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.
Of course this story fits right in with the one I posted on Friday concerning the chaplains, and soldiers, who identified themselves as "Government paid missionaries." And is also reminiscent of the one which I think really brought this issue to the public's attention, the Bible verses on gun sights story of 2010.
You know what I think is new is NOT the pervasiveness of an evangelical presence in the military (Though I am convinced it increased rather dramatically during the Bush years), but rather a lack of tolerance for that presence among the youth of this country who are now confronting it for the first time.
Personally I think that we will see evangelicals lose their access to these young men and women as they are confronted with more and more cadets and recruits who are better educated about the variety of religions in the world, more aware of the issue concerning the separation of church and state, and less tolerant of proselytizing.
And, as Martha Stewart might say, that's a good thing.