Disparate treatment of Air Force Academy vs Navy and West Point

Good morning,
I have a question about MRFF’s recent focus on team prayer by the football team at the Air Force Academy, and the contrasting lack of coverage from MRFF of the nationally televised invocation before the Army Navy game on December 12th. I read your articles about the “Tebow style” prayer before AFA football games, and while I’m not convinced that it is a Constitutional issue, you presented some unique ideas that I had not considered. However, if you’ll permit a Biblical analogy, it seems like you are calling out the speck in AFA’s eye while ignoring the beam in the eye of West Point and Navy. As background, before the Army-Navy game, on national television (CBS) with ~ 8000 cadets and midshipmen in (mandatory) attendance along with Secretary of Defense and many flag officers, an Army Chaplain gave an invocation, which was broadcast to the nation. I am very curious to hear MRFF’s take on why it chose to focus on the visible but silent prayers of Air Force football players, rather than the nationally broadcast prayer before Army-Navy. It seems as if the Army-Navy prayer represents a much more serious risk of the actual or perceived establishment of religion.
I am very curious to hear the MRFF’s position on the prayer before the Army-Navy game, and why it has not received coverage by your foundation.
Thank you,
(name withheld)

Hi (name withheld) …

I’m Chris Rodda, MRFF’s research director.

We get questions like yours quite often about why we go after one thing but not another thing that’s similar, and the short answer is that we act on the complaints of people who contact us asking for our help.

In this case, we acted on the issue of the prayers at the AFA games because we were asked to by members of the AFA football team and others at the Academy. We didn’t do anything about the invocation before the Army-Navy game because nobody requested our help regarding that one.

I would guess that the reason we were asked for help in stopping the AFA “Tebowing” prayer ritual but did not receive any similar requests for help over the invocation at the Army-Navy game is that, first of all, the AFA’s practice causes the players on the team to feel coerced to participate out of fear of being ostracized if they don’t, and, second, that the “Tebowing” style of it is perceived by pretty much everybody as being very specifically Christian, regardless of whether or not you can hear the prayers the players are praying. The invocation at the Army-Navy game, on the other hand, was very benign and non-sectarian, and while plenty of people who watched it (including us at MRFF) don’t like the fact that these invocations are done at all, and are part of an event that is mandatory for any military personnel, that one didn’t affect anyone on such a personal level (as the AFA “Tebowing” practice does to the players on that team) that they sought out our help over it.

I hope that answers your question.

Chris

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