Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wild Blue Yonder

Talking Points Memo directs us to a distressing article in The New York Times detailing religious discrimination against non-evangelical Christians at the Air Force Academy.
Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
More than 90 percent of the cadets identify themselves as Christian. A cadet survey in 2003 found that half had heard religious slurs and jokes, and that many non-Christians believed Christians get special treatment.

"There were people walking up to someone and basically they would get in a conversation and it would end with, 'If you don't believe what I believe you are going to hell,'" Vice Commandant Col. Debra Gray said.

Critics of the academy say the sometimes-public endorsement of Christianity by high-ranking staff has contributed to a climate of fear and violates the constitutional separation of church and state at a taxpayer-supported school whose mission is to produce Air Force leaders.

Marshall warns us, correctly, to take the article with a grain of salt, as it is somewhat vague and does not say who the "critics" are. Furthermore, while the article insinuates that the academy is trying to shove the issue under the bed, apparently the superintendent has admitted there is a problem and in doing so, said something very wise:
The superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, conceded there was a problem during a recent meeting of the Board of Visitors, the civilian group that oversees the academy.

"The problem is people have been across the line for so many years when you try and come back in bounds, people get offended," he said.

And the response to that statement was very interesting too:
The board chairman, former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, warned Rosa that changing things could prove complicated. He said evangelical Christians "do not check their religion at the door."

I would hope that Mr. Gilmore is not suggesting that religious tolerance by evangelical Christian requires them to "check their religion at the door." It seems to me that is extraordinarily disrespectful to those religious denominations. I certainly hope that one can respect people of other faiths and avoid gratuitously degrading them without sacrificing Christian faith.

But while Gilmore's words may have just been inartful, the response by radical rightwing Christian groups was simply outrageous:
Two of the nation's most influential evangelical Christian groups, Focus on the Family and New Life Church, are headquartered in nearby Colorado Springs. Tom Minnery, an official at Focus on the Family, disputed claims that evangelical Christians are pushing an agenda at the academy, and complained that "there is an anti-Christian bigotry developing" at the school.

"Anti-Christian bigotry"? At the Air Force Academy?!? They cannot be serious. Only James Dobson's outfit (Focus on the Family) considers an inquiry against religious bigotry to be discrimination against Christians. But I guess that shows you what Dobson's view of Christianity really is.

No comments: