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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 01:06 GMT 02:06 UK
US officer school told to improve
US Air Force Academy cadets celebrate graduation
The academy trains cadets to become Air Force officers
A US air force inquiry into religious bullying at an elite officer school in Colorado has called for cadets to be allowed equal religious rights.

Investigators found no evidence of "overt" religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy but did identify cases of inappropriate behaviour.

There was a "lack of awareness" on the part of some staff and senior cadets, said inquiry leader Lt Gen Roger Brady.

Scores of students have complained of bullying by evangelical Christians.

The US constitution mandates the separation of church and state.

'Ethos of respect'

Presenting his report at the Pentagon, Gen Brady identified "a lack of awareness on the part of some faculty and staff, and perhaps cadets in positions of authority, as to what constitutes appropriate expressions of faith".

Air Force Academy chapel
The academy chapel is built to cater to several religions

The inquiry uncovered "a religious climate that does not involve overt religious discrimination but a failure to fully accommodate all members' needs".

Seven instances of potential misconduct were noted but details were not given.

The report also refers to religious slurs and disparaging remarks between cadets, and statements from faculty and staff with strong religious beliefs that some cadets found offensive.

In response to the report, Acting Air Force Secretary Michael L Dominguez said officials had "instituted changes designed to stop instances of religious intolerance".

"At the core of our airman ethos is respect," he said. "Instances of disrespect... are wrong and incompatible with what we do for this nation."

'Preyed upon'

Ahead of Gen Brady's report, Jewish and non-evangelical Christian cadets said they were "preyed upon", according to campaigner Mikey Weinstein.

A Lutheran chaplain, Capt Melinda Morton, resigned in protest, saying evangelicals were determined to convert young cadets at the school, which has 4,300 students.

In April, the watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) published a report identifying instances of "coercion" at the academy:

  • one chaplain told evangelical cadets they should preach to comrades that non-evangelicals would "burn in the fires of hell"

  • official events were often opened with prayers

  • an evangelical Christmas greeting in the academy's newspaper was signed by members of staff

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