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Air Force Stirs Public Prayer Controversy

The Air Force Academy’s Football team has stirred controversy with its pre-game activities. An advocacy group recently complained about the Falcons praying in the end zone before games, accusing the academy of proselytizing.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a group that opposes religious institutionalizing in the military, complained about the Air Force Academy football team after its game on Nov. 28. That however, did not stop the Falcons from praying in the end zone before their Dec. 5 game.

The academy is looking into the matter according to the Air Force Times.

"The Air Force Academy Inspector General opened a third-party complaint and referred the issue to the athletic department for an informal inquiry," academy spokesperson Meade Warthen said. "Friday morning we received an opposing viewpoint requesting cadets continue to be afforded the right to pray. Thus, we are being prudent and deliberate in our review of this issue."

Having been at odds with the Air Force before, MRFF has stated that this act of prayer is done only to further a Christian agenda. "This end zone praying is just another territorial conquest of the religious Christian right," said MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein. "This stands in a long line of conservative Christian acts like this."

He further stated "allowing the Air Force Academy to investigate itself — this is simply the fox investigating the hen house," Weinstein said. "We expect that we'll get nothing positive out of this and we'll continue to take a look at whether our clients could possibly get 'John' and 'Jane Doe' protections to go into federal court to seek an injunction."

The MRFF currently represents 144 Air Force Academy members which includes cadets, faculty and staff, 5 of which are currently on the football team. Many have not expressed confidence in the athletic department's inquiry.

In the past, the Academy has been found to proselytize the Christian faith. In 2005 former football coach Fisher Deberry hung a banner that read "I am a Christian first and last. ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ” in the football locker room. Most likely under pressure from his violation of church and state separation laws, DeBerry announced one year later that he was retiring from the academy.

Weinstein said that the academy is "attentive to all religious freedom concerns."

 

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