no faith.
“The Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle represents the religious freedoms that all of us as military members, and as Americans, enjoy,” he continued. “It was a great day for USAFA because we are committed to religious accommodation and a culture of respect.”
Cadets of all religions also came out to support the new chapel.
“It’s just a great symbol of what the academy is capable of, how supporting we are of everyone who is a cadet,” said [Cadet] Philicia Fahrenbruck, president of the academy’s Interfaith Council…
[Cadet Nicole] Johnson said she feels her [pagan] religion is accepted by fellow cadets, as it should be.
No word yet from Michael Weinstein on how all of this “religious freedom” fits into the Christian coup he currently claims is in progress. Try as he might to manufacture a scandal, Weinstein’s continuous cries are repeatedly drowned out by the resounding chorus of religious freedom. And it irks him to no end.
Also unclear is whether Weinstein will sue over General Gould’s presence at the chapel dedication, which Weinstein will likely claim is “coercive” to everyone lower ranked than the three-star general, and a “propaganda coup” for America’s adversaries.
At least, that’s what Weinstein would have said if it was a Christian “circle.”