Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Evangelists Infiltrate USAF Academy

Air Force Cadets: ‘Ten-shun. Right face.'That is what the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado,has been training its cadets to do
– move to the right – politically and religiously.

I find this item from The Bradley Report to be more than a little disturbing. Are taxpayer dollars being spent within the military to ensure an officer class that is predominately Born-Again Christian and Republican? If so, the consequences for America's future worry me. Excerpts;
"This begins with President George W. Bush and goes all the way down to the individual cadet...He is, himself, a born-again Christian evangelist, and that is the starting point. Often Mr. Bush’s self-proclaimed evangelism gets in the way of his duties as president. This is one of those places.
Administrators, staff, upper classmen and cadets all get the message and they get it with abundant clarity – if you are going to be an upstanding United States Air Force officer, well you had better be an upstanding evangelical Christian, or else. If evangelical Christianity exists in the USAF Academy, and clearly it does, this is its mission.
Bush knows this and the Air Force hierarchy knows Bush’s wishes, even if Bush never passed them along directly or specifically.
It is nonetheless reasonable to ask why this particular strain of religious practice suddenly gained hold at the Air Force academy – coincidence? Unlikely. It’s much more likely that no one tried to stop this because the top guy liked this brand of preaching."
So, if no-one tried to stop this, what has been done? And why is there anything wrong with this? Don't the religious believers have a right to discuss their faith with others? (As argued here) Well, I'll try to answer the second question first, by referencing this Washington Post story from last November;
"A private missionary group has assigned a pair of full-time Christian ministers to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where they are training cadets to evangelize among their peers...'Praise God that we have been allowed access by the Academy into the cadet areas to minister among the cadets. We have recently been given an unused classroom to meet with cadets at any time during the day,' the husband-and-wife team of Darren and Gina Lindblom said in [a] letter to their donors.
Michael L. Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy alumnus...has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Air Force of violating the First Amendment's establishment clause by fostering evangelical Christianity over all faiths...'The only group that gets 24/7 unrestricted access to cadets is this fundamentalist, born-again Christian group,' Weinstein charged."
The military, faced with this lawsuit, did an investigation into practices at the Air Force Academy. Citing The Bradley Report again (italics where military report quoted), here are some of their conclusions;
"[T]he air force discounts overt religious discrimination...but is willing to admit that some teachers, administrators and upper classmen failed to discern 'where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expressions of belief.' In other words, some in authority arrogantly proselytized subordinates with their right-wing, evangelical Christian beliefs.

Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, atheists and even some other Protestant worshipers did not enter the Air Force Academy to be discriminated against.
But they were.
They were discriminated against because some administrative USAF Academy staff and some upper classmen protégés tried to preach evangelical Christianity to them, and whenever they failed to win over the given cadets, those young men and women were then treated differently, as though they were utterly without military worth; this was pure religious discrimination, as ugly as it gets."
So, what has been done, officially, is that this report was made. None of the Academy's officers who either tolerated or encouraged this behaviour have been disciplined so far, and I doubt they will be. Last January the Bush White House dishonestly framed the issue as though the evangelicals were the ones being discriminated against, as reported in The Washington Times. "The White House will pressure the Pentagon into being more explicit in saying that military chaplains can pray in the name of Jesus Christ, an evangelical Christian chaplains' group says." For more background on this issue, Religion and Ethics newsweekly (PBS) has a forum here with plenty of links.

Why am I worried about this? I can't help thinking this is happening in the Army, Navy and Marines as well. The administration and their stenographers in the mainstream media have been increasingly trying to blur the line between legitimate dissenting US citizens and terrorist sympathizers. It's almost as if they're gearing up to declare martial law or something. A military officer corps with a monolithic belief in the Führer's President's God-given infallibility would make that a serious concern.

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." -- Pascal
That's what worries me.
(Endnote): Pictured is an F-16 parked in front of the 'chapel', an enormous building that dominates the cadet area of the Air Force Academy. Printable map of campus here.

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Constitutional Devolution