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June 1, 2005

GOP Stifles Plan to End Taxpayer-Funded Proselytizing

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

As we've written before, the disturbing allegations of proselytizing and religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy in Colorado are cause for serious concern. Now the issue has moved to Capitol Hill.

So how does the Republican leadership respond to Democratic efforts to address proselytizing and religious intimidation at the Air Force Academy? A GOP party-line whitewash of the entire issue.

Two weeks ago today, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) brought an amendment before the House Armed Services Committee to urge the Air Force to develop a plan to ensure "a climate free from religious intimidation and proselytizing."

How did Republicans on the committee respond?

Just listen to Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) blame the victims and dismiss the legitimate concerns of Jews and others: "There is a problem in the military... the problem is political correctness." [Quotations were transcribed from an audio recording of the committee meeting.]

Or Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN): "This amendment would bring the ACLU into the United States military, it would bring the silly thinking of several of our judicial systems such as the Ninth Circuit...." Rep. Hostettler went on to discuss what he termed "the mythical wall separation (sic) between church and state that's been erected by the courts...."
Rep. Israel then took the amendment directly to the House Rules Committee, where it was suppressed by the House GOP leadership -- supported by every Democrat, and opposed by every Republican. (Click here for Rep. Israel's statement.)

So just how bad are the allegations of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy?

** Earlier in May, the Associated Press reported, "A top Air Force Academy chaplain said Thursday [May 12th] she was fired for speaking up about anti-Semitism and other reports of religious intolerance among cadets and staff.... [Captain] Morton said she was pressured to deny a report ... that a chaplain told 600 cadets during basic training last year 'to go back to their tents and tell their fellow cadets that those who are not born again will burn in the fires of hell.'" (Click here for the full article.)

** The AP later reported that under investigation are "allegations that cadets were pressured to attend religious services, that public prayers were held before official events and that Jewish cadets were harassed and insulted." The article adds, "[Academy graduate Mikey] Weinstein, who is Jewish, has said his son [an Academy cadet] has been called a 'Christ killer' by evangelical Christian cadets." (Click for full article.)

** Just this morning the Associated Press added, "On the eve of his graduation, the top cadet at the Air Force Academy sent out a religious-themed e-mail to thousands of fellow cadets, even as the school is grappling with complaints that some evangelical Christians are harassing others at the school. ...Jurewicz lists his favorite quotations in the message, including several about Jesus. ...Air Force policy bans the use of official e-mails for personal messages." (Click for full article.)
Despite all of this, House Republicans have the gall to say that the real problem in the military "is political correctness." And the House GOP leadership quashes any further discussion of the matter.

Meanwhile, House Democrats continue to lead the charge; as the AP recently reported, "Forty-six Democratic members of Congress urged the Air Force's top commander... to get personally involved in the investigation of alleged religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy." (Click for full article.)

Stay tuned for further action by House Democrats, and further developments.