God and Man at the Air Force Academy
In recent months, we've written extensively about the religion "crisis" at the U.S. Air Force Academy and its impact on that institution.
As you know, liberal groups (such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State) charged the academy with systematic religious bias as the highest levels of the command structure. They claimed that the academy favored evangelical Christians, noting the comments of the Commandant of Cadets (Brigadier General Johnny Weida), who told cadets that their "first responsibility as military officers is to their god." General Weida was also criticized for supporting the National Day of Prayer, an event endorsed by President Bush and the governors of all 50 states. A Protestant chaplain was also cited for telling cadets who weren't saved that they would burn in hell.
There is no proof that any cadet was ever denied promotion, was punished, or otherwise suffered if he or she wasn't a born-again Christian. But criticism from the left (and their allies in tne news media) apparently threw Air Force leadership into a panic. In response, the Air Force buckled to the P.C. police. As described in Citizen Magazine, they launched an inquiry into the academy's religious atmosphere--then outsourced the job to liberal theologians. Their "findings" were a foregone conclusion. The Air Force Academy was condemned for "religious intolerance," and the service began backpeddaling furiously, trying to accomodate its critics. The cave-in began several months ago, when the service did away with most forms of public prayer, and its continues, unabated.
Just days ago, the Air Force withdrew a document that allowed Chaplains to evangelize military personnel not affilaited with any faith. The document was a code of conduct for chaplains, developed by the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF), a private, multi-denominational body that provides chaplains to the military. The code of conduct was never an official Air Force directive (and it barred evangelizing personnel with expressed religious beliefs), but the fact that it was distributed at the Air Force Chaplain School "might have given the impression that it was Air Force policy." That's the assessment of Rabbi Arnold Rensicoff, a retired Navy chaplain who has signed on as a special advisor to the Air Force secretary on religious matters. Interestingly, the Air Force has not (as far as I can tell) sought the counsel of evangelical Christians in revising its policies on religion. So much for fairness and balance.
In another apparent paen to the P.C. police, General Weida will soon leave the academy for a new assignment at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. As reported previously in this blog, General Weida's name mysteriously disappeared from the promotion list for Major General after the academy controversy errupted. A retired senior officer tells me that Weida is being "put out to pasture," apparently in hopes of ending the imbroliogo, once and for all. Earlier this summer, the academy's superintendent, Lieutenant General John Rosa, retired from active duty to become President of the Citadel, the state-run military school in South Carolina where he graduated in 1973. Academy sources suggest that the religion controversy was a factor in Rosa's decision to retire.
As I've written before, the religion "scandal" at the academy was grossly over-blown, and cleverly used by the liberal left to advance their secular humanist agenda. Sadly, the Air Force played into their hands by listening to these same groups, then implementing "reforms" designed to placate them. And, in the process, outstanding leaders like General Rosa and General Weida were gladly sacrificed in the name of "moving on."
In The Citizen article, a number of recent academy grads seem distressed by what they saw in Colorado Springs. And rightfully so. They learned a hard lesson in today's P.C. politics of the Defense Department. Standing up for religious beliefs that fall outside the liberal orthodoxy can be fatal to a career. A chaplain on Bataan once observed that "there are no atheists in foxholes." But there are plenty of atheists, secularists and dyed-in-the-wool liberals in the halls of Congress and the Pentagon who are happy to remake the academy's "religious atmosphere" in their own, graven image.
One final thought: The Citizen (published by Jame Dobson's Focus on the Family) is hardly an independent observer of recent events at the academy. But, as you read the accout, you'll see that the inquiry at "The Springs" was even more biased. In that light, the Citizen provides welcome balance to MSM press accounts of the academy controversy.