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As you read the articles below, please remember
these Pagan U.S. soldiers who sacrificed
their lives for our country:

SGT Jason A. Schumann
Killed May 19, 2007 when a bomb
exploded near his vehicle in Iraq

PFC Stephen P. Snowberger III
Killed May 11, 2006 when a bomb
exploded near his vehicle in Iraq

SGT Patrick Dana Stewart
Killed September 25, 2005 when his
helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan


Cross Placed at Air Force Pagan
Circle Prompts Probe

Friday, February 5, 2010

By Joshua Rhett Miller

Click here to read full story

OUR VIEW: Jesus, hate crimes and the Air Force Academy cross

If you left the cross, have the
courage to come forth

Thursday, February 4, 2010

By Wayne Laugesen
Editorial page editor, for the editorial board

A poll regarding this issue is available at the original
article page. Click here to visit the original article.

From the comments section on

phoenixblue wrote: Traveler -- I *was* in the Middle East. I deployed to Iraq a year and a half ago and served honorably. Incidentally, the chaplains there accommodated a Pagan group of about 20-30, of which I was a part.

I was lucky. I made it home alive. Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Stewart, a Pagan, was killed in action in Afghanistan. So when you insinuate that Pagans are somehow not as patriotic as you, you do Sergeant Stewart's memory and my service a grave misservice ...

... one that compels me to ask, when will *you* go to Iraq or Afghanistan? When will *you* sacrifice in the name of your country to defend the rights of people who call you evil and demand that you repent from your religion?

A hate crime has two components: 1. Hatred, which is not a crime, and 2. A crime.

Examples abound. Marty Marshall and his white family walked from a fireworks display in Ohio in June. A group of black teens attacked them, yelling “this is a black world.” Marty suffered severe head trauma. It seems like a hate crime.

Three white racists chained a black man, James Byrd Jr., behind a pickup in 1998 and dragged him to his death. It seems like a hate crime.

Some hate crimes are not violent. In 2004, the state-subsidized Washburn University, in Kansas, commissioned a Boulder County bigot to craft a sculpture for the campus. He sculpted a Catholic bishop with a penis on his head. It was state-sanctioned denunciation of one religion, in violation of the First Amendment. It seems like a hate crime.

This brings us to the large cross leaned against a sacred rock in a new pagan worship area at the United States Air Force Academy. Mikey Weinstein, the oft-maligned and misunderstood director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said someone left the cross as a “fundamentalist Christian gang marker,” and a “giant turd” in a sacred place. He said the act was absolutely a hate crime. If necessary, he will try convincing the FBI to investigate.

Whoever left the cross exploited the most sacred object of Christianity for an act of confrontation.

Unfortunately for Weinstein, it may not be considered a crime to leave a religious object on federal land. Unless it was a religious statement sanctioned by authority, it is unlikely a First Amendment offense.

To those who feel abused by a handful of self-righteous and obnoxious academy dominionist Christians — people who have complicated life for the majority of Christians who are kind, compassionate and respectful — the large cross was hurtful.

Lots of Christians agree. Rachel, an evangelical and close friend of Weinstein, interprets the Bible literally. She’s “to the right of Rush Limbaugh,” opposes abortion and believes the only way to heaven is through Jesus. The 60-year-old law firm CPA has discussed with Weinstein her concern for his soul (he isn’t Christian). Yet she believes the cross was left as a disgusting insult to non-Christians.

Rachel told The Gazette she supports Weinstein’s work because it protects her right to hold religious beliefs that some consider extreme. She can’t stand seeing the cross used as a weapon of intimidation.

Weinstein insists he isn’t against the cross or Christians. He views anti-Christian art, such as Washburn’s penis-topped bishop, as offensive and sad. Weinstein said he would vigorously fight any such expression on military property.

Air Force Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould has made great strides toward religious respect at the academy. He ordered Air Force chaplains, engineers, and heavy equipment operators to help build the pagan worship site.

Still, Weinstein perceives a lackadaisical response by Gould, whom he has counted as a friend, and a general lack of outrage regarding the unwelcome cross. Gould disputes that, saying he ordered the Air Force Office of Special Investigations to get on it immediately. Gould said he and his staff have worked hard to create an atmosphere in which cadets and staff feel safe to report religious hostility.

“It was a very hateful symbolic act, and I will not tolerate it,” Gould said. “If I find out who placed the cross there, that person will pay the price. We are working on this as hard as we can, and we aren’t slow-rolling anything.”

If you placed the cross, please come forward. Only the weakest Christians fear avowing their own actions. Christ, refusing to disavow his teachings, carried the cross to his death. Yet some coward or cowards carried the cross, abandoned it on a rock, and ran away. It’s a weak and petty disgrace to Jesus, and it’s disrupting our military.

Air Force cadets train to defend freedom, most importantly the freedoms of religion and speech. If cadets of any religion are intimidated about matters of faith, they cannot fully value the freedoms they have sworn to uphold. For that reason, Weinstein and Gould must quickly resolve their dispute, working to develop a campus that values the free, unimpeded practice of constructive religious beliefs.

Each man must ignore supporters who want them in conflict — the type who might just as well attend a dog fight. The core values of the Air Force are integrity, service and excellence. They are values that bolster religious freedom for all, and values Weinstein and Gould each hold sacred.


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