The Air Force Academy announced its intention to open a circular worship area last month. Even Michael Weinstein, president of the Religious Freedom Foundation and stern critic of the AFA, heralded the inclusion as a step toward religious inclusion. But on 17 January, a cross fashioned from railroad ties was discovered in the academy’s new stone circle.
Weinstein criticized the administration for not revealing the incident to its cadets sooner. However, the academy’s superintendent, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, has condemned the “destructive behavior.” In a statement, Lt. Gen. Gould insisted that he “consider[s] this no different than someone writing graffiti on the Cadet Chapel.”
Pagan blogs have expressed concern over the incident, calling it a “desecration” of sacred space. In a washingtonpost.com editorial, Pastor Robert Jeffress defended the unknown perpetrators, saying that all religions do not deserve equal representation. “Since God is not an American, there is no reason to think He has a particular affinity for our ideas about the separation of church and state,” Jeffress argued.
AFA Director of Communications David Cannon said that the incident remains under investigation. Foxnews.com said that Cannon refused comment on whether the desecration constituted a hate crime.
From Exotics to Brainwashers: Portraying New Religions in Mass Media
By Sean McCloud, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
(Vol. 1, August 2006)
Secrecy and New Religious Movements: Concealment, Surveillance, and Privacy in a New Age of Information
By Hugh B. Urban , Ohio State University
(Vol. 2, November 2007)