The academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, speaking to reporters in Colorado Springs, compared the struggles over religion at the institution with an airplane crash.
“When you go back, everything becomes very obvious,” General Rosa said. “But while you are flying the airplane, the kind of things that lead up to the accident are not very obvious.”
—New York Times, June 23, 2005
So what is it about the following incident that “isn’t very obvious” as an opporessive use of religion?
The commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Johnny A. Weida, came in for particular scrutiny by the panel. He sent an academywide e-mail message to announce the National Day of Prayer, instructed cadets that they were “accountable to their God” and invented a call-and-response chant with the cadets that went, “Jesus … Rocks.”
The Air Force conducted a study (Religious Climate at U.S. Air Force Academy) which found that lamentable things had happened, but that there was no “overt religious discrimination” – only “insensitivity.” Now isn’t that convenient. A bunch of Air Force senior officers investigate a bunch of their peer officers–and they can’t find it in them to call the following incident “overt discrimination”:
The report said a chaplain who reportedly exhorted cadets in a worship service to tell their classmates to accept Christ or “burn in hell” was merely using language “not uncommon” for his Pentecostal denomination.
Does anyone wonder why only 1.5% of the Air Force student body is Jewish? Why would any self-respecting Jew want to submit themself to such outrageous, intimidating and oppressive behavior? I know I’m not within the cohort that the Air Force is recruiting from–but I’d sure argue hard against any of my three children attending. Wouldn’t you?
For more on the legislative battle Democrats are waging to keep proselytizing out of our military academies, see this update from the National Jewish Democratic Council and sign their petition to protest the Republican refusal to act.
Neil Parks says
So you’re saying that chaplains should not be allowed to express their religious beliefs when they conduct a worship service for members of their own denomination?
Richard Silverstein says
That’s not what I said & you know it. We’re talking about the 2nd in command of the entire Academy (not a chaplain) who sent out an e mail to the entire student body (Jews, Muslims, etc.) admonishing them that Christ was their Savior, etc.
Your comment is too cute by half & shows you either didn’t read my post or chose to distort my supposed views to suit your own ends.
Does the Air Force in the person of its senior officers have the right to intimidate non-evangelical, non-Christian members of its student body? The answer is flat out ‘no’ whether you like it or not. What a chaplain does in his or her worship service is up to them as long as it doesn’t disparage or discriminate against members of other faiths.
BTW, a chaplain at the Academy was one of the lead whistleblowers in this case warning of proselytizing by evangelical Academy officers & personnel. So don’t believe me–believe someone who is a chaplain, was there, & saw it for herself & was so upset she brought it to the attention of members of Congress.
Furthermore, from the looks of your own site you are possibly an Orthodox Jew. How could you countenance what the Air Force has done at the Academy? Don’t you have any elementary sympathy for your fellow Jews who are students there and for the pain and suffering this Air Force mishugas put them through?
Thanks for the petition info, Richard. I read, signed and passed on.
donna shpak says
Just for the record – we’re Israelis who moved to the States when our kids – all born in Israel – were in junior and high school…our youngest decided he wanted to fly fast planes and went to the Air Force Academy….while the prevalence of Christians attending was great, and while many were vocal since proselytizing is a tenet in many Christian sects, Etai had no problem at the Academy. I believe, as in everything in life, that the secret is one of attitude and character; Etai simply stated who he was and what he believed -as did his Christian friends. He said they had many discussions over the years, with a lot of humor interjected, but no one left bruised or wounded or, for that matter, converted….end of story, except for the fact that, while at the Academy, Etai was a well-liked cadet with many friends, the cadets had a chance to delineate what is religious myth and fact from one another, our son rose to several leadership positions (doled out by “Christian” officers) while at the Academy, and he has continued to excel in the mainstream Air Force. At his former post, one of his military bosses was married to an Israeli, and there were many inter-faith as well as inter-racial marriages…so much for the “:mishuganay” in the Air Force…..Perhaps this thought might fit well in this particular thread…..it says in the Talmud, ” We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.”
Richard Silverstein says
Donna: I’m delighted to hear that Etai handled the situation so well. It’s a credit to him & his strength of character.
However, not every Jew or non-Christian attending the Academy will have his set of personality traits and his self-confidence in expressing his own religious beliefs. The point is, I think, that every non-Christian there, not just the strong-willed Etais, should feel comfortable. And that’s just not the case now.
The Air Force Academy also has a terrible problem with rape & harrassment of female cadets. I’m sure that there are some Etais among the female cadet core who no male officer or fellow cadet would dream of harrassing because she has certain sterling personality traits & skills. But what about the other female cadets who don’t possess this particular imaginary woman’s self-confidence or steely determination? Should every female cadet be expected to have those same skills? No, the Academy should be structured so that every woman feels safe and comfortable there. And that too is not the case.