05/24/2005: Catching up with some back reading....
I see that the always sensible Sherman Wright has weighed in on the Air Force Academy religious oppression issue:
Here’s some free advice for my contemporaries running the show at the US Air Force Academy. If you want to promote Christian belief, back off of making it pseudo-mandatory! Bad things happen when people are forced into religious observance. I know this because chapel attendance was mandatory at West Point when I was there. For the first three years I didn’t mind, since I would have gone anyway. Let’s talk about why I had an issue in the fourth year in a minute. One thing that was pretty obvious about the situation was that cadets started equating chapel with the most disagreeable aspects of cadet life. For example, one particularly disagreeable aspect of cadet life was getting up early in Saturday AM, preparing your room for inspection, running off to a full morning of classes, and running back to change into full dress gray for inspection in ranks immediately followed by parading on the Plain. At least the Corps of Cadets didn’t parade in winter! With mandatory services, though, cadets had to get up early on Sunday, even in winter, had to again don full dress gray under the heaviest woolen cloak ever made, and march uphill to the chapel. Now consider some of the logistics behind a mandatory chapel policy. There were only three chapel buildings, so each cadet had to annually choose which to attend: Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Jewish. If you were, say, Mormon, you probably picked Protestant. If you were Greek Orthodox, you probably picked Catholic. If you were Buddhist or a non-believer, you flipped a coin. One of my classmates rotated between the choices, ending up one year as the ranking cadet in the Jewish chapel squad, a role traditionally dubbed “King of the Jews.” The arbitrary nature of it all caused Chapel to be seen as yet another harassment component of the cadet experience. Consider “I’m Mister Gung Ho,” sung sotto voce in particularly unpleasant marches (to the tune of the Official West Point March, affectionately known to every member of the Long Gray Line as “The Thumper.”) Here are the lyrics: “I’m Mr. Gung Ho/I double time wherever I go/I shine my B-plate up/Write my roommate up/I go to chapel twice on Sunday.” Anyway, I really got peeved Firstie (Senior) year during Constitutional Law class. I remember wandering through the halls in shock after reading the First Amendment Establishment of Religion chapter, since it was blatantly obvious that mandatory chapel was unconstitutional. And so it was ruled a few years after I graduated. I figured that if a country is going to all that trouble to have a Constitution and to have its soldiers swear “truth faith allegiance” to it, the Officer Corps might as well break down and play along with what it says. So here is Air Force sending a message to its future officers that adherence to the Constitution is optional. Is that really the kind of training experience we want our tax dollars funding?
Len on 05.24.05 @ 12:13 PM CST