A blue-ribbon task force has cleared the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs of "overt religious discrimination," but said it had failed to provide full accommodation for the religious needs of non-Christian and non-evangelical cadets.
The 16-member task force was formed to respond to allegations that the Academy unfairly promoted evangelical Christianity.
The June 22 ruling suggested that some faculty members and officers were too aggressive in sharing their evangelical faith, and that some cadets have slurred other religions and have made anti-Semitic remarks.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, who headed the investigation, said the problem was less about intolerance than about insensitivity, such as scheduling training events during Passover. Head football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a "Team Jesus" banner in the locker room. Johnny Weida, commandant of cadets, encouraged attendance at National Day of Prayer activities.
DeBerry and Weida have been counseled, and both have apologized. Weida, cleared of six allegations of preferential treatment of evangelicalism, remains under investigation by the Air Force's inspector general on a seventh charge.
Academy Supt. John W. Rosa conceded that "we have some work to do." Rosa said he was establishing an interfaith ecumenical advisory group to monitor the situation. Opposing sides, however, remained polarized. Tom Minnery, vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family, praised the "common-sense" Air Force response and called for "this ridiculous bias of a few" against Christianity to cease.
However, a prominent critic of the academy, Mikey Weinstein, father of a cadet and a 1977 graduate, said the task force report trivializes the problem. Weinstein is lobbying Congress to hold oversight hearings on the Academy's religious issues.
"It's so systemic, they apparently can't even see it," Weinstein told CT.
On June 27, the Air Force named a Conservative rabbi to a new advisory position on religious tolerance at the Academy. The rabbi, Arnold Resnicoff, is a former Navy chaplain.
Rosa told CT the dispute is not unique to the Colorado Springs campus. "This issue is bigger than the Air Force Academy," Rosa said. "It's part of a national debate."
Stephen Adams is associate editor of Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine.
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The Report of the Headquarters Review Group Concerning the Religious Climate at the U. S. Air Force Academy is available as a PDF file from the Academy's website.
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