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News and Current Events

Author/DatePost
Anonymous
Jun 22 2005
Speaking of the Air Force Academy

Did anyone else catch Monday's Post & Courier article announcing the appointment of the new Citadel president: Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. This is the same guy who has been Superintendent of the Air Force Academy since July 2003!!!!

Alex_Kasman
Jun 23 2005
not too bad?

It sounds as if Rosa might not be too bad. A description of him at the AU (Americans United for Separation of Church and State) website seems to suggest that he was not the cause of the problems at the academy, and so there is no reason to assume that the Citadel will develop problems with religious tolerance as a result of his transfer here:

AU Article Here

-ak

Chemrobb
Sep 23 2006
AF Academy, and religion in general in the military

Regarding Kasman's post of June 23, (5:09 PM), the AU article he attached is a pretty good summary of how religion can become "institutionalized" in a unit or entity like the AF Academy.

A couple of sideline points about religion in general and the military:

1) the military is a conformist environment. And in places like the Academies, you have particularly bright kids who are still young enough to be impressionable. Its doubtful that their ambition to succeed in a place like that would lead many of them to buck the system....Obviously some have, or the issue would never have come to light, which indicates it got out of hand. And thats why they're having....um... a "correction" going on now, for lack of a better phrase.

2) A General selected to lead an Academy would be a pretty sharp individual - way too sharp to "order" that religion be shoved overtly down the Cadets' throats (and way too busy to have time to push it as a personal agenda). As an Army Officer myself, I can tell you that Commanders are well aware that tolerating, much less encouraging, discrimination of any sort can cause big headaches sooner or later. Hence all the Equal Opportunity and non-discrimination briefings and Commander's policy letters posted at every headquarters just as soon as a new Commander is assigned. Admittedly, when we say discrimination in the military, we're usually thinking of race and gender - but religious discrimination is expressly stated also...

3) Chaplains are trained to comfort, aid and counsel soldiers of any denomination or no denom at all (like myself: agnostic). A number of soldiers, like myself, have the words "No Religious Pref" or "No Preference" on our dog tags for our affiliation.. But they're well aware that the vast majority of servicemembers come from fairly strong Christian backgounds. Where it gets a little sticky is when Commanders don't properly monitor Chaplain activities - some certainly then cross over the line into proselytizing and become too pushy and presumptuous. In my experience, the Southern Baptist Chaplains are the ones that tend to go too far. Interestingly, the Catholic padres are the ones I like best...

Anyway, I'd bet what happened at the AF Academy was a gradual thing over time, that came to a head. See #4 next:

4) In the military, there are these daily or weekly briefings to the Commander, at various levels. These can turn into a bit of a show sometmes - no Officer or senior NCO wants to say "Nothing new to report, sir" - you want to talk up what you did, and you want to introduce the "next great idea!" or whatever. Something that shows initiative and ACTION. In the case of Chaplains, thats a bit hard. Reporting the routine Sunday service hours over and over looks pretty lame after a while. So things like banners in a dining hall, flyers handed out to troops, what unit you visited and who you gave talks or "ministered" to, or whatever, might be more an effort to show some effort, rather than any real attempt to coerce anyone...

5) There are plenty of skeptics in the military (forget the "theres no atheistists in a foxhole" nonsense). I think most of us understand the "preaching" for what it's meant to be: an offer rather than a demand to conform. Trouble is, a lot of younger soldiers or Cadets - might not realize that point, especially if Joe or Suzy thinks the Commander blindly supports his Chaplain and the Chaplain's staff....

6) My opinion: Rosa is probably alright, and will probably be wary not to let that happen again. Far as the AF Academy goes, it was likely a loose system that ran amok, some Cadets who got pressured a bit too much by mid-level leadership and the "system", and a busy Commander that didn't see it all coming; but not a command emphasis to push Christianity...

It'll fix itself eventually.

Far as the Citadel - well, maybe a Christian emphasis is what they want; does anybody know? I don't know much about the Citadel other than its optional for those cadets to serve after they graduate...

Sorry for the long post. I'd be curious to know anybody else's experience w/ religion in the armed forces.

R.F.

MAJ, EN

US Army

Daniel
Oct 1 2006
Re: AF Academy, and religion in general in the military

As a retired AF pilot living in the Charleston area, I'm glad to see that a fellow military member is interested in this forum, R.F. I am somewhat familiar with the situation at The Citadel, since I teach there.

I can't say I've formed any specific opinions about Gen. Rosa yet, because he is so new and I don't usually have much interaction with the administration. As you may have heard, he conducted a survey on sexual harassment when he arrived, and the results were pretty ugly. However, the fact that he took the initiative to ask the question was admirable. The Citadel got a lot of negative press (including NYT, CNN, etc.) as a result of the survey, but at least he asked the question and is now dealing with it.

Anyway, welcome to the forum and please come down to visit the SHL if you have a chance. You may also be interested in an article I wrote a few years ago on the subject of atheism and the military, which is available at: http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/oneal_22_1.htm.

Chemrobb
Oct 2 2006
Good article

Dan, thanx for the good article. I wasn't aware we weren't allowed to declare "atheist" or "agnostic" on our ID tags (dog tags)...I always just put "no preference" which just about describes me...

I'm not certain about calling atheist or agnostic a religion in and of itself.

"no pref" is probably a 'polite-society term', for lack of a better way to put it, that the military started using to avoid the evil connotations most Americans have of atheists. I know we've always had 'em, but still...

I wold love to have been there the first time a servicemember was asked his religion, and gave "atheist". I can imagine the consternation of the old sarge, and the expression on the face of the Officer he walked down the hall to ask about it. Ha ! I guess we started formally issuing ID tags in WWI or later??

Far as the Citadel goes, my understanding is that its semi-private, or was only state supported for years, so I bet they had a lot of "traditions" to in recent times. Old South stuff.

Not surprised that Rosa got ugly feedback when he surveyed about sexual harrassment. My personal feeling is sexual harrasment in particular is so loosely defined and so subjective that the surveys are meaningless. Much more so than race or religious discrimination. Part of the problem is, it involves biology and human nature.

Thanks for the invite to the meetings - I came to Charleston last summer - 2005 - one time but was too late to attend. Will try again after I get back in Nov.

--chemrobb

ClemsonAtheist
Nov 20 2006

Daniel, thanks for the article. As a SrA stationed at Tinker, I too had a problem when told that "Atheist" was not "approved" for dog tags. Until reading your article, however, I was unaware that I could get dog tags from an outside source and that they'd be within regs.

Thanks again.

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