We all know that the Religious Right has declared war on the so-called “New Atheists,” who (in their minds anyway) are led by the unholy trinity of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens (who’ve authored Letter to a Christian Nation, The God Delusion, and God Is Not Great, respectively). Not too long ago the Oklahoma state legislature launched a full-scale investigation into an appearance by Dawkins at University of Oklahoma; some of them objected to his presence on the sacred ground of that institution.

It turns out that Hitchens has obstacles of his own, at another school, the U.S. Air Force Academy, as the Colorado Springs Independent reports:

A dozen Air Force Academy cadets listen silently as Christopher Hitchens, the internationally known writer, pundit and atheist, starts speaking Monday evening. …

Hitchens regularly fills large lecture halls across the country, but he seems unruffled by the strangeness of speaking at a campus Freethinkers meeting on the patio of a northwest Colorado Springs restaurant. The cadets, warned by Academy officials that Hitchens would not be allowed to lecture on campus, quietly arranged a more intimate gathering publicized only by e-mails and word of mouth.

Hitchens talks for more than two hours, gently questioning the young men and women about their experiences at the service academy stained five years ago by allegations of an institutional bias toward evangelical Christianity.

The Air Force Academy, you may recall, has had more than a little trouble over the years with hyperreligiosity, especially of the evangelical Christian variety: Being anything else is definitely frowned upon there. An investigation showed a great deal of institutional proselytizing going on, and the Academy’s leadership refused to stop it (see a story on this from the Washington Post). So an invitation for Hitchens to visit a freethinkers’ group at the Academy, was handled carefully, as the Independent goes on to explain:

Hitchens was invited to Colorado Springs by Kyle Southard, a second-year cadet active with a student-run Jewish congregation and the Cadet Interfaith Council. Despite feeling that the Academy tolerates many religions, Southard felt a “vast lack of understanding” about those without faith.

Hitchens was willing to visit on his own dime, but officials “recommended” that the students not ask for him to be invited to speak on campus, says Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth.

That recommendation was made because of comments by Hitchens judged to be “degrading to others,” Ashworth says, and would have applied equally if he espoused evangelical Christianity. (Self-described former-terrorists-turned-evangelicals, who spoke on campus last year, were allowed as part of a terror briefing, Ashworth says.)

Uh huh. As if I believe this claim, given how poor the AFA’s record is on the matter of religion.

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