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  • Too much religion at military academies? West Point cadet revives charge.
    Too much religion at military academies? West Point cadet revives charge.

    Citing overt religiosity on campus, a West Point Academy cadet publicly quit this week just months before graduation. This is not the first time the military has come under fire for practices that nonreligious students see as aggressively evangelical.

    December 7, 2012

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    Cadets on parade at West Point.

    When Blake Page announced this week that he was quitting West Point a few months before graduation, citing the overt religiosity on campus, he raised recurring questions about the pervasiveness and impact of evangelical Christianity within the ranks of the US military.

    “I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same,” Mr. Page wrote in his letter of resignation to the US Military Academy at West Point, in New York.

    He cites, among other things, routine prayers at mandatory events for cadets and the practice of awarding off-campus passes and credit to students who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs. These activities, in turn, foster “open disrespect of non-religious new cadets,” Page argued, adding that he had been told at West Point that it was not possible for people to have morals without believing in God.

    This is not the first time such charges have been leveled within a military training academy. The US Air Force Academy came under similar criticism in 2005 for conferring preferential treatment on cadets who were evangelical Christians and promoting proselytizing in the ranks.

    A survey commissioned by the Air Force Academy in 2010 showed some improvements in the climate of religious tolerance on campus, but also found that many cadets still felt pressured to take part in religious activities. Nearly half of the non-Christian cadets surveyed, for example, said their fellow students have a “low tolerance” for atheists, a 20 percent jump from a similar 2008 survey.

    Charges of evangelism went international when the Pentagon came under fire in 2010 for using gun sights engraved with Bible verses, fueling concerns that the war in Afghanistan would be seen as a military crusade. Some Pentagon officials at first dismissed complaints against the gun sights, comparing them to US currency engraved with “In God We Trust,” but senior officers demanded that the military stop using them.

    This came on the heels of reports that Air Force missileers were receiving Bible-centered ethics training, with the aim of helping them shake off lingering doubts about firing nuclear weapons. The training – which had been in place for almost two decades and was known jokingly among the airmen as “Jesus loves nukes” – was halted in 2011.

    “God and country is a big part of the military culture,” says Page in a phone interview with the Monitor. “Anytime we have a ceremony of any type, there’s always prayer.”

    During his time at West Point as the head of the Secular Student Alliance, Page helped to establish “nontheist chapel time,” an alternative for nonreligious cadets. “Before [that, if you didn't go to chapel] you could either go back to your room or have cleaning detail,” Blake recalls. “A friend of mine was made to sing and dance and recite knowledge and do all sorts of embarrassing things while everyone else went to church.”
    West Point spokesman Francis DeMaro Jr. told CNN that Page's claim that prayer is mandatory is not true. "The academy holds both official and public ceremonies where an invocation and benediction may be conducted, but prayer is voluntary," he said. "As officers, cadets will be responsible for soldiers who represent America’s great diversity in faith and ethnic background."

    Though Page says he occasionally felt targeted for his nonreligious views, he also reports that he came to admire many who went out of their way to understand his concerns. He recalls one professor, an evangelical Christian, who called him in for a talk. “He genuinely asked me, ‘Would you please explain to me where you get your morals if you don’t get them from God?’ ”

    This professor also asked Page how he could help to prevent a climate of religious intolerance. “He has a moral character, and he really inspired me,” Page says.

    Mikey Weinstein, a third-generation graduate of the US Naval Academy and head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, calls Page the “Rosa Parks” of his generation. “Blake is in every way, shape, and form an American hero,” he says, adding that “mandated religion has no place within the technologically most lethal creation of the US government.”

    Page, for his part, says he decided to go public with his resignation after learning that he would not receive a commission for the US military. Because of his struggle with depression, he received a medical waiver.

    “When I knew I couldn’t commission, I knew that there was something I could do. I had such limited time remaining in the system, I thought that by doing this I could get people to think about it as well,” he says.

    Since then, Page says, he has received “many, many” letters of support from faculty members and fellow cadets.

    That said, many other cadets “respected my decision but didn’t agree with my method,” he says. The way he wrote his public letter, which he released to the Huffington Post, “was very hostile and confrontational – I acknowledge that – but there’s no way to get attention in this country without being confrontational,” he adds.

    His next step is to finish his degree at a state university – he’s thinking Georgia or Minnesota. Then he plans to write a book about his experience at West Point, likely focusing on the culture among the corps of cadets.

    “There are many other organizational problems at West Point that need to be addressed,” Page says. “The cadets know it, and talk about it all the time – but we’re addicted to tradition.”



    I don't think that Page could handle the military life. It's a bit fucking stupid to complete nearly 4 years of an education only to quit a few months before graduating, so maybe there is more to this? What pisses me off is that no matter who you are, if you attend most schools in the US, you're expected to respect the majority christian pupils and teachers, and what Page has done is kick up a fuss over nothing and how now made being non-religious his personal identifying 'thing.' He should have just sucked it up, and remembered how seriously fucking lucky he was to be attending the US Military Academy in the first place.

    Forbes, in it's 2nd annual College Rankings issue, awarded the top spot to the USMA at West Point (beating Princeton in 2nd place, Caltech at 3rd, and Harvard in 5th place), proving it's excellence and prestige, and here this guy is whining because he has a hang-up about being different. Jeez man, wake up, everyone is goddamn different in some way but we don't all turn that observation into a compaint.

    Page was medically disqualified this semester from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant, because of clinical depression and anxiety. He said his condition worsened since his father killed himself last year. I don't think this guy was fit to serve as an officer if his condition had worsened. I expect we'll hear more on this story in the coming months...
    (This post was last modified: 12-08-2012, 11:59 AM by Spud17.)
    how it is possible to believe in a god and choose a profession to kill people is utterly beyond me
    the purpose of the military is not to kill people; the purpose of the military is to protect your way of life... in the course of protecting your way of life, should someone decide to challenge you, then you put them down and you continue with or move on to your next operational objective(s).

    the god thumpers -- to this day -- have killed more people than all the valid military operations combined... by valid, i mean no religious or theological persuasion.

    usma west creates the finest officers the world has ever known and the long gray line will continue on without blake... which works out fine because his actions do not reflect the qualities suitable for an officer's position.

    "Yeah. I understand the mechanics of it, shithead. I just don't understand how this is any less retarded than what I'm suggesting." - Kiley; Housebound.
    i can protect my way of life without a gun,thank you

    you're not seriously implying that my way of life was protected in vietnam or iraq or is in afghanistan?
    way off topic, but you asked:

    you aren't an american... so no, your way of life is not really a priority on our armed services' to do list... but i'm sure if your military -- or whom ever is tasked with protecting you -- decides that they need help, they can always blown on their rape whistles and someone will be along to help.

    but in regard to american interests; afghanistan, yes... in vietnam, the help of the united nations was requested... same as in korea... in iraq... a fabricated lie... but from a 'shits n' giggles' perspective... it was worth it: bombs have an expiration date... gotta use 'em or lose em.

    "Yeah. I understand the mechanics of it, shithead. I just don't understand how this is any less retarded than what I'm suggesting." - Kiley; Housebound.
    "Way of life" can mean different things to different people at different times for different circumstances. The "way of life" the Afghan war was protecting for me was my freedom of driving my inefficient gas-guzzling and oil-burning car for the next several years without worry of a shortage. I don't live anywhere near NYC, know anyone who does, and don't plan on visiting, so they weren't fighting 911 terrorists for me at all.

    [Image: MyUserBar2.gif]
    To address the (very interesting) aside:

    SJ if someone comes and tries to hurt my family I will do whatever it takes to stop them. How would that be different if I was a priest, preacher, pastor, minister, or laymen in any religion? It wouldn't.

    If I were drafted into the military (won't happen I am too old, but just saying) and it was given to me to complete a mission that might require the death of opposing forces then I would accept my task and live with the consequences. I wouldn't take pleasure in it, but I also wouldn't feel that I had broken any ethical 'rules' either . . . no more than I would regret killing an intruder to save a family member. Not to say I wouldn't hate that I had to kill a motherfucker, just saying I would know in my heart I had done what I had to do.

    On topic:

    Yeah, Page is a whiny little bitch.

    I have read articles in the past about the extent of religious presence in the military so I don't doubt that there are a lot of US military that are Christian- it is just that I wonder if participating in 'chapel' is rewarded because it is extra-curricular activities. In other words, if there are secular activities that can gain a student/soldier status (like sports) then why not reward any believer that takes a leading/supporting role in the base/school's religious functions.

    It seems like fair play to me.

    West Point isn't beyond being called to account for its ethics, but it is damn near it. It is an honor to be accepted there and Page clearly couldn't cut the mustard- and I don't believe for a minute that it had anything to do with his beliefs or the lack thereof.

    Wildcard is awesome.
    Blake Page has now been informed he may have to pay back the money spent on his education at West Point. He is said to be shocked that he may have to find the $200 000 recoupment fee. Normally, graduates pay off their tuition costs through military service, so I can't really understand why he is shocked. Read here for more details.
    I suspect there is an over-representation of folks from the "Kill a commie for Christ." and "Bless the Lord and pass the ammo." crowds at West Point. Confused

    Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
    - Robert A. Heinlein
    I get the CTC Sentinel from West Point, and have read hundreds of articles, reports, and essays by those who work there. I can honestly say I've never, not once come across the 'kill a commie for christ' or 'bless the lord and pass the ammo' type that you suspect is present at West Point. You'd be surprised just how many intelligent, positive, freethinking individuals with libertarian views come from there. Of course, there are individuals with fairly extremely simplistic worldviews, but you get that in most places.
    (This post was last modified: 02-27-2013, 11:52 PM by Spud17.)

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