Religious intolerance at Air Force Academy
Allegations of intolerance.
Events 2004-JUL to 2005-MAY.
During the early 2000's, in excess of 50 complaints involving allegations of religious intolerance
had been recorded at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Colorado Springs, CO -- not to be confused with the American Family Association who share the same AFA acronym. One involved a Jewish cadet who was allegedly told that
the Holocaust was revenge for the death of
Jesus. Another Jew was allegedly
called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
Michael Weinstein of
Albuquerque, NM, a 1977 AFA graduate, is an outspoken critic. He doubted that
the task force will resolve the problems at the Academy. He calls it a "mask
force." He claims that more than 115 current and former cadets, staff and
faculty have contacted him with accounts of religious bias at the academy.
older son, 2nd Lt. Casey Weinstein, 22, graduated from the AFA in 2004. He said
that evangelical Christians are: "a large vocal minority that
is the 800-pound gorilla [on campus]. They blurred and crossed the line
between church and state."
Curtis, his younger son, is also at the AFA. He was allegedly called a "filthy
Jew" and other slurs.
Michael Weinstein told the Los Angeles Times:
I visited my son [Curtis] he told me he wanted us to go off base because he had
something to tell me. He said, 'They are calling me a [...] Jew and that I am
responsible for killing Christ.' My son told me that he was going to hit the
next one who called him something....When I was at the academy, there wasn't
this institutional notion that if you didn't accept Christ you would
eternally in Hell. This is not a Jew-Christian thing, it's an evangelical versus
everyone else thing. I am calling for congressional oversight and for the
academy to stop trivializing the problem by calling it non-systemic. If they can't fix it and Congress won't fix it, the next thing to do is go to the
federal court and file a lawsuit alleging a violation of the Constitution and
civil rights." 1
Events at or about the Academy 2004-JUL to 2005-JUN:
2004-JUL: Academy officials had invited Kristen Leslie -- a
professor from Yale Divinity School -- and six Yale graduate students to
come to Colorado Springs and observe how the staff chaplains minister to the
cadets. Captain Morton and professor Leslie coauthored a two page report
which was issued in 2004-JUL. On a positive note, the report complimented
the chaplains for their "talent and enthusiasm." But it criticized "stridently
evangelical themes" at a worship service for 600 new cadets. According
to USA Today:
Leslie reported that an academy chaplain urged cadets to pray for
those who didn't attend, to try to convert them and "remind them of the
consequences ... [that] those not 'born again
will burn in the fires of Hell'." "When we
saw this kind of predominant, pervasive evangelical conservative
Christian message putting itself forward as pastoral care, we noted it,"
Leslie said in an interview." 2
Captain Morton allegedly claims that she was pressured to deny the story.
Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker told the Colorado Springs Gazette that
several chaplains have denied that anyone said anything about burning "in
the fires of Hell" at the service.
||2005-FEB: the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of
America (JWV)issued a press release condemning "a series of
recent anti-Semitic events at the U.S. Air Force Academy." They cited a
number of incidences at the AFA:|
||Harassment of Jewish cadets;
A letter from one of the senior officers telling the cadets that
they "are accountable first to God;"
A banner in the football team's locker room which said: "I am a
Christian first and last...I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." 3
The veterans recommended that all of the U.S. military academies "adopt as
part of their curricula courses in cultural, religious and ethnic diversity
to fight bigotry and hatred."
2005-MAR: A 2004 survey was conducted after allegations surfaced
that female cadets had been sexually assaulted by other cadets. Write-in
remarks on the survey resulted in at least 55 complaints, including reports
of slurs experienced by non-Christians and preferential treatment given to "born-again"
Christian cadets. The Academy then implemented a 50 minute religious tolerance
program for both the cadets and staff -- 4,000 personnel in total. Over 90% of
the cadets identify themselves with Christianity; this compares with
about 75% for the U.S. as a whole. The survey
found that half had heard religious slurs and jokes on campus. The training
course is called RSVP for "Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People."
2005-APR: The three largest academies in the U.S. Armed Forces are the
Air Force Academy, West Point and the Naval Academy.
Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of
Church and State, (AUSCS) said:
"We've gotten 50 additional
complaints since all of this started. Forty-nine are about the Air Force
Academy. There's one about the Naval Academy, and none about West Point.
You'd think that if this was a service-wide problem, we'd be hearing a
little more across the board. But it's virtually all coming from one place,
the Air Force Academy."
He said the atmosphere there "becomes more poisoned" every day. 4
He did not give any data on the other two federal service academies: the merchant marine and coast guard.
AUSCS issued a report on the academy on APR-28. It documented extensive
problems at the AFA, including a long list of mandatory religious
observances, proselytizing by teachers and allegations by minority students
that evangelical Christianity is given preferential status at the school.
Lynn said, "I think this is the most serious, military-related systemic
problem I have ever seen in the decades I've been doing this work... There
is a clear preference for [evangelical] Christianity at the academy, so that everyone else
feels like a second-class citizen."
Some areas of concern:
This timeline continues in a separate
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Patrick Martin, "Christian fundamentalist bigotry reigns at US Air Force Academy," World Socialist Web Site, 2005-APR-30, at:
Patrick O'Drioscoll, "Academy critic says she was fired," USA Today, at:
"JWV Condemns Anti-Semitism and Urges Training in Cultural Diversity at Military Academies," Jewish War Veterans, 2005-FEB-25, at:
"Chaplain says she was fired. Claim comes amid inquiry into alleged intolerance at AFA,"
Associated Press, 2005-MAY-13, at:
"Americans United Report Details Instances Of Religious Favoritism At U.S. Air Force Academy," Americans United, 2005-APR-28, at:
Copyright © 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-MAY-14
Latest update: 2010-NOV-23
Author: B.A. Robinson