Air Force Responds To Americans United Complaint About Religious Intolerance At Academy

New Task Force Must End Promotion Of Evangelical Christianity At Military Institution, Says Watchdog Group

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today welcomed an announcement from Air Force officials that a new task force is being formed to investigate allegations of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The announcement came just four days after Americans United sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force officials a detailed report (PDF) listing examples of religious bias and preference toward evangelical Christianity at the Academy.

A press release issued today by the Secretary of the Air Force noted that "lingering allegations from sources such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State are being taken very seriously by the Air Force."

"Religious intolerance and the mixing of church and state have no place in any of our service academies," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Air Force officials must move quickly to ensure that church-state separation is respected at the Academy.

"Americans United will continue to closely monitor this situation to ensure that the religious freedom rights of all cadets at the Academy are respected," Lynn added. "It is vital that the task force take this issue seriously and end the official promotion of evangelical Christianity at the Academy."

Air Force officials announced this afternoon that they will create a "cross-functional task force on the religious climate at the United States Air Force Academy."

According to the Air Force press release, the task force will be pulled together by Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady. It will address six key areas, among them Air Force policies on religious respect and tolerance, the religious climate and assessment tools used by the Academy and the practices of Academy leaders that "either enhance or detract from a climate that respects both the 'free exercise of religion' and the 'establishment' clauses of the First Amendment."

Lynn said he welcomes the task force's work and offered to assist in any manner possible.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.