Religious intolerance at Air Force Academy
Events from 2005-MAY/JUN. Report.
|2005-MAY-03: The Secretary of the Air Force
issued a press release noting that "lingering allegations from sources
such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State are being taken very
seriously by the Air Force." They announced the creation of a "cross-functional
task force on the religious climate at the United States Air Force Academy"
headed by Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady. Among the six areas that the task force will
|2005-JUN-03: The academy's
superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr., delivered a speech before the
national executive committee of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). He
said that the academy has a problem with religious
intolerance and insensitivity; he called it "insidious.....It is an
issue that has been at the academy for awhile; it will take a while to fix."
He said that "cultural experts" who had been called in as consultants
said it could take six years to fix. He described:|
Rosa said that he had told General Weida: "that is inappropriate. That is not the kind of behavior, not what I expect out of you. That was in April of ?03. And since that time I have not seen any kind of behavior outside that line."
He also discussed Rosa later incidents, including:
Rosa said these incidents were wrong. "It is
not the way we do business in the Air Force." 2
|2005-JUN-07: According to the Air
Force Times, "...acting Air Force Secretary Michael Dominguez told a
member of Congress the Air Force inspector general is looking into
'allegations of improper conduct' against Brig. Gen. John Weida, the No. 2
officer at the Colorado Springs-based school and a nominee for major
|2005-JUN-07: The House
Appropriations Committee added an amendment to the 2006 defense funding
bill which would require a report on allegations of religious insensitivity
and bias at the Academy, to be provided within two months. 2|
|2005-JUN-07: The academy announced that
Nicholas Jurewicz, a senior wing cadet at the time and now a 2nd Lieutenant,
did not break any rules when he sent the entire student body a farewell
Email which contained an attached file which included numerous Bible
quotations. The announcement stated that: "The legal review determined that
there was no attempt to convince any of the recipients of the intrinsic
value of any one quote or quote source." The attached file included about
300 quotations. About 30 mentioned God or were taken from the Bible. But
others quoted Buddha, Gandhi, Confucius, various authors and poets,
presidents and military leaders.|
|2005-JUN-08: Myrna Shinbaum,
spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League, said that the most
important thing the group heard from Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr. was "non-denial"
about the problem at the academy. She commented: "He said, there is a
problem we must deal with. The next step, of course, is to support him in
his efforts to rectify the problem." 2|
|2005-JUN-09: Richard Cohen wrote a blistering column in the Washington
Post which was critical of the Air Force Academy. He said:|
In late 2005-June, two military groups -- the Headquarters Review Group and the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces -- issued a joint report which described the results of their investigation of religious intolerance at the Academy. It was authored by Lieutenant General Robert Brady, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for personnel.
Also in late June, two individuals received appointments:
|A retired Navy chaplain,
Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, was hired by the acting secretary of the Air Force to
help develop a set of religious practices for the guidance of Air Force
personnel. He is a Conservative rabbi and former national director of
interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.|
|Major General Irving Halter, Jr. was appointed as vice superintendent of the Academy. He is charged with the responsibility of improving religious tolerance at the school. 4|
Forward Magazine reported on 2005-JUL-01:
"Congressional Democrats, including Rep. Steve Israel of New York and Rep. Lois Capps of California, have insisted on congressional oversight of the situation at the Air Force Academy. On Tuesday, in testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Israel recognized the contribution of Air Force Chaplain Captain MeLinda Morton to bringing to light the problems with the religious climate at the academy. Morton resigned the military recently after being reassigned to Japan, allegedly as a punishment for her role in exposing the problems there."
" 'While she may not be able to be an official witness at the hearing, my colleagues can certainly learn a great deal from Chaplain Morton, who courageously defended religious liberty and respect and ultimately lost her job for it,' Israel said in a briefing before the hearing."
"The Democrats' demand for oversight has been resisted by some Republican lawmakers. At a recent hearing on the matter, Rep. John Hostettler, an Indiana Republican, accused Democrats of "denigrating and demonizing Christians" and charged that their demand for oversight was part of a 'long war on Christianity in America'."
"At least one Jewish organization involved in investigating the situation at the academy, the Anti-Defamation League, is also urging Congress not to shirk its oversight function on the matter."
" 'Congress should ensure that the guidelines are followed,' said Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, in written testimony submitted Tuesday to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel." 4
The Air Force team investigating religious intolerance and oppression in the Air Force Academy issued of a set of guidelines on 2005-AUG-30. The guidelines extend well beyond the Academy: they apply to every officer, enlisted personnel and civilian employee within the Air Force.
Donald H. Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary, told a group of religious leaders in late 2005-AUG that if the guidelines work well in the Air Force, that they will be expanded to include the entire armed forces.
The guidelines state, in part:
"At a time when many nations are torn apart by religious strife, we must understand that our ability to stand together as Americans and as airmen -- those who represent many religions, shoulder-to-shoulder with those who claim no religion -- is part of our heritage, and our strength."
The guidelines attempt to accurately follow the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff. who helped write the guidelines said that they guarantee religious freedom while prohibiting any "establishment" of religion by the government. The report states: "We will not officially endorse or establish religion, either one specific religion or the idea of religion over non-religion."
Some of the guidelines are:
|"We will recognize and value the many heritages, cultures, and beliefs
represented among us, and build a team by stressing our common Air Force
heritage: the oaths we took; the core values that we embrace; and the
mission that we undertake to protect our Union."|
|Public prayer is not appropriate at most official meetings, classes, or
sporting events. However, "a brief non-sectarian prayer" is permitted
in ceremonies of special importance in order "to add a heightened sense
of seriousness or solemnity." A moment of silence may be appropriate in
official settings. |
|Commanders should avoid personal expressions of religious faith in
public. Officers must be "sensitive" to the potential that their
religious comments may be perceived as official statements.|
|Commanders should welcome requests for accommodation of diverse
religious practices. They should normally be approved unless "approval
would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion,
standards, or discipline."|
|Commanders should avoid scheduling conflicts with major religious
observance days where possible.|
|There are no limitations on "voluntary, peer to peer" discussions
of religious matters.|
|Chaplains "must be as sensitive to those who do not welcome offerings of faith, as they are generous in sharing their faith with those who do." They should respect "the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs."|
The report requires the Air Education and Training Command to submit a plan for incorporating the guidelines in "all venues of formal training and education for officer, enlisted and civilian personnel where our core values and professional standards are addressed." It also requires the Air Force Academy to "submit a long range plan for incorporating this guidance in their training program."
Resnicoff noted that these guidelines will result in major changes throughout the Air Force. He said: "In many places throughout the Air Force, people have told me that if they have four meetings in a day, they have four prayers." 5,6
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Copyright © 2005 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-MAY-14
Latest update: 2009-APR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson
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