Religion. Religion. Religion.
Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.
There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
The 4,300-student school recently started requiring staff members and cadets to take a 50-minute religious-tolerance class.
“There are things that have happened that have been inappropriate. And they have been addressed and resolved,” said Col. Michael Whittington, the academy’s chief chaplain.
More than 90 percent of the cadets identify themselves as Christian. A cadet survey in 2003 found that half had heard religious slurs and jokes, and that many non-Christians believed Christians get special treatment.
Critics of the academy say the sometimes-public endorsement of Christianity by high-ranking staff has contributed to a climate of fear and violates the constitutional separation of church and state at a taxpayer-supported school whose mission is to produce Air Force leaders.
“They are deliberately trivializing the problem so that we don’t have another situation the magnitude of the sex assault scandal. It is inextricably intertwined in every aspect of the academy,” said Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, N.M., a 1977 graduate who has sent two sons to the school. He said the younger, Curtis, has been called a “filthy Jew” many times.
There’s more examples of complaints, both vague and specific, in the story. Even those of a religious bent who boisterously proclaim, “There’s no atheists in a foxhole” have to admit that any foxholes around Colorado Springs are relatively safe. The military has an obligation to respect and protect the individual religious beliefs or non-beliefs of its personnel, as long as they do not interfere with the mission.
I do recommend that, during the initial weeks of basic training, atheists joining the Army may do well to become religious. That treasured hour or two on Sunday morning may be your only break from the drill sergeants for a while.
Beijing called on new Pope Benedict XVI to break ties with Taiwan and stay out of China’s internal affairs to create the conditions for better Sino-Vatican relations.
“We are willing to improve the relationship between China and the Vatican on the basis of two principles,” said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang of ties that were ruptured in 1951 when China expelled the Vatican’s ambassador.
“One is that Joseph Ratzinger should break off the so-called diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and recognise that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government which represents China and that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.
“The second is that Ratzinger should not interfere in internal Chinese affairs, including in the name of religion.
“We hope that with a new Pope, the Vatican can create conditions to improve China-Vatican relations.”
Despite not recognizing the authority of the Pope, the official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association had sent a congratulatory telegram “in the name of the Bishops and believers of the whole country,” the ministry said.
It added that congregations had been told to pray for Pope Benedict XVI.
China’s Roman Catholics are divided into two churches — the government-approved “patriotic” church which does not recognize the authority of the Pope, and the underground church where adherents accept the pontiff as leader.
The government church has about four million worshippers, according to official figures, while the underground church has about 10 million, based on Vatican estimates.
Breaking through half-a-century of enmity to re-establish relations with China may be the greatest diplomatic challenge facing Pope Benedict XVI as he takes on the mantle as leader of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide.
Fixing broken ties with China would spread the new pontiff’s spiritual realm to the most populous nation on earth, home to 1.3 billion people. But it is precisely that global influence that scares Beijing.
China sent no representative to Pope John Paul II’s funeral in Rome on April 8 to protest the presence of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian at the event. Any hint of recognition of Taipei infuriates China, which considers the island a rebel province.
The spat obscured mounting signs of an effort by the Vatican to crack China’s resistance to the Roman Catholic Church.
Does anybody know how to say, “Um, yeah, right, whatever, talk to the ring” in Latin?