The Colorado Springs Gazette, local to the US Air Force Academy, carried a variety of positive comments from participants in USAFA’s second Religious Respect Conference. In fact, USAFA chaplains are advocating for their programs to be implemented Air Force-wide. In “AFA religious respect program could soon go service-wide,” reporter Erin Prater noted
Chaplains hope to transition the Religious Respect Training Program throughout the Air Force as soon as possible, chaplain Maj. Shawn Menchion said…
David Oringderff, a local Wiccan leader, had high praise for USAFA’s efforts: Continue reading →
If one wasn’t aware of her history, it might have been surprising to see a recent pair of articles highlight the intellectually inconsistency of the MRFF’s Chris Rodda.
Rodda recently went on record defending the construction of the US Air Force Academy chapel facility called the “Falcon Circle” from those who claimed it was an inappropriate use of government money for three cadets (a separate issue discussed elsewhere). She said:
Designating the stone circle as a chapel facility simply accommodates a religious group with a worship area that meets their needs, something taken for granted by other religious groups at the Academy. Whether the users of that worship space number in the hundreds or in single digits is completely irrelevant when it comes to providing a place for them to worship according to their beliefs.
Comically, four days later an article appeared in the Tennessean quoting the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s 2009 criticism of the construction of a different chapel at Fort Campbell.
A “pagan newswire collective” article on the religious environment in the US Air Force painted a picture of a tolerant, accepting, and respectful military treatment of even the most minority religions.
“Our airmen…should know that the Air Force has gone to great lengths to ensure their spirit was nurtured while in basic training,” says Rev. Tamie Rieth…, the Wicca Distinctive Faith Group Leader (DFGL) at Lackland for just over 6 years. Rev. Rieth is one of 5 instructors who lead the weekly Wiccan services for BMT trainees.
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.
“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 Continue reading →
The past month has seen a wide variety of articles from the US military showcasing its support of religious freedom — specifically, the accommodation of US military members celebrating Ramadan. Other articles have highlighted the US military’s “respect” for the Islamic holy month.
To celebrate this very special religious month, various U.S. general officers have been hosting a post-dusk meal called an iftar…Iftar dinners are being hosted around the country as a way of showing support and appreciation to their Iraqi counterparts.
While many understand that Christian US military chapel services occur in locations throughout the world, some may not realize that a variety of minority faiths are represented as well.
This announcement from Balad highlights the Buddhist services beginning this month. In other locations, “earth based,” Hindu, and even atheist services are held to support the needs of local servicemembers.
The US military is made up of those of many faiths, and those faiths are practiced even within the military around the world.
A Stars and Stripes article indicates US Army Chaplain (Capt) Pratima Dharm has become the first US military Hindu Chaplain. Dharm is a Chaplain at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Dharm did not enter as a Hindu Chaplain — she has simply changed endorsers. She was originally endorsed by the Pentecostal Church of God, but is now sent by Chinmaya Mission West. (In 2007 an Army Chaplain previously tried to convert to Wicca, but was discharged after he lost his endorsement and was unable to find an approved Wiccan endorsing agency.)
The name of the US Air Force Academy’s “Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle” was noted yesterday in the discussion of its dedication. In a response to a Washington Times editorial that accused the Academy of “pandering” to fringe ideas, Michael Weinstein now claims USAFA was “insensitive” in the naming of the area, which led to the “resignation” of the pagan lay leader at USAFA. If you can get past Weinstein’s gratuitously florid language, he says:
The Times article showed a picture [captioned] as “the Pagan lay leader at the Academy.” Wrong again, Times editorial buffoons. [The pagan lay leader], a courageous MRFF client, resigned that titular post a fair number of weeks ago in direct protest over the blatant, strong-arming insensitivity, which the Academy was using in the administration of the naming of that stone circle…
Being a Christian in the military sometimes creates challenges in situations civilians take for granted. For example, how do you find a church? The concept of a “home church” and steady lifelong attendance takes on a whole new meaning when you move every two to four years.
As a military Christian, the single most important thing you can do when you arrive at a new assignment is establish your spiritual support, and finding a church is crucial to that end. There are many options and no single correct answer. Some people prefer the locale and access of the military chapel; others, the non-military feel of community churches. Each option has its positives and negatives — the only ‘bad’ choice is to do nothing.
[Zed] started and ended the prayer with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work. Zed sprinkled few drops of sacred water from river Ganga in India around the podium before the prayer.
Zed also provided the Mayor and the AZ Secretary of State with a copy of the religious text Bhagavad-Gita.
The cross – consisting of two railroad ties propped against a boulder…
Other organizations and individuals had inaccurately implied a ‘large cross’ was ‘made of railroad ties’ and ‘carried to the site’ to be ‘erected in the center’ of the pagan circle. The Gazette left out only the facts the two boards were not connected and were already on the site before the incident occurred.
In noting the end of its investigation, the Air Force refused to characterize the incident as a hate crime: Continue reading →
A few weeks ago the Colorado Springs Gazette published a short email excerpt from the designated pagan leader at the USAF Academy, TSgt Brandon Longcrier. In the quote, the Gazette highlighted Longcrier’s fear for his cadets in the face of what he described as a “hate crime” (the crossed shoe boards at the pagan circle).
Not much later, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to whom the letter was addressed, published a series of letters it had received on the subject. The authors’ names were redacted, but in one the author clearly identified himself as the person who found the cross at the pagan site and took “the picture,” which is known to be Longcrier. In addition, it includes the quotes from the Gazette article attributed to him.
Longcrier’s message reiterates the “hate crime” and criticizes the Air Force Academy for its response. More interesting, however, is his attitude toward the cadets — particularly those of the Christian Continue reading →
A blog by a USAFA cadet reaffirms prior comments that the new pagan circle at the US Air Force Academy is in an area frequented for other purposes, and even has a unique spiritual history.
The area is collectively referred to as the “LZ,” and the clearing has been used–for years–as a station on the hill for which to conduct “training” for fourth class cadets. The author of Wonderings and Wanderings has a post on the 14th of January that says his squadron used the LZ for training–3 days before the “cross incident” occurred (which, incidentally, was also a long weekend). At the time, no one knew Continue reading →
This incident has been so mis-reported that it was initially just ignored; however, when General Gould published a statement agreeing that this incident has been “sensationalized,” he gave credence to the view that this situation is being grossly mischaracterized, and that people are inappropriately using it for their personal advancement. An analysis thus follows…