Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by dcmom3, Mar 12, 2014.
This is a sticky kind of situation that exposes a lot of strong opinions that people have on this issue. I think that the right decision was made, there shouldn't be any of this kind of open, however indirect, religious establishment at USAFA or any other SA. The academies have a clear, secular purpose to educate and produce leaders and an SA's adoption of religion is not a part of that process. I think I agree with the Academy's decision to not punish the cadet, but I can't make that statement steadfast with just the information from this source.
(Edit: Re-reading the article I saw author of the piece, I have a large amount of doubt on the opinion shown in and facts communicated by the article, this author has had numerous credibility issues in the past regarding the truthfulness of his coverage of issues such as these. It doesn't mean much for the status of one article, but for me to have an opinion I would have to hear from other sources to mitigate bias.)
I'll take the opportunity to bring up something I am worried about if I get a BFE to USAFA, I am an atheist (no, it's not a dirty word if anyone thinks it is) and I am concerned about the fundamentalist Christian atmosphere I have read that is present at the academy. Maybe what I have read is acutely exaggerated, but it's not anecdotal. I'm curious if there are any or previous cadets that could bring a perspective of this to me, it seems to be highly prevalent, and specifically, at USAFA (have never heard of this problem at other SAs).
Part of why I ask is because of the religious turn I have seen a few threads go here lately. There's nothing intrinsically wrong about that but my worry is about the accompanying pressure I might feel at USAFA (if I am offered an appointment ) from other cadets as an atheist.
Please tell me what you think.
lmao. Some people have way too much time on their hands
There are extensive cases on where the line is between freedom of religious expression and inappropriate coercion. I'm (slightly) involved in this discussion on raimius' Facebook now. My input was an article from my USAFA law prof in 2011: http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/Articles/2011autumn/Fitzkee.pdf
If you scroll to around page 63, he addresses this kind of issue. An example of how this can be inappropriate (and applies quite well to this topic as one of the cadets in that room is an element leader) is if a non-Christian 4 degree interacts often or needs to speak with his/her element leader. If every involvement, especially in the context of professional duties as leader, also includes the perceived official endorsement of a specific belief system (frequency is the key point from Prof Fitzkee's article), an inappropriate level of religious coercion from a leader is not unfathomable. Clearly, by the number of cadet complaints about this one quote, enough people felt uncomfortable. Since we don't know the context of the individuals, there may be even more (or less) involvement of religious expression that could have made subordinates very uncomfortable.
USAFA made a smart decision: outside whiteboards are for official business only. Religious neutral decision and doesn't target any group. Inside the cadet's room, they can feel free to put quotes on their backboard.
It seems the OP here doesn't like the idea that USAFA would take a professional solution to a touchy problem. Freedom of religious expression in the military is a blurry line and context is important. Let's get real. This cadet has not been prohibited from worshipping, speaking with friends and family about their religion, keeping religious symbols in their room, or reading the bible. They are being told to stop behavior that could be considered coercive to other subordinate cadets. And that policy is being EQUALLY enforced across all cadets regardless of religious affiliation.
Todd Starnes of Fox tends to work hard to find stories so he can propagate his perceived war against religious freedom. For all that dislike the extreme behavior of Weinstein, Starnes is his equal on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Thank you for taking the time to write out this clear, simple analysis of how no one was being attacked here, just an enforcement of equality. I always have trouble talking about this issue because I have no idea how much my audience understands the border between secularism and atheism. They are two entirely different things and in this case USAFA was clearly acting upon principles of the former.
Supposedly there have been issues in the past with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians at USAFA. As you can see from the quote above it didn't take long for those cadets, faculty and staff members that were recently offended by the bible verse on the whiteboard to express their displeasure and for USAFA to respond.
YES.....USAFA has a large number of cadets that are fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. I think you need to understand that if you receive (and accept) an Appointment to USAFA that you will be attending USAFA with quite a few people that will differ with your religious (or lack of) beliefs. Of course as an atheist in a predominantly Christian country that would be true of almost ANY college you attend. Fortunately (IMHO) USAFA (thanks to Mr Weinstein and others) has cracked down on the issues/problems of the past and is making a serious attempt at eliminating any pressure you might feel at USAFA from other cadets or cadre as an atheist.
Good luck with the BFE!
Also, though this is hearsay, it may provide some context. After this cadet was told to remove the quote, many other cadets started putting up biblical quotes in protest on their own whiteboards. It's not hard to imagine many non-Christian cadets feeling uneasy walking down the hall with biblical quotes on many of their peers' and superiors' whiteboards. More so when they know it's blow back against keeping the hallways religion neutral. It doesn't take long for an inappropriate command climate to develop if escalation continues. That's why I reiterate, USAFA took appropriate action to nip it in the bud that was not unequally applied.
I like their response!
Glenn Beck's website The Blaze (theblaze.com) has some beautiful responses from some of the cadets. The cadets missed adding some quotables from the agnostic/atheist groups to fully make their point. I stand with them in their 'revolt'!
Question for Current Cadets
Was there a reason, personal or otherwise that the first cadet posted the bible quote? Has he been doing that before and that particular quote was just a little too Christian, or was he/she struggling with something that prompted the passage, maybe a death in the family or something?
That's why I said we have no context. It could be either. None of the article comments from cadets who know the person seem to suggest hardship, though. But you said you celebrate this "revolt." Seriously, imagine how an agnostic/atheist cadet may feel seeing this all over. It's mountains out of molehills. There were always limits to the personal things that could be on the board. Any material that would make cadets feel uncomfortable in the squadron could be asked to be removed. That why I said I think USAFA made the professional and mature choice to make white boards in common areas business related. If cadets want to surround themselves with biblical or otherwise quotes, they can do it in their room within tasteful limits.
USAFA has a history of inappropriate evangelism that went all the way to the Supe in prior years. There's a reason they need to be cautious.
Seriously, there isn't a religious culling going on. The most prominent feature of USAFA is the CHAPEL which has no problem with attendance. The chapel corps is not lacking for people and resources. Religious group meetings occur during the week in Fairchild. There's no religious oppression at USAFA. This is ridiculous.
USAFA leadership made this a very clear-cut case by changing or clarifying policy. White boards outside cadet rooms are now for official use. So, putting religious or political statements on them is a no-go. I'm not sure if they were previously for official use only or not. I had assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that they were largely personal. A commander censoring personal speech based on religious content would be a HUGE problem, which I think is why so many people got upset.
There is a fine line in the military, with religious speech. The closer to official duties or policy the speech appears, the more questionable it becomes. As one goes higher in rank, the chances of appearing to officially endorse views becomes greater. So, tread carefully.
If there is anything to take away from instances like these it is that solving things at the lowest level is usually better for everyone. A respectful conversation between cadets would likely have solved the issue before it became a controversy. If that failed, there is a chain of command that probably would have solved this fairly easily (as USAFA leadership did with their policy).
If you are offended or feel something is improper, go talk to the person! If that fails, get leadership involved. If that fails, there is the IG or MEO system in place. Outside lawyers and congressional complaints are basically the "nuclear option" and should be used sparingly.
freedom to express
At a time when the military is proposing allowing turbans as part of the uniform dress code cadets are not allowed to write a bible verse? Diversity means living with others from different back grounds and beliefs. This is one of the goals of a diverse group. Live and let live. No Yamakas on your head while you walk to Temple ? No turbans worn until you are in the Mosque. Careful you might offend others
We all put on the uniform, swore to protect the Constitution, AND ACCEPTED THE LIMITATIONS UPON US FOR TAKING THAT OATH. BTW, the "turban" exception isn't for Muslims, it is for Sikhs. But yes, the military is investigating and considering changes to allow for religious items to be worn.
That said, cadets are held to different standards. For instance, they can't wear a mustache even though active duty regs allow it.
Again, quit framing this as some sort of PC crusade against the Christians. USAFA has a history of broadly inappropriate evangelism. Perhaps if that history wasn't such a problem, a recent one, then we wouldn't hear these stories.
If the person who wanted this taken down views the bible as a book and not real (aka human thoughts), then why would this be wrong compared to an inspirational quote from Shakespeare or Ralph Waldo Emerson(aka human thoughts) written on a whiteboard?
Sent using the Service Academy Forums® mobile app
I'll disagree with this. Any "respectful" conversation with another cadet concerning your being offended by their religious or sexual expressions is exposing you to some very bad possible consequences. These subjects are also not something that the chain of command has a history of handling very well. Especially at USAFA. The Mikey Weinstein option might be considered a "nuclear approach", but it is in place because in the past cadets had few/no other GOOD options. Supposedly 29 cadets and four faculty and staff members chose this approach. Wonder how many thought it was a good idea to have a respectful conversation with the cadet that posted on the whiteboard? If any....it didn't seem to "resolve" the problem.
First, how about the people who are of a different religious belief than the quotes but not non-theist?
Second, your logic doesn't make sense. Religious beliefs are quite different from Shakespeare and a quote usually implies a religious foundation whereas a quote from Hamlet doesn't really imply a morale foundation in Shakespearian fiction.
Hornet Guy, I understand the reasons behind why the whiteboard was wiped. I have some memory of the issues in the past with the Christian evangelicals. That was then. One whiteboard with a bible verse does not herald a return to that. And that is why I found the response of the cadets so appropriate. If this cadet made a habit of these whiteboard sermons, then yes, action was needed. I question why 'an email' was sent to Mr. Weinstein instead of being handled internally.
I'm sorry if some cadets find reading bible verses threatening (and understanding, again, the historical context for that). I imagine their discomfort is similar to mine when I hear the Ft. Hood massacre called 'workplace violence'' or having "so help me God' removed from the oath. As long as personal discomfort is as far as it goes, with no proselytizing from the cadet in question. So, now, no "Have a Nice Day" or "Good Luck on Finals" or even "BEAT ARMY" on the whiteboards. PC rules!
Sometimes it takes a little bit of guts to tell someone you think they are wrong. If you can't do that over some words on a white board, what are you going to do when lives are at stake?
If things go poorly at the personal level, you still have the chain of command, the IG/MEO, and then outside groups. Most people can come to an understanding, if you just approach them in a non-confrontational way. My squadron has some policies I don't fully agree with, but the chain of command has laid out their reasoning, and I can grasp that. It's not THAT hard.
I guess my question with this is that if you don't believe in the Bible, then isn't this just a quote from a bible? Would someone send it to the press if a cadet posted a quote from Hitler's book? Why wasn't this handled at the lowest level? What about the second part of the constitutional clause that forbids the hindrance of establishing religion? Just some questions I have been having with this whole situation.
What Ramius said. Much better than I
Or 'Raimius' preview is my friend!
Separate names with a comma.