Religious liberty blossoms at the U.S. Air Force Academy

The newly minted and urgently created U.S. Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty will be tickled to learn that the U.S. Air Force Academy is officially making room for pagans, druids, witches and Wiccans, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times:

"We're here to accommodate all religions, period," [says Chaplain Maj. Darren] Duncan, branch chief of cadet faith communities at the academy. The building of the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle on the hilltop, he says, is no different from the past conversion of chapel rooms into worship spaces that serve this year's 11 Muslim, 16 Buddhist and 10 Hindu cadets. There are also 43 self-identified atheist cadets whose beliefs, or lack of them, Duncan says are also to be respected.

"It is very nice to have our own space," says Cadet 1st Class Nicole Johnson, a 21-year-old senior from Florida who became a pagan after entering the academy.

This is not about religious tolerance — a phrase Duncan, a Christian, rejects as implying that the majority religion is simply putting up with the minority. He calls it a 1st Amendment issue. If the military is to defend the Constitution, it should also be upholding its guarantee of religious freedom. "We think we are setting the standard," Duncan says.

In addition to providing worship space, new policy dictates that all cadets take courses in understanding the religions of those who may someday fall under their command. Recently he's fielded calls from West Point and Annapolis about replicating the Air Force's efforts.

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