Thursday, May 26, 2005

Free to Believe Whatever You Want, as Long as it’s Evangelical – The Religious Right as Religious Oppressors in the Air Force

For many American Evangelicals it is inconceivable that anyone can adhere to a belief system and operate under any cultural norms other than theirs. With a belief system ground into their skulls and with the unlimited power of the US government now at their disposal it takes little imagination to see who the Religious Right is fighting in the culture war; anyone who does not think, talk, walk, look or believe as they do. The following description of religious oppression is from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

"He knew I was Jewish and referred to myself and my religion using the f-word, calling me, like, an f-ing Jew, blaming me for killing Jesus," Weinstein said.

ABC reported that during a class on the Holocaust, one cadet told a Jewish student that the mass murder occurred because the Jews killed Christ.

Non-believers have also had problems. One former cadet, an atheist who has since graduated, said he posted a poem about atheists in the military on his door but it was constantly torn off. He asserted that cadets were pressured to attend Christian services and that the academy promoted the film "The Passion of the Christ."

When he complained, the former cadet said, an officer told him he was Christian and considered it his duty to "bring him back" to Christianity.

Other complaints include:

· The placement of an annual ad in the official academy newspaper that declares Jesus as the only savior. About 200 academy staff members, including some department heads, have signed the ad in years past. It did not run last year.

· A statement in June of 2003 by academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, who told cadets that their first responsibility is to their God. He also strongly endorsed the National Day of Prayer.

· Officer commission ceremonies being held at off-campus churches.

· Complaints that mandatory academy events are often held on Jewish holidays.

· Actions by football coach Fisher DeBerry who posted a large Christian banner in a locker room that read, "I am a Christian first and last.... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." DeBerry was told to remove the banner.

How did the Academy take on such a religious cast? Apparently, the institution has been heavily influenced by Focus on the Family and other high-profile Religious Right groups that proliferate in the Pike's Peak area. Also, fundamentalist groups have for years targeted the military for aggressive proselytism efforts.

And what does the good Dr. Dobson have to say about all of this?

Christians at the U.S. Air Force Academy are simply too aggressive and outspoken, according to a formal complaint by the activist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The complaint puts the academy in the crosshairs of the mainstream media and liberals.

As always, it’s a conspiracy hatched by the liberal media. Replace word “Liberal” with “Jew” and “Mainstream Media” with “Communist” and you will get a better sense of where Dobson is coming from. But wait, there’s more….

Tom Clemmons, an Air Force Academy graduate and former officer, said it's really an attempt to quash the free speech of Christians.

"I totally disagree with what they're saying. I applaud any chaplain that would encourage students to know the Lord," Clemmons said. "This is a free country, even in the military.

"If I did experience a bias in the Air Force, it was against Christians. The secular humanists kind of run the show, by and large. Now, while we do have Christians at the Academy and in the Air Force, it's definitely a minority."

Everyone, he added, is a witness to what they believe, one way or the other, and that Christians have a right to share in the public arena.

While all Americans should be outraged at the conduct of the religious right and their bigoted culture war, one can only pray that a few individuals within the religious right would acknowledge their movement’s hypocrisy. While we on the left, Christian Left I might add, can yell and scream until we are blue in the “state” real change will only come when a few brave soles within the religious right have the courage to stand up and confront the evil that their movement has given into.