members of congress are calling on President Bush to overturn a new
policy, recently enacted by the U.S. Department of Defense in light of
a recent Air Force Academy controversy, which they say violates the
first amendment rights of Christian chaplains.
The Colorado Springs Academy came under severe fire this past year for proselytizing charges in which non-Christians were reportedly discriminated against in what some critics called an overly-Christian atmosphere.
A government investigation turned up only a small amount of evidence, and the Air Force reported that proper steps had been taken.
Now members of Congress are calling new guidelines adopted by the Air Force, which call for only nonsectarian prayers to be prayed on campus, “…merely a euphemism declaring that prayers will be acceptable so long as they censor Christian beliefs.”
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), spearheaded a signature-gathering effort in Congress for a letter he sent to the president earlier this month.
The letter, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, states: “We are disappointed and gravely concerned to learn that the Christian military chaplains are under direct attack and that their right to pray according to their faith is in jeopardy.”
Opponents of the policy say that the Air Force move is a precursor to a Pentagon-wide policy.
Washington newspaper The Hill quoted Jones who said that, “We think it is extremely damaging, and that is denying the First Amendment rights of all of our chaplains.”
He pointed out that that while the executive order would apply to chaplains of all faiths, that the focus is specifically on Christian chaplains.
The letter added that, “Current surveys in the military indicate that upwards of 80 percent of soldiers identify themselves as Christians, and such censorship of Christian beliefs is a disservice not only to Christian chaplains but also to hundreds of thousands of Christian soldiers.”