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Should Religion Be Kept Under Wraps at Military Academies?

Competing trends in faith — evangelism and atheism — are creating a water and oil slick at US military academies. Nine midshipmen at the Naval Academy (not my favorite midshipman) recently petitioned the ACLU to have them require the school to abolish daily prayer at the attendance-mandatory lunches, a move based on a similar case at the Virginia Military Institute.

One recent West Point graduate said the common emphasis on religion leads some to feel like "God" is a prerequisite for "General some day." He says:

Nowhere does it say that you have to be a good Christian officer or Jewish officer or Muslim officer: You need to be an officer dedicated to the Constitution of the United States. They tell us as an officer you have to put everything aside, all your personal stuff. But religion is the one thing they encourage you to wear on your sleeve.

The head chaplain at West Point says:

No one is pushing them to believe. [Prayer] is something we have done in the military for centuries. It is not designed to make people religious. The majority of people here are people of faith, and a prayer asks God’s blessing on a gathering and on the food.

With commanding officers feeling free to express faith in speeches and lessons — of which one law professor says, “you always have to be aware of the authority you have within your rank and uniform and the coercive potential of that authority,” — and the emphasis on group cohesion and belonging, should religion feature in service education? Can cadets and midshipmen feel free to practice faith (or not) despite the practices of authority figures and peers?

Source

Join The Conversation
sugarbean sugarbean 9 years
or... the Academy could just drop the whole required presence at all or certain meal(s) policy it would a) make a non-issue of the prayer AND b) save a shoot-ton of money (b/c the food at king hall sucks and a number of them don't eat it and it gets thrown out. I can't blame them though. do you want to be forced to eat prison grade food? didn't think so.)
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
"the U.S. is all about the individual over the group or has been from the beginning - that's why there is a bill of rights, protecting the rights of the individual against the tyranny of the group" Nicely put, stephley.
stephley stephley 9 years
There is separation of church & state and the military academies are under the government's wing so more than changing the majority for the minority, it would be bringing the majority into line with the basic rules of this country. And the U.S. is all about the individual over the group or has been from the beginning - that's why there is a bill of rights, protecting the rights of the individual against the tyranny of the group.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
"Why should the overwhelming majority change for the minority?" In my mind the question isn't about "changing for the minority." It's simply about not expecting or obliging the minority to have to follow, or pretend to follow, the majority's observance. About not obliging those who don't share the majority's belief system to have to behave as if they do. Like I said, observance of any religion should not be banned, but neither should it be mandatory. That's all.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
who, might I add, are admitedly absent of any kind of belief system. So absolutely not harm is done to them. And I meant, they could go over their groceries while the people who take prayer very seriously pray.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
Why should the overwhelming majority change for the minority?
stephley stephley 9 years
Yes a moment of silence can be held over your grocery list, but I am not likely to be offended or upset if someone talks through it or gets up and leaves while I reflect on my groceries. But the nature of the daily prayer is clear so if you simply replace it with a moment of silence you aren't necessarily handling the problem. Perhaps if the academies instituted some kind of non-denominational moment of reflection and preparation every morning that would be acceptable to everyone. But even then, someone would probably say they were being forced to be too ninja-like.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
You're welcome. I'm off to my softball game. Have a good evening everyone! :wave: :pucca: GTR
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
Thank you, thank you! :howyoudoin:
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
:rotfl: Great avatar GS!!
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
steph, a moment of silence can be used to go over your grocery list. And I like your av because it looks like he is speaking through the speech bubble.
stephley stephley 9 years
It's sooo immature - but every time I click and it pops up I get a little thrill. Excellent taste Jude!
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Your avatar, stephley? I adore it.
stephley stephley 9 years
Know what? I really like this avatar.
stephley stephley 9 years
I'm a Catholic and study Buddhism, and I have no aversion to prayer or moments of silence. But I don't believe in inflicting my faith on other people and I understand how it can make them feel uncomfortable or worse.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
For me it wouldn't be about having an aversion specifically to prayer, but to having to participate in a religious function in which I don't believe simply because it is required.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I have to admit that I don't spend a whole lot of time with agnostics and atheists, so I don't understand the whole aversion to a moment of prayer.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Wow, you feel so strongly to post twice. ;) Just kidding
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Agreed with stephley. Mandatory attendance at a prayer or other religious function implies participation.
stephley stephley 9 years
If he has to stay with the group, yes he is forced to participate unless the silent group separates from the not participating group, especially someplace like the academies. To not participate, they would have to be allowed to carry on, whatever that is.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I'm just trying to understand what you're saying. If a group wants to say a prayer, but a person doesn't want to participate, they can't just sit there quietly? They have to talk to show that they aren't participating?
stephley stephley 9 years
It means you are participating in something that is meant to facilitate prayer - it is not benign. You can't choose to not participate and talk business instead.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
So observing a moment of silence means you are praying?
stephley stephley 9 years
"Just because you observed that moment, though, it doesn't make you a participant." The only way you're not a participant is if you talk through the moment. No one's saying other people can't worship, just don't in any way require participation. Religious practice, including prayer, should be kept private.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Expression of religion, or adherence to any particular religion, should neither be mandatory nor banned. Period.
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