Group May Sue U.S. Air Force Academy

April 30th, 2005  

Topic: Group May Sue U.S. Air Force Academy


Source:Associated Press

DENVER - A national group that monitors the separation of church and state says it may sue the Air Force Academy, claiming the school allows evangelical Christians to harass cadets who do not share their faith.

"This is the most significant, systemwide example of religious discrimination I have seen in a military setting. Every cadet should be treated as a first-class citizen but instead those who are not evangelical Christians have a lower status," said Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Lynn's group said it conducted a two-month investigation that included contacting about 15 cadets and staff, and has sent a report to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The investigation found that former and current cadets said that their fellow students, faculty, staff and members of the chaplains' office frequently pressured them to attend chapel and receive religious instruction. In one case, a professor required a prayer before a test, and faculty members have promoted their religion in class, the group said.

An academy spokesman declined comment. Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Amy Rogerson said Friday the report had not yet been received and she could not comment on its contents.

"The Air Force's position is that one's religious beliefs, or the absence of beliefs in an established religion, should never be grounds for unlawful discrimination," Rogerson said. "The Air Force senior leadership has total confidence in the academy."

The academy has launched mandatory religious tolerance classes after complaints from Jews and other cadets that they are the target of religious harassment and insults by Christians. Some have also questioned the activities of senior leadership at the prestigious school near Colorado Springs.

Lynn said his group would work with the Air Force and Congress, but warned a religious discrimination lawsuit is possible if there is no progress in 30 days.

April 30th, 2005  
Charge 7
Looks like it's being well taken care of.

Loosening Religious Grip at Air Academy
# The school launches a sensitivity course in response to complaints about evangelical Christians infringing on other faiths.

By David Kelly, Times Staff Writer

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. In a crowded room on the edge of the Air Force Academy, Chaplain Melinda Morton was doing her bit for culture change. She dimmed the lights and rolled the video.

It was Mel Gibson in a scene from the film "We Were Soldiers" addressing his troops on the eve of battle. "We are moving into the valley of the shadow of death," he said solemnly. "Where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours, and you won't care what color he is, or by what name he calls his God."

Morton stopped the tape, and flicked on the lights.

"In past years we have had incidences of spiritual insensitivity here at the academy," she told the 25 civilian and military personnel in the room. "Sometimes it was out of ignorance but sometimes it was out of maliciousness. Respect is essential for mission success."

Morton was teaching an RSVP Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People class, a 50-minute exercise in trying to stop what critics called a culture of intolerance on campus. Over the last four years, there have been 55 complaints of insensitivity, many dealing with alleged harassment of religious minorities by evangelical Christians.

Cadets and employees are being told they can't proselytize on campus, use government e-mail to send religious messages, put up posters with religious themes or use positions of authority to endorse a particular faith. They must also attend one RSVP class.
April 30th, 2005  

Topic: Navy Probes Religious Discrimination Claim


Source:Associated Press

Navy Probes Religious Discrimination Claim

WASHINGTON - The Navy is investigating a chaplain's allegations he was punished for theological disagreements with superior officers, including his objections to requiring sailors to participate in services at a church that accepts homosexuality.

Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt says he was transferred ashore and given a negative job recommendation because of the religious disagreements.

Other actions cited in Klingenschmitt's personnel records include his advocacy for a Jewish sailor who wanted kosher meals and his preaching of sermons that some sailors viewed as proselytizing and intolerant.

"I'm shocked that senior chaplains would force their faith on sailors and on me," said Klingenschmitt, who was chaplain on the cruiser USS Anzio, based in Norfolk, Va.

The Navy began an inspector general investigation Wednesday into Klingenschmitt's allegations, said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens, a spokesman for Naval Surface Forces Atlantic.

"Anything he's alleged will be investigated," Owens said Thursday. "If there's any substance to it, the legal process will take its course."

Klingenschmitt became a priest in the Evangelical Episcopal Church after spending 11 years as an Air Force officer. He said he transferred to the Navy and took a demotion from major to lieutenant to become a military chaplain.

Other evangelical Protestant chaplains in the Navy have complained about religious discrimination. A group of evangelical chaplains is suing the Navy in federal court, saying they were passed over for promotions in favor of Roman Catholic or mainline Protestant chaplains and punished when they complained.

One of Klingenschmitt's run-ins with his commanders came in May 2004 during the Navy's annual Fleet Week celebrations in New York, when the city holds various events to honor sailors.

Klingenschmitt objected to having Navy personnel attend Fleet Week church services at the Marble Collegiate Church, which has an outreach ministry to gays and lesbians. The church has hosted Fleet Week services for years.

In an e-mail to senior chaplains, Klingenschmitt said the Marble Church "endorses homosexual sin." He said it was improper for the Navy to have sailors attend the church because homosexual acts are crimes under military law and two sailors recently had been discharged for homosexual acts while at sea.

Days later, a senior chaplain wrote to all chaplains and executive officers in the Anzio's group saying that "each ship is expected to provide bodies to this service" at the Marble Church. Klingenschmitt said he complied, finding 20 sailors to attend the service.

A July 2004 "letter of instruction" to the chaplain from the Anzio's commander, Capt. Jim Carr, took Klingenschmitt to task for the Fleet Week incident.

"You distributed an e-mail of protestation, alleging certain unacceptable beliefs in the Marble Church that created a great deal of concern among Navy and New York City leadership," Carr wrote. "This (incorrectly and improperly) created an impression in the highest levels of the
U.S. Navy that Anzio and our Religious Ministries program were in contention with Navy policy to support Fleet Week obligations."

Officials from Marble Collegiate Church did not return repeated telephone and e-mails on Friday.

The church's Web site says Marble Collegiate "provides dynamic, positive spiritual direction to a diverse and embracing congregation." A mission statement describes "an inclusive community."

A message on the site from the senior minister at the church, Rev. Arthur Caliandro, says "all the world's great religions have the same social values at their cores: love for one another, help for the poor and disadvantaged, honor in personal behavior, and justice for all."

The Anzio's executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Tom Williams, referred a reporter's questions to Owens, the Naval Surface Forces Atlantic spokesman. Owens said he could not provide any details on the Fleet Week incident.

Klingenschmitt said he also had to push for the Anzio to provide kosher meals for an Orthodox Jewish sailor. The Navy provides kosher meals for its Jewish members, but smaller ships such as the Anzio often must specially order such meals.

Klingenschmitt said the Anzio did provide kosher meals but did not stock enough kosher rations for the sailor, who lost 17 pounds on a tour at sea.

Carr's letter also mentioned that incident, saying Klingenschmitt "misrepresented the Command concern for this issue."

"The issue was easily resolved once the Commanding Officer became involved, but only after senior leadership in the Navy Chaplain Corps gained an (incorrect and unwarranted) impression of unrest or dissatisfaction within Anzio concerning the issue," Carr wrote.

In March, Carr wrote to Navy Personnel Command recommending against extending Klingenschmitt's tour of active duty.

"He has demonstrated recurring confusion concerning a chaplain's role within a military organization," Carr wrote.

Klingenschmitt, Carr added, "has been cautioned in this regard by his Commanding Officer and the Force Chaplain, but thus far has not made appreciable progress toward change."

Klingenschmitt said he is waiting for the Navy's final decision on whether he will continue on active duty.
April 30th, 2005  
Charge 7
Sounds to me like one or two pasters at most with a problem and they're the evangelicals not the mailine churches. Appears to me like the Navy has that matter well in hand too.
May 3rd, 2005  
Appears to me that the Chaplin in question forgot that his duty lies in the Spiritual Well being of the members of his command and not in invoking his own beliefs or ideas into what fleet wants. He maybe a Chaplin but he is also a Naval Officer.
May 3rd, 2005  
I just wonder if any things like that would happen to me my religion is not mainstream