Tuesday, June 21, 2011
(CNSNews.com) - The United States Air Force Academy has created a “worship space” on campus for the “Earth-Centered Community,” which, according to the Air Force, includes among other denominations the Wiccans, Druids, Heathens and Pagans.
Col. Robert Bruno, chaplain at the Air Force Academy, told CNSNews.com that the academy created the space in response to a request from a few service members and cadets who belong to the Earth-Centered Community.
“In the Summer of 2009, a small group of Earth Centered Airmen and cadets requested the support of the Chaplain Corps at USAFA to accommodate their religious requirements,” Bruno said in an e-mail to CNSNews.com.
"Our constitutional options are to either directly provide that support or facilitate it,” said Bruno. “Since none of the chaplains represents any of the Earth Centered traditions, direct support was not an option. Therefore, we facilitated it through an outside endorsing agency whose staff are subject matter experts in Earth Centered traditions.”
“Earth-Centered” includes “Wiccan, Druid, Heathen, Pagan, and Native Americans to name just a few,” he said, adding that: “They represent a tiny fraction of the demography of USAFA, the AF, the DOD and America.”
The Earth Centered worship space, which opened in May, is not located in the Academy’s famous Cadet Chapel, but is “an outdoor worship space officially named the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle.”
“There are at least three such worship spaces at a number of other military installations in the U.S. and overseas,” Bruno said.
The chaplain said the academy, which is located in Colorado Springs, Colo., was required to accommodate the religions, not out of political correctness, but because of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“There is what I call a creative tension between those two components of that amendment that is not always easy to negotiate,” Bruno said. “(T)he DOD is prohibited from sanctioning any religion as official or unofficial, acceptable or unacceptable, entitled or not entitled, to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
“The military command authority is required to lean forward to accommodate any request for religious accommodation unless the practice of that religion interferes with mission accomplishment, military readiness, unit cohesion, standards and discipline per Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17, Section 4 (Policy), dated 10 Feb 2009. Such an assessment to not accommodate cannot be made on a theoretical or hypothetical basis.”
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