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Topic: West Point Cadet Resigns 174 days before Graduatio, in protest of religious proselytizing< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 1:42 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Article in the Huff Post by Blake Page, West Point cadet:

QUOTE
While there are certainly numerous problems with the developmental program at West Point and all service academies, the tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution. These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation. These transgressions are nearly always committed in the name of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. The sparse leaders who object to these egregious violations are relegated to the position of silent bystanders, because they understand all too well the potential ramifications of publically expressing their loyalty to the laws of our country. These are strong words that I do not use lightly, but after years of clear personal observation I am certain that they are true. The following excerpt is from my official letter of resignation from West Point:

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. Examples of these policies include mandatory prayer, the maintenance of the 3rd Regiment Shield, awarding extra passes to Plebes who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, as well as informal policies such as the open disrespect of non-religious new cadets and incentivizing participation in religious activities through the chain of command.

As the President of the West Point Secular Student Alliance (SSA), a Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) affiliate, and first Director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) Affairs at West Point, I have been in a position to hear countless cadets recount their personal stories of frustration in dealing with the ongoing oppressive and unconstitutional bigotry they face for being non-religious. Cadets often come to me to seek assistance, guidance and reassurance in response to instances of debasing harassment. Many here are regularly told they do not deserve a place in the military. They are shown through policy that the Constitution guarantees their freedom of, but not from religion. Many are publically chastised for seeking out a community of likeminded people because it is such a common belief that Humanism and other non-religious philosophies are inherently immoral and worse.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 1:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't know much of anything about West Point.  But on the face of it, I don't think there should be mandatory prayer.  OTOH, let's face it, there's going to be a lot of group think, group act, and obedience -- in any military setting.

A "forced" moment of silence -- to me, that's fine.  You're free to imagine anything or just blank out.  A forced act of worship -- placing hand on the bible or koran or kissing the cross or star of David or any such thing?  No.

Maybe this cadet has genuine grievance.  Or maybe it's just fashionable nowadays to remove all visible symbols of religion? As mentioned, I don't know the facts, but if the latter -- then that itself is a grotesque form of persecution -- and two wrong's here don't make a right.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 1:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I have no doubt that this is a real problem at West Point, and this person is certainly not the first to make this complaint.

However, to pick a nit, the constitution does not provide for "freedom from religion." A person who proselytizes is not breaking any law, unless there is some element of coercion involved. Good taste, very possibly, yes.

QUOTE
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof


To be clear, some of what the author alleges is egregious: I'm concentrating narrowly on the "freedom from religion" part.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah.  I suspected the latter.

What does it say about us as a people -- to replace 'religious arrogance' with 'secular pettiness'?  Can we curb the former without introducing the latter?


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

cweston - A person who proselytizes while wearing a United States Military uniform as an officer to cadets may very well be though. As well as the UCMJ?
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(High_Sierra_Fan @ Dec. 05 2012, 11:13 am)
QUOTE
A person who proselytizes while wearing a United States Military uniform as an officer to cadets may very well be though.


Two types of society that I do not wish to live in (and will do my utmost to prevent):

1.  A society that forces everyone to participate in any one religion.

2.  A society that attempts to drive religion underground.

It should remain perfectly OK to worship while in uniform. Millions of soldiers have done so.

It should remain in force that no individual uses the symbols or trappings of an organization (such as a school or the military) to project the appearance of that organization's support or rejection of a religion.

Right now, there seems to be meanness oozing out from us as a society...


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The relationship between officers and cadets is on substance.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

HSF:

I revised my post above.

You do realize that millions of soldiers have prayed -- both off and on battlefields -- including the receiving of Last Rites?  ???

What next?  Er, thanks for dying for our country, but kiddo, your government doesn't provide military chaplains anymore -- so you'll just have to say your prayers all by yourself.  Now, kiddo, don't argue, you don't have much time left...

The above scenario makes no sense.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:31 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(High_Sierra_Fan @ Dec. 05 2012, 1:13 pm)
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cweston - A person who proselytizes while wearing a United States Military uniform as an officer to cadets may very well be though. As well as the UCMJ?

Yes, I agree. I was addressing the "freedom from religion" concept more broadly.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Dec. 05 2012, 11:31 am)
QUOTE

(High_Sierra_Fan @ Dec. 05 2012, 1:13 pm)
QUOTE
cweston - A person who proselytizes while wearing a United States Military uniform as an officer to cadets may very well be though. As well as the UCMJ?

Yes, I agree. I was addressing the "freedom from religion" concept more broadly.

Actually, I disagree.

No, I am not saying that an actual 'proselytizing in uniform' is right.  I am saying that it isn't an issue in this case.  Is anyone at West Point physically or mentally forcing the cadet in question into any particular religion?  And more importantly, is the school administration condoning actual proselytizing?  No.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 2:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Ben2World @ Dec. 05 2012, 1:35 pm)
QUOTE
No, I am not saying that an actual 'proselytizing in uniform' is right.  I am saying that it isn't an issue in this case.  Is anyone at West Point physically or mentally forcing the cadet in question into any particular religion?  And more importantly, is the school administration condoning actual proselytizing?  No.

How do you know these things? Your answers to your questions are the opposite of what the author was claiming. Do you know the author's claims to be false? You seem to be overreaching.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 3:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Dec. 05 2012, 11:52 am)
QUOTE

(Ben2World @ Dec. 05 2012, 1:35 pm)
QUOTE
No, I am not saying that an actual 'proselytizing in uniform' is right.  I am saying that it isn't an issue in this case.  Is anyone at West Point physically or mentally forcing the cadet in question into any particular religion?  And more importantly, is the school administration condoning actual proselytizing?  No.

How do you know these things? Your answers to your questions are the opposite of what the author was claiming. Do you know the author's claims to be false? You seem to be overreaching.

Yes, I jumped too soon -- see my first post -- I should have stuck to it.  Will have to back off and let the authorities investigate the actual circumstances.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 3:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

By the way, I think this guy is kindof an idiot to resign this close to graduation, but that's another discussion.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 3:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Faced some of the same attitudes and problems in the Navy in the 60's.  Albeit at a much less serious level.

Tried to change my choice of religion on my dog tags to Oobmab Stooshism, but the Navy refused to honor  my choice.  

This was a little known religion, created by myself and one buddy, based on the teaching of Eldoon Feeb, a middle eastern ascetic.  

Well, actually based on bamboo shoots and beef noodle spelled backward.

The Executive Officer had no sense of humor and threatened us not to try that again if we wanted liberty in Hong Kong.  

It was the end of religous creativity on our part.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 3:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(wwwest @ Dec. 05 2012, 12:06 pm)
QUOTE
Faced some of the same attitudes and problems in the Navy in the 60's.  Albeit at a much less serious level.

Tried to change my choice of religion on my dog tags to Oobmab Stooshism, but the Navy refused to honor  my choice.  

This was a little known religion, created by myself and one buddy, based on the teaching of Eldoon Feeb, a middle eastern ascetic.  

Well, actually based on bamboo shoots and beef noodle spelled backward.

The Executive Officer had no sense of humor and threatened us not to try that again if we wanted liberty in Hong Kong.  

It was the end of religous creativity on our part.

In the purely theoretical... we should be able to pick / invent any religion we please - or none at all.

But, hey, it's group living -- so it's always going to be a matter of finding some acceptable balance between individual freedoms and group dynamics (so the latter doesn't totally fall apart).

What is the purpose of including a religion in one's dog tag?  To help provide you with the proper chaplain -- or none -- in case of an emergency?  So yeah, I can see how inscribing any and all "religions" would defeat the very purpose of categorizing!  I can perfectly understand offering just the major choices -- and the freedom to leave that part completely blank.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 3:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

On a slightly related note:

My jazz group played a gig a couple months ago that was a dinner/dance for a realtor's organization. I was a little surprised when the even began with a (Christian) prayer.

I'mn not saying people shouldn't be able to pray, I'm just not sure why anyone would feel the need to in such a setting. It was not a religious event, and there were surely non-religious people (and quite possibly believers from religions other than Christianity) participating. I can't help but imagine that making others feel a little left out or uncomfortable isn't part of the motivation of such things.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 3:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What is the purpose of including a religion in one's dog tag?  To help provide you with the proper chaplain -- or none -- in case of an emergency?

Well, that reasoning is just as theoretical as ours was, IMO.  On ships there is either one chaplain, or none, at least below air craft carrier.  Even less available on the battle field in direct combat.

They want the designation so they can put the right cross on your grave.  Pretty much everything about dog tags is related to the death and post mortem identification of the wearer, not customer service.  

Does anyone know for a fact whether combat troops are beginning to use imbedded micro chips for emegency ID??  

I know they have micro chip info on the ID cards now, but apparently there is great resistance to micro chips for the warriors.  I suppose there are pretty difficult security encryption issues but they should be solvable.  But restricting the data to name, serial number and chronic health issues should be safe and legal, shouldn't it?

So they are not as well protected as my dog!  Go figure.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 4:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(wwwest @ Dec. 05 2012, 12:40 pm)
QUOTE
But restricting the data to name, serial number and chronic health issues should be safe and legal, shouldn't it?

'Yes' for some, 'no' for  others, and 'meh either way' for still others.

That's the great part of our democratic society.  Should our government spend time and money on including one's religion on one's tag?  The majority gets to decide.  So long as no one is forced to participate (i.e. a blank should be one of the choices).


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(wwwest @ Dec. 05 2012, 12:06 pm)
QUOTE
Faced some of the same attitudes and problems in the Navy in the 60's.  Albeit at a much less serious level.

Tried to change my choice of religion on my dog tags to Oobmab Stooshism, but the Navy refused to honor  my choice.  

This was a little known religion, created by myself and one buddy, based on the teaching of Eldoon Feeb, a middle eastern ascetic.  

Well, actually based on bamboo shoots and beef noodle spelled backward.

The Executive Officer had no sense of humor and threatened us not to try that again if we wanted liberty in Hong Kong.  

It was the end of religous creativity on our part.

I'm a devout Baconist, myself.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 8:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Dec. 05 2012, 3:19 pm)
QUOTE
On a slightly related note:

My jazz group played a gig a couple months ago that was a dinner/dance for a realtor's organization. I was a little surprised when the even began with a (Christian) prayer.

I'mn not saying people shouldn't be able to pray, I'm just not sure why anyone would feel the need to in such a setting. It was not a religious event, and there were surely non-religious people (and quite possibly believers from religions other than Christianity) participating. I can't help but imagine that making others feel a little left out or uncomfortable isn't part of the motivation of such things.

Similar experience about 40 years ago, at the start line of a 10K run.  Race organizer led it.

We all (from what I could tell, peeking out the side of my eye) dutifully bowed our heads.  Nobody objected.  

We "Doubters" (the stage before agnosticism) and non-Christians had our running shoes on, were wondering what kind of goodies would be at the aid stations, and by gosh weren't going to be discouraged by a well-intentioned bully.

It was a good, safe race.  Maybe the prayer did work.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 8:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Dec. 05 2012, 3:05 pm)
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By the way, I think this guy is kindof an idiot to resign this close to graduation, but that's another discussion.

+1.

Kinda glad we didn't arm this guy.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2012, 9:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Seems to me that this young man is quite well armed, with wit and intelligence, and his highly pricipled decision to resign before accepting the degree and commission is admirable, IMO.

Besides, he gets to serve one less year as a grunt if he resigns prior to graduation, doesn't he?  I'm guessing he won't be getting very desirable duty stations!


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(cweston @ Dec. 05 2012, 3:05 pm)
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By the way, I think this guy is kindof an idiot to resign this close to graduation, but that's another discussion.

Yep.   My  "meter" is telling me there is a backstory here.

Courts ruled mandatory chapel for cadets unconstitutional in the early 1970s IIRC.

There is less pro forma prayer in that setting than what I saw on TV at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 06 2012, 11:06 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Another article on this topic:

http://news.yahoo.com/cadet-q....65.html

This young man has had to deal with tragedy in his family recently as well as the issue at hand.  

Though I disagree with his contentions about West Point, he has my sympathy over his loss and dealing with the aftermath.   It is sad anyone would have to go through the loss he has.
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(Three @ Dec. 06 2012, 10:06 am)
QUOTE
Though I disagree with his contentions about West Point, he has my sympathy over his loss and dealing with the aftermath.   It is sad anyone would have to go through the loss he has.

Do you have first-hand knowledge that his claims are false? (Or secondhand knowledge, even?) Or do you just doubt his voracity because you're predisposed to not believe stuff like this?

Look, I have no idea if his claims are true. As I posted earlier, he's certainly not the first to make such complaints. Maybe he's a malcontent, or maybe he's spot on.

OTOH, you are not the first person to claim to disagree with his complaints on content. How do you know? Or is that the sound of a jerking knee I hear in the background?
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 06 2012, 12:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Seems to me he was making real progress towards his goal...so why quit now?

Did he really want to serve in the Army, or was his primary agenda to simply force change at the academy?


While dealing with the bureaucracy of the academy I have had my complaints ignored by several members of my direct military chain of command. The ranking chaplain here responded to some of these instances of clear prejudice with the useless statement that he will "do what [he] can in good conscience" (which was nothing) instead of fulfilling his legal obligations. In dealing with the Directorate of Cadet Activities I have seen the Secular Student Alliance denied recognition for two years because the former director of the organization did not see a reason to recognize an organization for support of nonreligious West Point cadets. Even after finally receiving hard-fought recognition this year, that same organization continues to work with us only half-heartedly. They have only begrudgingly given us a pitifully inadequate budget, continue to refuse to list us on their website, and one of their staff has openly laughed at the idea that we could organize a conference or even produce club t-shirts for our members.

In response to this utter nonsense, and much more, I initiated an Equal Opportunity investigation earlier this semester. I have received nothing but positive responses from the chain of command since then. The Commandant of Cadets himself, Brigadier General Theodore Martin, expressed what I perceived to be a sincere desire to see to it that these issues are dealt with quickly and severely. As happy as I was to hear his words and see his genuine concern expressed, his influence alone will not be enough to change the confidently bigoted culture of this sad place. The gulf between the intent of a General Officer and the execution of that intent by those in positions of immediate authority is massive in a complex bureaucracy entrenched in over 200 years of tradition. This chasm is widened by the rarity of people like General Martin who are willing to take on a proactive role in attempting to ensure that equality is established. The existence of decades of legal precedent and policies prohibiting this pervasive religious bigotry has not stopped it from happening in the past, and will most certainly not stop it from happening in the future so long as the many who oppose it remain too timid to stand up and be counted. I am making this stand in the hope that others will follow by whatever means they must. Perhaps now some of the 136 cadets, faculty and staff at West Point that are represented by the MRFF may find the courage to make themselves heard.
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(Lamebeaver @ Dec. 06 2012, 11:01 am)
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Seems to me he was making real progress towards his goal...so why quit now?

Well, it turns out that there is more to the story. Check out the article Three linked above.

Apparently, he was told he could not be commission as an officer because he suffers from depression.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 06 2012, 12:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Turns out he has already served in the Army, prior to entering West Point, and that it was the Army deciding that he would not receive his commission that precipitated this public action.  Very interesting case, IMO.

Page said he hears about the plight of other nonreligious cadets in part through his involvement with the West Point affiliate of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The founder and president of that advocacy group said Page's action is a milestone in the fight against "fanatical religiosity" in the military.

"This is an extraordinary act of courage that I do compare directly to what Rosa Parks did," said Mikey Weinstein.

Page, who is from Stockbridge, Ga., and who was accepted into West Point after serving in the Army, said he was notified Tuesday of his honorable discharge. He faces no military commitment and will not have to reimburse the cost of his education.


http://news.yahoo.com/cadet-q....65.html

It will be interesting to see what the investigation at the Air Force Academy turns up.  

First there was the scandal of sexual assault and harrassment against women at the military academys, and now intolerance to secular belief as opposed to religious belief.  

Big institutions have a very difficult time  allowing personal freedom, be they religious institutions (vis Catholic Church) or military institutions.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 06 2012, 2:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So with the medical bar to his commissioning what were his and the Army's options had he graduated?
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 06 2012, 2:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I am guessing it was either a discharge or return to the ranks??

Why do people think that he has thrown away his educational effort??  He still has all his credits completed, just needs to put in final semester at his university of choice and will have his degree, free of the military taint, as he now sees it.

This was his chance to make an effective protest, and he took it.  His 15 minutes, neh?


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"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

- John Kenneth Galbraith
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