Conservative Groups Demand Religious Freedom for Cadets at Air Force Academy

Entrance of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. | (Photo: The Christian Post)

A petition demanding that personnel in the United States Armed Forces respect the religious freedom of their cadets garnered over 100,000 signatures and was sent to the Air Force Academy in Colorado earlier this week.

Organized by the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, the petition calls for restoring "military religious freedom" and asks supporters to "speak up for the Air Force cadets."

The petition, created in light of reports of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy, was delivered to the military installation on Wednesday and addressed to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson.

"I trust the Air Force Academy to train up the best young men and women our nation has to offer to be prepared to faithfully defend my family, my community and my country," read the petition.

"Part of that trust hinges upon the notion that the Academy would protect the religious freedom of the cadets we send it."

Sandy Rios, AFA director of governmental affairs, told The Christian Post that "military leaders need to be reminded they answer to the people of the United States, not a well-funded, demanding atheist."

"Now it's the Americans who send their sons off to war and embrace the God of our fathers time to be heard. Under the umbrella of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, this is only the beginning," said Rios.

"Simply put: We expect the Air Force Academy to immediately stop harassing and intimidating cadets from exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion."

The petition also said that "whitewashing of religion in the Academy develops a culture of fear in an institution tasked to develop warriors."

"If cadets are taught to be afraid of Bible verses, how will they respond against terrorists who are willing to die for their cause?" continued the petition.

"Our U.S. Air Force Academy cadets should be taught how to intercept the enemy, not how to tiptoe around the hyper-sensitive complainants."

Over the past few years much debate has surfaced regarding the level of religious freedom in the U.S. military.

Conservative groups have argued that recent incidents where military officials reportedly punished subordinates for openly expressing their Christian faith showcase a culture of intolerance.

The specific incident mentioned in the petition was based on a complaint filed by Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation earlier this year.

Reportedly working on behalf of members of the Armed Forces, the complaint alleged that a Bible verse from Galatians on a white board in a dorm room violated the military's policy on religious neutrality.

"It clearly elevated one religious faith (fundamentalist Christianity) over all others at an already virulently hyper-fundamentalist Christian institution," said Weinstein to Fox News' Todd Starnes. "It massively poured fundamentalist Christian gasoline on an already raging out-of-control conflagration of fundamentalist Christian tyranny, exceptionalism and supremacy at USAFA."

Other groups, like the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, have argued that the military promotes conservative Christianity and belittles other groups, like the unaffiliated.

Jason Torpy, president of the MAAF, told CP that he felt many "organizations use the Air Force Academy to stir up fear and outrage among their constituents."

"The voice of the cadets is often lost, and their voice says they just want to focus on the business of being Air Force officers," said Torpy.

"The military has a problem with ignoring the needs of nontheists and unfairly promoting the interests of Christian evangelists, but the Air Force Academy is not especially good or bad in this regard."

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