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Chris James

Christians in the military

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West Point Military Academy is once again in the news, and this time not for gay weddings:

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/04/15676692-west-point-cadet-quits-cites-criminal-behavior-of-officers?lite

Members of the military, just like other citizens in this country, are entitled to their beliefs if they are of a religious nature. I doubt if the academy would accept members of the Communist Party or the Taliban, but then some Christians seem to have problems incompatable with military service.

It's all well and good that some Christian believers would like to see everyone think like they do, and under most circumstances they can be ignored if a person finds the beliefs offensive. But here we have a case of superior officers in a command situation that cannot be ignored. This is a case where religion is offensive and abusive.

Athiests have just as much right to their beliefs in this country as any Christian or other religious person. To say that one is beling persecuted for religious beliefs is an age old problem, to be persecuted by religious beliefs is the issue here.

The cost to this young man's life in dollars and educational goals is reprehensible behavior on the part of a military that ought to know better. The command structure at West Point needs to be investigated in an open public forum. The truth needs to be told.

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Chris, my only concern is that the article only gives one side of the story. I know from personal experience that someone can be quite truthful, but still give a distorted picture of what is going on. An example would be the comment in the article concerning denial of "rest and relaxation" requests to leave the campus. There is nothing in there to indicate how the rate of denial compares to the general population of students at West Point. Was it significantly different, or only marginally different? Without that information, the comment doesn't have the context to indicate the scale of the problem.

As a Christian myself, I disagree strongly with people putting religious pressure on others. However, I don't see that a prayer at regular events is putting religious pressure on them. If that's the core of the problem (which I doubt), then I think the cadet was being overly sensitive. It's an example of a religious presence at West Point (as is the chapel where the gay couple got married recently), but is it enough by itself to say that the level of religious involvement is too high?

I understand the principle of separation of Church and State, and on that basis I fully support the rights of atheist and non-Christian cadets, but that doesn't give them the right to require a completely non-religious environment. What it does allow them is the right to not participate in religious activities that other cadets may be involved in. Unfortunately, the article is way too short on detail as to what problems may exist. I'd like to see more information before I start condemning possibly innocent senior officers.

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This same sort of problem was brought to light at the Air Force Academy recently. They had to have a shake-up in leadership there to correct the problem there.

A problem of this sort can be exacerbated in a close society. It doesn't have to be a religious society. But when the leadership of an organization is monolithic in their beliefs, it becomes too easy for them to begin to think that their way is right and all other ways secondary to their own thinking and in many cases wrong. If the leadership at West Point is strongly Christian, proselytizing Christian perhaps, then this sort of situation can occur. Just as it can in business, say, where, if top management is excessively anti-union, it can eventuate that if someone on the management team below them feels a union my have a valid point in negotiations, it can seriously affect the career of that person.

But you're right, Graeme. We certainly don't have enough facts to make a judgment here. One has to wonder, reading this, why the cadet waited so long to bring this to people in charge. Why make a big stink when it possibly could have been handled earlier at a lower level. It makes one think that possibly the big stink is what the cadet wanted all along.

But we don't know.

C

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I'll admit that I got a little cynical when, at the end of the article, it mentions that the cadet is writing a book....

Australia's military academy has also been in the news over the last couple of years. In our case it was for sexual scandals, rather than religious, but your point, Cole, on a close society that 'feeds' on itself to reinforce attitudes is well made. It doesn't really matter what the attitude is - it gets reinforced and those that feel otherwise will either rarely speak up or will leave, leaving that attitude dominant.

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The Abrahamic religions have a long history of being involved and even causing military actions amongst themselves. This war on the beliefs and rights of others has been genocidal to the point of annihilation of whole communities and races.

Separation of religion and the state means that any demand to attend a religious practice is equivalent to being drafted into a holy crusade for a religion in which one has no interest.

What seems to missing here, is the understanding that fighting for the principle of separation of church and state is not a religious war in itself; it is however easily swayed into one if the heads of the military fail to defend the right of the individual to not be subjected to the proselytising of their own beliefs.

Hopefully the book will reveal the inappropriate methods of those who think they can impose their beliefs on others.

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