Too much religion at military academies? West Point cadet revives charge.
Citing overt religiosity on campus, a West Point Academy cadet publicly quit this week just months before graduation. This is not the first time the military has come under fire for practices that nonreligious students see as aggressively evangelical.
(Page 2 of 2)
West Point spokesman Francis DeMaro Jr. told CNN that Page's claim that prayer is mandatory is not true. "The academy holds both official and public ceremonies where an invocation and benediction may be conducted, but prayer is voluntary," he said. "As officers, cadets will be responsible for soldiers who represent America’s great diversity in faith and ethnic background."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Though Page says he occasionally felt targeted for his nonreligious views, he also reports that he came to admire many who went out of their way to understand his concerns. He recalls one professor, an evangelical Christian, who called him in for a talk. “He genuinely asked me, ‘Would you please explain to me where you get your morals if you don’t get them from God?’ ”
This professor also asked Page how he could help to prevent a climate of religious intolerance. “He has a moral character, and he really inspired me,” Page says.
Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, calls Page the “Rosa Parks” of his generation. “Blake is in every way, shape, and form an American hero,” he says, adding that “mandated religion has no place within the technologically most lethal creation of the US government.”
Page, for his part, says he decided to go public with his resignation after learning that he would not receive a commission for the US military. Because of his struggle with depression, he received a medical waiver.
“When I knew I couldn’t commission, I knew that there was something I could do. I had such limited time remaining in the system, I thought that by doing this I could get people to think about it as well,” he says.
Since then, Page says, he has received “many, many” letters of support from faculty members and fellow cadets.
That said, many other cadets “respected my decision but didn’t agree with my method,” he says. The way he wrote his public letter, which he released to the Huffington Post, “was very hostile and confrontational – I acknowledge that – but there’s no way to get attention in this country without being confrontational,” he adds.
His next step is to finish his degree at a state university – he’s thinking Georgia or Minnesota. Then he plans to write a book about his experience at West Point, likely focusing on the culture among the corps of cadets.
“There are many other organizational problems at West Point that need to be addressed,” Page says. “The cadets know it, and talk about it all the time – but we’re addicted to tradition.”