Air Force Academy accused of intolerance

Posted: Friday, October 07, 2005

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Jewish father of two Air Force Academy cadets sued the Air Force on Thursday, claiming 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 past decade or more, the lawsuit claims, academy leaders have fostered an environment of religious intolerance at the Colorado school, in violation of the First Amendment.

Weinstein has one son who graduated from the academy last year and another who is a junior there. Both were subjected to anti-Semitic slurs from evangelical Christian cadets, he said.

Weinstein, who lives in Albuquerque, claims that 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 The Associated Press.

The Air Force declined immediate comment. Members of the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors also declined to comment. The oversight panel, which includes members of Congress, met in Washington on Thursday.

Cadets, watchdog groups and a former chaplain at the academy 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 personal expressions of religious faith.

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