West Point, New York – A Washington-based group that works to separate God from government is demanding that a prominent military academy end all prayers that are traditionally held during official school events.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, led by Barry Lynn, an attorney and licensed “minister” in the United Church of Christ, says that the prayers being facilitated at West Point Military Academy in New York are unconstitutional. The organization send a letter to the institution last week asking that commanders cease and desist the practice.
“We have received several complaints about the United States Military Academy at West Point’s pattern of presenting prayers held throughout the four-year program of instruction,” the letter states, listing a number of events, including Thanksgiving dinners and graduations. “West Point’s inclusion of government-sponsored prayers at these events creates a pervasive atmosphere of religiosity and cannot be reconciled with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
“Cadets are uniformly told that attendance at these events are required,” the correspondence continues. “Being forced to attend an event that includes a prayer is at the heart of the kind of religious coercion that the Constitution prohibits. … The government does not have to physically force someone to utter a prayer or to genuflect before God in order to run afoul of that prohibition.”
It then asked that the academy respond within 30 days.
“West Point cadets should be able to train for service in our nation’s military without having religion forced upon them,” director Barry Lynn commented further. “Academy officials must respect the religious liberty rights of all cadets, who should be free to make their own decisions about prayer without government coercion.”
The organization also pointed to an atheist named Blake Page who recently dropped out of West Point just months before graduation, “charging that the institution is rife with fundamentalist Christian proselytizing.”
However, others support the prayers at the academy and state that Lynn’s organization is wrong in attempting to remove God from West Point.
“George Washington was famous for his prayers for his soldiers,” Ron Crews of Chaplain Alliance told reporters. “He was the one who asked Congress to authorize chaplains to be in every brigade.”
Former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt agreed.
“[The 'separation of church and state' is] not in the Constitution, and it doesn’t mean to limit military prayers,” he told OneNewsNow. “The easiest way to prove that is that in 1802, Thomas Jefferson himself personally signed the Navy regulations, ordering chaplains to lead prayers on Navy ships.”
“Barry Lynn’s objective is to destroy Christianity in America. It has nothing to do with wanting to support the First Amendment under his understanding of it,” added retired Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin, who now serves as vice-president of Family Research Council. “Prayer at West Point is a tradition. Because it is a tradition that derives from Christianity, Barry and others want to destroy that tradition because they are anti-Christian and want to erase any remnant of the influence of Christianity on our society.”
Until approximately 40 years ago, West Point required all cadets to faithfully attend church services out of its devotion to God and His word.
“Occasionally some friend, parent or new cadet will question the wisdom of obligatory chapel attendance. A former Commandant of Cadets answered this statement by saying that, should such emphasis on religion be neglected, West Point would fail in its mission,” an online 1958 publication about the history and beliefs of the academy outlines. “It is the Academy’s task to prepare as officers men who hold ‘duty’ as a sacred trust; ‘honor,’ a hallowed possession; ‘country,’ a treasured heritage. This type of man, the Commandant believed, can never be developed if God and His worship are left out of a man’s normal life.”
As previously reported, on December 1st, West Point hosted its first-ever homosexual “wedding” at its historic Cadet Chapel.
West Point has confirmed that it has received Lynn’s letter, and states that prayers during academy events are completely voluntary.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been challenging public displays of Christian and religious symbols across the nation since 1992.