More on that Air Force Academy Circle

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 6, 2010 — 62 Comments

What wild couple of weeks it’s been for the Pagans at the Air Force Academy! First it was announced that a special outdoor worship area was created for Pagan cadets and faculty (that had been in the works for some time), a positive step after past allegations of rampant Christian-fueled intolerance at the academy. Then, the story hit the national media, Tech Sergeant Brandon Longcrier was named an “intriguing person of the day” by Rick Sanchez at CNN, and the first rumblings of criticism were emerging. Sometime, during all this press, a “desecration incident” happened, when a large wooden cross was left at the site. Cue anger (and some debate over how serious of an incident this was) from Pagans, and strangely, anger from Christians at our temerity in claiming it a desecration.

Which brings us to today. While the initial flurry of national press seems to have died down, the Air Force Academy, and the Pagans on it, are still generating news. Some wondered if the Naval Academy would be building a worship area for Pagans, with the answer, for now, being “no”.

“Naval Academy officials said they have had no demand for such a spot. “At this time, there have been no requests for a worship location for earth-centered religions,” academy spokeswoman Judy Campbell said. “Midshipmen are always provided the opportunity to observe the religious obligations of their chosen faith, but their participation is entirely up to them,” she said.”

But you never know, perhaps we’ll see Naval Academy Pagans decide to organize and ask for one too?

Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Gazette gives us some much-needed background concerning Pagans at the Air Force Academy, showing that this new stone circle wasn’t some rash action, but a response to a long-term need by an established community of cadets and service members.

“According to administrators, the traditions that some dismiss as “witchcraft” are nothing new at the Colorado Springs military academy. Wiccans, pagans and other followers of Earth-centered religions have been active on campus for at least a decade, and are now among 14 religious groups recognized under a program that sets aside time for cadets to worship on their own, said cadet wing chaplain Lt. Col. William Ziegler III. “We’re here to serve as caretakers to support every cadet’s religious freedoms,” Ziegler said of Special Programs in Religious Education, or SPIRE. Until recently, the pagan group met at a brick-and-tile worship area in Jack’s Valley, a sprawling, wooded training area to the north of the academy’s cadet area. About a dozen cadets belong, the academy said, and an additional 30 service members in Colorado Springs identify themselves as pagans. The group’s path to prominence began last summer, after an inspection determined the aging site was no longer “structurally sound,” Ziegler said.”

In other words, Pagans at the academy are nothing new, and the circle, built at “no additional taxpayer expense”, is the result of years of bridge-building and open communication. The article also notes that several military bases have established stone circles for Pagan soldiers, with the most famous being the one at Ft. Hood, the existence of which spurred the (in)famous “Witchcraft isn’t a religion” statement from George W. Bush, and a full-blown campaign against Pagans in the military by then-congressman Bob Barr.

Sadly, despite the genuine underlying non-controversy of all this happening, it has brought out the worst in some religious commentators. Like Catholic pundit Michael Terheyden, who calls this development “dangerous”, and essentially backs the flawed “two-tiered” religious arguments we see flying about in the Patrick McCollum case.

“Paganism and witchcraft are not equal to the major religions of the world. I believe that it largely died out throughout much of the world because, based on the idea of “survival of the fittest,” it was not the fittest.  In general it was violent and blood thirsty and mired in superstition and magic. It was seemingly unable to provide the glue necessary to maintain a healthy culture and society.  It is true that others have the right in our country to believe what they want, and we should defend that right, but it is another thing altogether to treat every belief as being equal when they are not.  Consequently, it does not seem competent or rational when the Air Force Academy, one of the premier training institutions of our military, equates neo-paganism with the major religions of the world and claims this is, somehow, indicative of tolerance and respect.”

You know, there was a time, not so long ago, when Catholics weren’t seen as “equal” to the protestants that dominated the American political and cultural landscape. They were discriminated against, and viewed with suspicion. It was such a big issue that John F. Kennedy, America’s first Catholic president, had to reassure voters that he wouldn’t take orders from the Pope.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

So to see a Catholic, so seemingly blind to his faith’s history in America, so ready to spout half-truths and misinformation about modern Pagan faiths, so ready to see the government create barriers against non-monotheistic faiths, is bitterly ironic.

Anyone with a clear sense of history, and a clear vision of America’s values, would see this simple stone circle as a testament to our success. To begrudge the Pagans a circle, or to imply that some faiths should be more equal than others, are the subconscious stirrings of a theocratic mind. Because once you draw the line for one faith, you’ll soon want to draw more lines, until only the “pure” and “true” faith is left. As history has taught us, that way leads to madness and horror.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Also….GO AIR FORCE! Beat Army AND Navy!

    Sorry, couldn't resist!

    • You forgot the obligatory 'In Jesus' name." Tsk, tsk, tsk.

  • harmonyfb

    Thanks for the rec – it was very interesting, and a little disturbing. The 'evening prayers' that got broadcast through the ship were particularly disturbing.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Interesting quote from JFK. It speaks against vouchers for tax $$ going to religious private or parochial schools.

  • Ditto.

  • Hail the Uprising!

  • And yet…some Pagans still vote for them.

    • Don't get me started.

    • I'd write about what else they'll do for them but the Church Lady will get her panties in a bunch over it.

  • In some Asatruar circles, they are referred to as "Kristians" or "Kristjans." Not an insult, just amusing.

    • Robin, have you forgotten about the hallowed term, Draugatru for the Christian?

      • lonespark

        That one's definitely an insult, but it seems fairly apt to me.

  • Well, I've always said that this is America and you have a Constitutional right to be an asshole. Christians and right wing nut cases just exercise it more often.

  • Haven't you heard why Baptists are opposed to sex? Because it might lead to dancing. 😉

  • Just because the Nazis decided to use it, it doesn't change it's other meanings. It's usually pretty easy to determine what context it's being used in.

  • Then, harmonyfb, you won't be any use to anyone, except maybe the mainstreamers who want us all dead, gone, or silenced.

  • Sorry, I meant to say "look" down, not "long" down.

  • heh. That's "rights", not "writes".

  • No one would have listened to Dr. King without the existence of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.

  • Pagans who are looking for friends among the Christians are holding auditions for a master. Hope you don't find your collar isn't too tight.

  • Erynn, you've succinctly identified the issues and the problem at hand that we face. Congratulations!

    • fhg1893

      Who knew that Catholic church loyalists had already managed to out-indoctrinate Big Brother?

  • Did you see our quarterback this year? He couldn't run or throw. It was just plain sad, man. Sad.

    • USNA Ancient

      But credit where due … y'all had one hell of a great linebacker … Garfield, I think !

      • First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.

        • First you get the money, then you get the power, then you take their women.

      • "loudly sing cuckoo…. grows the seed and blows the mead… and springs the wood anew…. sing, cuckoo!"

        • Sing, Goddamm! Sing!

          • "An ague hath my hamm!"

          • Bookhousegal

            (Sorry for the double-post, here. That got pretty long. )

          • Bookhousegal

            And, yes, I know quite well that there's more to Heathenry than 'pretending to be Vikings,' …I was just suggesting you behave as such. 🙂

        • They had no idea I was recreating The Wicker Man. None of the other faculty members had ever seen it. 😀

      • I'm a fan of Denis Diderot.

        "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."

    • Tea

      Vulnerable, not venerable.

  • A recon? Really? Of what reconstructed religious culture?

  • A good thing I don't really care much what neo-pagans- or anyone- thinks about me.

    • Crystal7431

      “how long would it be before they then turned on each other?” A couple of days. This is always the angle I argue from. Some Christians want prayer in school. So I ask, “but how will that prayer be lead?”. Some churches don’t allow women to lead prayer at all and since most teachers today are female… you draw your conclusion. Since they obviously want a theocracy, who would determine which church’s teachings are correct to implement as law? There’s a huge difference between a fundamentalist baptist’s practices and a fundamentalist presbyterian’s. And then there’s an issue with the Catholics whose practices are so completely different from all the protestant churches… They’d kill each other. When they aren’t condemning the Pagans then they’re busy condemning each other. It would never work.

  • Silly apologist, ownership is only for Christians. They're the only ones who have the true authority to show their Pagan slaves the one true way.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    While he might be of more use as compost, I can't think of plants vile enough to want to be potted in his compost.

  • You've never been censored? (drum roll…) Are you allergic to sage, or something? (Tah-dun-dun-dun).

  • Actually, it does seem odd that a reconstructionist would take the view that all churches will become obsolete.

  • It wasn't to you it was to Lokisgodhi.

  • Bookhousegal

    And, no, it's hardly always *wise* to keep dashing oneself against the intractable. But who said it was for the benefit of those intractables, to begin with?

  • Tea

    Well damn. That's just sad.

  • I keep hoping that the last Muslim will be strangled with the entrails of the last Christian.

  • Anthroposphy…ick…I used to teach at a Waldorf School. Anthroposophy is teh debbil…

  • Souris

    Ack! I didn't know that! 😛
    So much for that option.

    • I can recommend reading Eddic poetry in the original. It's certainly a different thing than reading translations

      • I've had what I call "The Talk" with every teacher that my kids have ever had.