Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Religion at the Service Academies?

From today's NYT:

Three years after a scandal at the Air Force Academy over the evangelizing of cadets by Christian staff and faculty members, students and staff at West Point and the Naval Academy are complaining that their schools, too, have pushed religion on cadets and midshipmen.

The controversy led the
Air Force to adopt guidelines that discourage public prayers at official events or meetings. And while those rules do not apply to other branches of the service, critics say the new complaints raise questions about the military’s commitment to policies against imposing religion on its members.

Religion in the military has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, especially because the close confines of military life often put two larger societal trends — the rise of evangelicals and the rise of people of no organized faith — onto a collision course.

At the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., nine midshipmen recently asked the
American Civil Liberties Union to petition the school to abolish daily prayer at weekday lunch, where attendance is mandatory. The midshipmen and the A.C.L.U. assert that the practice is unconstitutional, based in large part on a 2004 appellate court ruling against a similar prayer at the Virginia Military Institute. The civil liberties group has threatened legal action if the policy is not changed.

I'm not sure what I think of this. I think the article (read down further to get the whole view) is pretty balanced, in that comments from, for example the Commandant of Cadets at the Naval Academy, were nothing more than the "civil religion" that is OK, for instance on our coins and bills. Others obviously don't agree. As one who professes Christianity and encourages others to do the same, I have to wonder about the perceived forcing it on students.

It's worth a further look.

Read it all here.



the Reverend boy said...

My experience at the US Merchant Marine Academy was different, probably due in no small part to that, along with the Coast Guard Academy, is a service academy that was run by the Dept of Transportation, not the Dept of Defense.

We were encouraged to get involved in the many faith-based fellowships there because it was perceived as a healthy social outlet and a respite from the rigours of a heavy academic load and equally heavy regimental life.

Granted, I was in my heavy evangelical period at the time, but I still do not recall any particular brand of christianity being rammed down people's throats. Ecumenism was encouraged and respect of other's beliefs. This was the first time that many of us were brought into close contact with non-Christians or Catholics, Mormons and so on.

We did have grace before each meal, but it wasn't a prayer. Someone on the podium in the mess hall said the word, "Grace," which was everyone's signal to get quiet and observe a moment of silence prior to the meal. Ironically, there was no grace on Saturday night through Sunday.

I could go on and on, but suffice it so say, my experience at a service academy was very different than what has been described in the press. We could also chalk it up to the time i attended (1992-1995) vs post 9/11.

Troglodyteus said...

Protect the few.
Screw the many.

RFSJ said...


I have absolsutely no idea what you mean by this.


Troglodyteus said...

It means that 9 cadets got religion.

RFSJ said...

Huh? I *think* i know where you might be coming from, but I'm not sure. If you have something to say, by all means, say it. This is the blogosphere and you can and should say what you're thinking. Enough with the circumlocutions!