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June 19, 2005

Wings vs. wingnuts

You may recall that the U.S. Air Force Academy—the same place where, in 2003, dozens of female cadets came forward to say they’d been sexually assaulted—now has a little religious issue.

So far, at least 100 cadets have alleged that faculty and staff have pressured them to convert to evangelical Christianity. As usual, this has meant creating a culture of hate. Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the academy and a White House attorney in the Reagan administration, has sent two sons there:

His eldest son is also a graduate, and his youngest son had been there just a few months when he complained of abuse from evangelical cadets. Mr Weinstein said his son had complained of being called an “f-ing Jew” and was told Jews were responsible for “executing Jesus”.
Mr Weinstein said 117 people had given him examples of abuse. Only eight of them were Jewish, he said - the rest were Catholics, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist. “They’re not used to being preyed upon by their evangelical brothers and sisters. But that’s exactly what’s happening.”

So where’s all that good Christian love coming from?

Focus on the Family - perhaps the most powerful lobbying organisation on the Christian right - is over the road from the academy.
Colorado’s largest evangelical mega-church, the New Life Church, sits on a hill just a few kilometres away, looking down onto the academy grounds. Its pastor is Ted Haggard, president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals. He boasts his own huge congregation of 11,000.

Pastor Ted—who runs the “Prayer Shield for Families Summer Retreat” and claims to talk with President Bush “most weeks”—seems ambivalent about his church’s involvement in the harassment:

“Liberal movements in America treat people like they’re stupid” … “Are we saying that we want those students to understand representative government... but they can’t understand religious discussion?”
… “Proselytising causes people to improve their argument, and exposes false arguments. Why in the world would we adopt a view that freedom of speech applies in every area except religion?”
Pastor Haggard says he believes cadets should be robust enough to withstand passionate evangelising. He denies systematic evangelical links to the academy.

Of course. Perish the thought.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has formed a taskforce to investigate the hate campaign, and earlier this month U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) added an amendment to a defense appropriations bill that criticizes “coercive and abusive religious proselytizing” at the academy. It also requires the Air Force to submit a plan to Congress to correct the problems.

God’s Own Party would prefer the harassment to continue. This week, Congressional Quarterly reported that U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, plans to strip the Obey amendment from the bill and replace it with a watered-down version.

These people truly are beyond redemption.

Posted by Stephen at 12:46 AM in Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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