COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. — The Air Force Academy is investigating the prayer practice of its football team after a prominent activist group that seeks to separate God from the military lodged a complaint.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) recently contacted the academy in stating that it had been been told by a number of cadets and faculty that the Air Force Academy Falcons have been praying on the field before each game. The team did so last weekend in playing against San Diego, lining up in a row as they took a knee.
“It’s a putrid example of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, triumphalism and exceptionalism and it has to stop,” MRFF President Mikey Weinstein told reporters. “Those individuals that are dressed in the Air Force uniform; that’s their uniform of the day. They’re members of the military and they are under different rules that the civilian counterparts they’re playing on the field.”
Weinstein said that just as the academy bans public displays of affection, it should also ban public prayer.
“Given its horrific record of unconstitutional, abhorrent church-state violations scandalously spanning multiple decades now, it’s quite obvious that USAFA has NO such prohibitions on ‘PDR’ or ‘public displays of religiosity,'” he stated. “Indeed, apparently the only allowed, or maybe I should say ‘encouraged’ PDA is holding hands in public with Jesus.”
Weinstein says that he has been told that that some players have been afraid to file a complaint due to potential reprisal.
Now, the Air Force Academy says that it is investigating the matter due to Weinstein’s correspondence.
‘The United States Air Force Academy is attentive to all religious freedom concerns, and we are conducting an inquiry into the complaint,” it wrote in a statement. “The Air Force is dedicated to maintaining an environment in which people can realize their highest potential, regardless of personal, religious or other beliefs.”
Public reaction has been mixed. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, compared evangelical Christians to the Taliban in an op-ed in the Huffington Post this week.
“Clearly, any U.S. citizen who believes there is not a serious problem in the U.S. Armed Forces with fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity, must be … ‘smoking some good stuff,'” he wrote.
“[T]hese are not Christians of the Jesus Christ, New Testament variety. No, these are fire and brimstone, your-religion-s*cks, and if-you-don’t-switch-to-my-religion-right-now-you-will-die-by-the-flaming-sword-of-a-vengeful-Christ ‘Christians,'” Wilkerson said. “They live for your conversion or your death. Sounds like the Taliban, does it not? Or worse?”
But the Patriot Post strongly disagreed.
“Apparently, Wilkerson thinks a pre-game prayer is akin to the crucifixions, beheadings and stonings radical Islamists perform in the pursuit of Sharia Law,” it wrote. “[I]f the Air Force received a complaint about a Muslim praying, the person speaking up would probably be the one under scrutiny for a hate crime.”
“The Left may try to make an end run on religion in the ranks of the U.S. military, but the individual soldiers are keeping the flame of liberty and faith burning bright,” the outlet said.