Posts Tagged “air force academy”

Air Force Academy Oath of OfficeThe kinds of “persecution” many Christians believe they’re afflicted with, are rather bizarre and difficult to figure out. Take, for example, the fact that — as of a year and a half ago — the US Air Force Academy made the “so help me God” at the end of cadets’ oaths optional (WebCite cached article). Apparently this was part of a campaign by the military to suppress religion in the Air Force. Or something.

I haven’t quite figured out how making a profession of belief optional — yes, optional! — harms believers. But then, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen, and am not gifted with the lofty spiritual insights required to discern that.

One Texas Congressman is so incensed about that decision, Raw Story reports he’s proposed legislation to unravel that, and force all cadets to beg for God’s help (cached):

A Republican congressman has introduced legislation that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths every school year. He said the legislation is necessary because Americans don’t have “freedom from religion.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015 [cached], would protect the religious freedom of American troops.

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county [sic] with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement.

Again, the late 2013 policy change does not forbid cadets from saying “so help me God,” as Rep. Johnson seems to think. As I said, it merely makes it optional. I’m not sure why Johnson is misrepresenting Air Force policy — but he clearly is.

Johnson also trots out an old canard among the Religious Right:

“Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion — but not freedom from religion.

Unfortunately this is not the first time one of these Christian Nation types has openly said that non-believers have no right to refuse to believe in a religion. And I don’t expect it’ll be the last. But it’s true that they rarely come out and say it quite as openly and candidly as this.

At any rate, if the Congressman is convinced that I, as a non-believing American, have no right to remain a non-believer, then I heartily invite him to do something about it. He can track me down, if he dares, and force me to believe in a religion (I assume, his own). Based on the premises he subscribes to, there’s no reason he wouldn’t wish to. So he can just go right ahead. I dare him.

I won’t even get into the fact that he’s suborning perjury by forcing non-believing cadets to profess a belief they don’t hold onto. But that might be the point of what Johnson is doing … non-believing officers in the armed forces would end up having that violation hanging over them, their entire careers. It’s a tool that could be used to control them in any number of ways. Pretty clever, actually.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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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