Once again, “your” United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) has shown its truly outrageous, fundamentalist Christian colors. By scheduling the most important Academy military training event of the semester on Yom Kippur, they’ve made it very clear that they fully endorse and embrace the Orwellian position that, while all faiths are equal, some are just more equal than others.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar (the weekly Sabbath is the holiest). Its date of annual observance is (1) fixed by the lunisolar calendar and, (2) can be easily determined years in advance. The “Commandant’s Training Day”, by contrast, is neither.
USAFA has enormous flexibility in choosing when to hold military training events and does so several months in advance. Professed ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the Jewish or any other religious calendar is simply no excuse. In this case, all anyone had to do was to Google “Yom Kippur 2022”, and the dates would have happily popped up on pretty much any computer screen on this planet.
Was this just too challenging a task for a place that constantly holds itself out as an elite institution of higher learning, studying the art of flying and the physics of space, both of which involve intensive knowledge of and adeptness in computer skills? No!
The United States Air Force Academy’s upper-level command structure clearly didn’t care to expend the minimal milliseconds it would have taken to do its religious due diligence and deconflict this significant military training event from the solemn religious observances of its cadet population. Thereby it clearly excluded a segment of its student (cadet) population, causing nontrivial, humiliating pain and embarrassment. This colossus gaffe might have been seen as an oversight, but it has happened before; many times before. Can the Academy’s senior leadership EVER be made to care about the religious slaps in the face it causes any element of the cadet population? Clearly, it believes itself safely protected beyond correction or reproach.
USAFA’s ongoing, dismal record on unconstitutional, church-state separation violations in support of fundamentalist Christianity is long and egregious. But would such an important military training event have been permitted were it to have been scheduled on, say, Easter? Never!
Yes, we’re sure USAFA’s Jewish cadets will be able to get religious excusals from “The Commandant’s Training Day” event so they can attend Yom Kippur services. But why must they, and they ALONE, be singled out and forced to choose between this once-per-semester opportunity to excel in their Academy military training or participating in a core and essential observance of their Jewish faith on Yom Kippur?
This current USAFA train wreck is particularly ironic in view of USAFA’s recently concluded and pathetic “Spiritual Fitness Month”, which also drew massive fire from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) on behalf of its nearly 400 USAFA faculty, cadet and staff clients. We have long known all too well that “spiritual fitness” is merely an insidious codeword for fundamentalist, dominionist, Christian nationalism to spread its virulent poison in the guise of being somehow intrinsic to honorable U.S. military service.
How exactly then are Jewish USAFA cadets to maintain their so-called “spiritual fitness” when forced by USAFA senior leadership ITSELF to choose between Yom Kippur observance and participation in essential military training all other of their peers will receive? This blatant disregard for the spiritual wellbeing of *all* cadets demonstrates that USAFA’s so-called “spiritual fitness” efforts are nothing but a damnable and shameful hypocrisy in direct support of the proselytization of the majority faith of Christianity.
Clearly, at the United States Air Force Academy, the sole approved solution to receive institutional respect and dignity belongs to Christians and Christians alone.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the seven-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Mikey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense by Defense News.
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