Magazine article The Christian Century

Air Force Academy Leader Admits Faith Bias Is Pervasive

Magazine article The Christian Century

Air Force Academy Leader Admits Faith Bias Is Pervasive

Article excerpt

Acknowledging that a religious bias favoring evangelical Christianity has been pervasive at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the school's superintendent told a Jewish audience this month that "it's going to take a while to fix," perhaps a half-dozen years, despite an official investigation of mounting complaints.

"I will tell you as a commander, I have problems in the cadet wing," said superintendent Lieutenant General John Rosa Jr. in remarks June 3 at an Anti-Defamation League national meeting in Broomfield, Colorado. "'I have issues in my staff, and I have issues in my faculty."

Rosa, a Catholic, said the academy will enforce limits on proselytizing and on-duty expressions of beliefs. Rosa's comments were his first admission of deep-seated problems. The religious bias complaints followed newsmaking scandals a few years ago when accounts of sexual assaults on female cadets resulted in a shakeup of leadership.

Not long after Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened to sue the Air Force Academy for promoting evangelical Christianity, the air force created in early May a task force to investigate and report findings this summer.

The air force issued a new policy statement, saying in part that senior leaders at every level "must be particularly sensitive to the fact that subordinates can consider your public expressions of belief systems coercive" as well as "a misuse of office."

The academy, located on the scenic outskirts of Colorado Springs, has drawn support from evangelical Christians who say that religious freedom of expression is being unduly attacked. An executive with the conservative Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, called the complaints and investigation "a witch hunt."

At a banquet in the city last month that was sponsored by the nationwide Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Bowden, football coach of the Florida State University, asked, "If you knew the cure for cancer, would you tell somebody or would you keep it a secret?"

But others say evangelicals in and out of uniform speak out too aggressively at the academy, creating an environment that Americans United described as "systematic and pervasive religious bias and intolerance at the highest levels of the academy command structure."

Rosa said in his ADL talk that he saw nothing wrong with a biblically themed e-mail message to thousands of fellow cadets sent May 31 by the top graduating senior, Nicholas Jurewicz. …

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