There's a profoundly disturbing article out tonight from the AP about what appears to be a widespread climate of intolerance and even harassment of non-evangelical Christians at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. 'Widespread' is a vague word. And I'm only going on the basis of this one article -- and I'd strongly recommend reading the whole piece to decide for yourself if I'm using the correct word. But what the piece describes at least is not a matter of a few outrageous incidents but something much more pervasive.
Here's the passage that stands out to me ...
''There were people walking up to someone and basically they would get in a conversation and it would end with, `If you don't believe what I believe you are going to hell,''' Vice Commandant Col. Debra Gray said.
Critics of the academy say the sometimes-public endorsement of Christianity by high-ranking staff has contributed to a climate of fear and violates the constitutional separation of church and state at a taxpayer-supported school whose mission is to produce Air Force leaders.
They also say academy leaders are desperate to avoid the sort of uproar that came with the 2003 scandal in which dozens of women said their complaints of sexual assault were ignored.
''They are deliberately trivializing the problem so that we don't have another situation the magnitude of the sex assault scandal. It is inextricably intertwined in every aspect of the academy,'' said Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, N.M., a 1977 graduate who has sent two sons to the school. He said the younger, Curtis, has been called a ''filthy Jew'' many times.
The superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, conceded there was a problem during a recent meeting of the Board of Visitors, the civilian group that oversees the academy.
''The problem is people have been across the line for so many years when you try and come back in bounds, people get offended,'' he said.
The board chairman, former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, warned Rosa that changing things could prove complicated. He said evangelical Christians ''do not check their religion at the door.''
These articles are always hard to evaluate since you don't get a sense of who the 'critics' are, how many of them there are, or even some objective measure of how legitimate their beef is. Though inappropriate, a few of the other incidents mentioned in the piece don't seem in themselves to be causes of great concern. But the Rosa quote above seems to suggest that there is a very real problem. And what's with Gilmore's response?
The piece ends with this delightful passage ...
Two of the nation's most influential evangelical Christian groups, Focus on the Family and New Life Church, are headquartered in nearby Colorado Springs. Tom Minnery, an official at Focus on the Family, disputed claims that evangelical Christians are pushing an agenda at the academy, and complained that ''there is an anti-Christian bigotry developing'' at the school.
Anti-Christian bigotry. That's marvelous. <$NoAd$>Needless to say, Focus on the Family is SpongeBob persecutor and Arch-Wingnut James Dobson's outfit.