Monday, June 13, 2005


Ponder the below:

Jonathan Chait: 'Off we go, into the Christian yonder'
Posted on Friday, May 20 @ 09:31:53 EDT

Air Force Academy situation shows the real agenda of evangelicals.

Jonathan Chait, Los Angeles Times

Conservatives have been arguing for years that the religious right is simply misunderstood. These vilified godly folks don't want to impose their beliefs on anybody else, we're told. They simply want to defend their traditional beliefs and practices against the aggressive impositions of a secular culture. Therefore any suggestion to the contrary is liberal hysteria or, worse, discrimination against "people of faith."

So how do conservatives explain what's been going on at the Air Force Academy?

As a number of newspapers have documented, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., has essentially established evangelical Christianity as its official religion.

The examples are legion. Last season, the football coach hung a banner in the locker room laying out a "Competitor's Creed," including the lines "I am a Christian first and last" and "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

And here are other examples among those noted in an April report by the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Campus chaplains have encouraged proselytizing among the students, and younger cadets who skipped out on prayer services have been forced by their seniors to march back to their dorms in a ritual called "heathen flight." On one occasion, every seat in the dining hall was covered with a flier advertising a showing of "The Passion of the Christ," including the tagline, "This is an officially sponsored USAFA event."

These are just a few examples among many. Non-evangelicals have described an atmosphere of pervasive religious pressure. A top academy chaplain was discharged for speaking out against this state of affairs.

So, again, what do the conservatives have to say about this? Not very much. I searched three major conservative publications — the Washington Times, National Review and the Weekly Standard. I found only one article referring to the Air Force scandal: a Web-only column by conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt in the Standard decrying the Air Force's promised internal investigation as an unnecessary inquisition and devoting one sentence to summarizing the charges.

And no wonder the conservative press, normally obsessed with the role of religion in public life, would have so little to say about this scandal. It undercuts its long-standing effort to portray the religious right as merely defending itself. A notable subset of this effort consists of pleas by politically conservative Jews to their moderate and liberal brethren to stop worrying about the religious right. "All right, enough, already. The Christians aren't coming to get you," writes National Review's Jonah Goldberg in a typical salvo.

Now, it's easy to get carried away by one extreme example, just as conservatives do when some school principal somewhere doesn't let a kid wear a Santa Claus hat or some such nonsense. But the situation at the Air Force Academy, though atypical of the United States, does not represent random excess by the religious right. It's an embodiment of the religious right's vision of America. When asked about the allegations, a spokesman for Focus on the Family replied, "If 90% of cadets identify themselves as Christian, it is common sense that Christianity will be in evidence on the campus…. I think a witch hunt is underway to root out Christian beliefs."

This comment is telling, because it basically jibes with what religious conservatives have been saying for a long time. Most Americans are Christian, therefore the United States is a Christian country. Therefore, the institutions of the state ought to promote the religious views of the majority, and everybody else ought to shut up and take it.

To be sure, I do think liberals can get carried away exaggerating the threat of the religious right. The truth is that the religious right does not have a great deal of influence at the national level — certainly not proportional to its share of the Republican base.

President Bush hasn't even made the slightest effort to push a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, for instance — even though he says he supports it. The influence of the religious right mostly remains confined to isolated strongholds, such as Colorado Springs and Kansas.

But although the religious right doesn't have the capacity to impose its views on the rest of the country, it certainly has the intent to do so. Conservatives may dismiss fears of a Christian theocracy as liberal hysteria. Theocracy, though, is not an inaccurate description of life at the Air Force Academy.

© 2005 Los Angeles Times. Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times (Link on article title)
Bloggers and radio hosts: Don't be shy -- tell your readers you saw it on Smirking Chimp! I read in the L. A. Times but liked the formatting on the Chimp.

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Now this triggered another article in the Saint Petersburg Times:

Robyn E. Blumner: 'The Air Force Academy's force-fed evangelism'
Posted on Sunday, May 29 @ 10:16:10 EDT

By Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times

In my book, true heroism is defined by those who talk truth to power even to their own detriment. It includes people like Sherron Watkins, the former Enron vice president who blew the whistle on the financial manipulations that hid the company's crushing debt. (Go see the movie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room for all the gory details.)

Watkins has become famous for her rectitude, but rarely do such acts lead to public accolades. Bad endings for the truth sayer are far more likely.

Capt. MeLinda Morton is a prime example. A chaplain at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Morton has been trying her mightiest to end the force-fed evangelism that is rampant on campus. Rather than thanks, her outspoken defense of the Constitution has gotten her booted from her job and a one-way ticket to exile in Japan - known as "reassignment" in military speak.

Her fight against proselytizing is taking place in Colorado Springs - control central for the most radical elements of the Christian Right. James "tolerance is a homosexual plot" Dobson's Focus on the Family is based there - a concern so large that there is no need to use a street address on a letter. Also nearby is the Officers' Christian Fellowship, an organization whose express purpose is to create "ambassadors for Christ in uniform." Its slogan is: "Christian Officers Exercising Biblical Leadership to Raise up a Godly Military." (That's funny, the Taliban say something very similar.)

There is significant cross-pollination between the local evangelical groups and the Academy, to a point where cadets are reportedly cajoled, harangued and even bullied into being "saved."

Mikey Weinstein, an attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., has been collecting complaints of this nature for more than a year and says he has about 150 of them. Weinstein is a graduate of the Academy, as is his elder son. But when his youngest son, who is a member of the class of 2007, was called a "f--- Jew" and taunted as a Christ killer, Weinstein got involved.

"The Air Force Academy is suffering from a constitutional disease," Weinstein said. "They are trying to tell people whose God is best." He said his complaints have received little more than lip-service.

"I love and cherish the Academy," he said, "but it's been overtaken by the evangelical right."

Morton, a 48-year-old Lutheran minister, has seen this up close over the past 2 1/2 years. She says the academy is sending cadets the message that adopting Christian conservative evangelical values is key to their success at the school.

"There's nothing wrong with people reaching out to cadets," Morton said. "But when the purpose is to proselytize and make the military into a godly force, then that's inappropriate."

Fisher DeBerry, the Academy's head football coach, exemplifies the explicit sectarianism on campus. Two weeks after the academy had ostensibly begun religious sensitivity training, DeBerry posted a banner in the football locker room that read: "I am a Christian first and last *** I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

Challenging authority is difficult in any institution, but it's career suicide within a military structure that maintains a strict hierarchy in which the way to advance is to parrot what those above you say. Morton, who was executive officer of the 16 chaplains, knew what she was risking when she started criticizing the religiously freighted climate and repudiating the Academy's official stance that remedial steps were being taken.

Since coming forward, Morton has been removed from her administrative position and has orders to transfer to Okinawa by the end of July. The Academy has said in news reports that the posting is a routine reassignment. (It will no longer discuss her case with the media.) Morton says the move is to get rid of her.

"I spent 2 1/2 years putting in 16-hour days," Morton said. "Now I have no specific duties."

The recent publicity over the religious atmosphere has put pressure on the Pentagon. Forty-five members of Congress joined a letter this month telling the Air Force, in effect, "we're watching." A Pentagon task force was dispatched to investigate the allegations. But the group didn't even bother to contact Weinstein (who calls it a "mask force.") As to Morton, she said the group spoke with her just hours before briefing the Air Force's acting secretary - giving it no time to investigate her claims.

It looks like a classic whitewash in the making.

The Academy has just recently emerged from a scandal over the insensitive way the rapes of female cadets were handled. Now it's accused of conversion by intimidation. The leadership either has the sense of a flea or is seeking to dissuade women and non-evangelicals from attending the Academy. I wonder which?

© 2005 St. Petersburg Times. Reprinted from The St. Petersburg Times:

What amuses ZenPupDog is that the Xtian Zombie Forces attacked Robyn and left Jonathan alone - but quoted his sources trying to make the Xtians seem openminded when they're really going after other faiths:

It irks me that they want to label us liberals when we are offended by calling us filthy Jews. But it makes it easier to view them as archreactionary bible thumpers who don't get it. I loved working with the USAF and NASA in the 1980s. Time the archreationary knucklewalkers remembered “Separation of Church and State” - and shut the Fuck up in public about their piss poor imaginary friend. - ZenPupDog

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