There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
Seperation of church and state is a myth.
-The Air Force is investigating a complaint from an atheist cadet who says the school is "systematically biased against any cadet that does not overtly espouse Christianity."
-The official academy newspaper runs a Christmas ad every year praising Jesus and declaring him the only savior. Some 200 academy staff members, including some department heads, signed it. Whittington noted the ad was not published last December.
-The academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility is to their God. He also strongly endorsed National Prayer Day that year. School spokesman Johnny Whitaker said Weida now runs his messages by several other commanders.
The highly charged religious context was enough to drive at least one appointee away:
One day last April, David Antoon and his son sat quietly in a chapel pew. Up front, 10 uniformed Christian preachers boasted about a weekly Bible study program that draws 800 students.
"Amen," one pastor said.
The Antoons had come from Dayton, Ohio, for appointee orientation. The teen was on the verge of embarking on his lifelong dream to attend the Air Force Academy.
They were surprised by the chaplains' zeal, and that the scene unfolded at the tax-funded academy, which like other arms of the military is charged with defending the U.S. Constitution and its separation of church and state.
"It was like a southern revival," said Antoon, a 1970 academy graduate. He described the atmosphere during the two-day orientation as "cultish."
That atmosphere played a role in the teen's decision to forgo his appointment and attend Ohio State University.
To its credit, the Air Force Academy is making attempts to address this bias, but such attempts have been relatively low impact to this point. Some are not pleased with the Academy's efforts:
James Gilmore, who sits on the Board of Visitors, the Academy's governance body, addressed the heart of the problem:
"I think that is not understood in American society, and as a result we're seeing a lot of condemnation of evangelical Christians because they are seen to be aggressively asserting themselves, and when it's in a governmental context, it's seen as an impingement on people."
This is the same argument that we see put forth by Bill Frist: which comes first for Evangelical Christians, public service or service to their god? Although, I'm sure that their doctrine says little about calling others "filthy Jews."