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Father Sues Air Force Academy

The Jewish parent of two cadets, himself a graduate, says the school imposes Christianity.

October 07, 2005|From Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — A Jewish father of two Air Force Academy cadets sued the Air Force on Thursday, saying senior officers and cadets illegally imposed Christianity on others at the school.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by Mikey Weinstein, an academy graduate and outspoken critic of the school's handling of religion.

Over the last decade or more, the lawsuit claims, academy leaders have fostered an environment of religious intolerance at the Colorado school, in violation of the 1st Amendment.

One of Weinstein's sons graduated from the academy last year and another is a junior there. Both were subjected to anti-Semitic slurs from evangelical Christian cadets, he said.

Weinstein, who lives in Albuquerque, says evangelical Christians at the school have coerced attendance at religious services and prayers at official events, among other things.

"It's a shocking disgrace that I had to file this thing," he told Associated Press.

An Air Force spokesman in Washington, Lt. Col. Frank Smolinsky, declined to discuss specifics of the suit, but said the Air Force was "committed to defending the rights of all our men and women, whatever their beliefs."

Members of the Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors declined to comment. The oversight panel met Thursday in Washington.

Cadets, watchdog groups and a former academy chaplain have alleged that religious intolerance is widespread at the school. On Aug. 29, the Air Force issued guidelines discouraging public prayer at official functions and urging commanders to be sensitive about expressions of religious faith.

There have been complaints that a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for Jesus' death, and that another Jew was called a Christ-killer by a fellow cadet. A banner in the football team's locker room read: "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

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