Religion Scandal at AFA

November 20 2004, 7:38 AM
Denver Post columnist Jim Spencer has found his work often relegated to the back pages of section B since the Post added conservative David Harsanyi to its team of local columnists. But Spencer was back on Page B-1 Friday, reporting on the crackdown by new Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr. on what apparently has become a culture where non-Christian cadets (a mere 10 percent of the student population) are subjected to second-class treatment and where overtly Christian messages are often mixed with messages promoting the school's mission of training elite warriors for America. The Colorado Springs Gazette has more:
The academy's flag-folding ceremony, sanctioned by the Air Force, states that raising the flag at reveille is "a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body," a Christian reference. Meanings for some folds note Christian symbols -- God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. One fold represents religious figures King David and Abraham to acknowledge "a Hebrew citizen." It does not mention the Jewish faith. Academy involvement in Christian activities is nothing new. In September 1993, the academy parachute team delivered keys to James Dobson, head of the Christian evangelical ministry, Focus on the Family, so he could officially open the ministry's new building near the academy.
The Gazette also notes that AFA football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a banner in the team's locker room reading "I am a Member of Team Jesus Christ" while claiming that his pregame team prayer is not meant to exclude non-Christian players. This story has also been picked up in the national media, with the Associated Press reporting that the Academy is also trying to stop the apparently widespread practice of putting New Testament verses on government e-mails and for using government e-mail to encourage cadets to see "The Passion of the Christ." With the United States currently involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which everyone from the Commander-in-Chief on down are careful to characterize as not religious wars against Islam, the fact that one U.S. military academy has allowed the concept of service to the country to become mixed with the concept of service to Christianity presents serious military and diplomatic challenges. It looks like the proximity of religious-right groups in Colorado Springs has caused some at the Academy to confuse their national defense mission with a Christian proselytizing mission that the First Amendment says is not appropriate for any agency of the government.