“The academy is home to about 10 cadets who regularly attend “earth centered” worship groups. Earth-centered is a catch-all phrase for groups including New Age religion, paganism, Wicca, Druids and ancient Norse beliefs. “This is very important for us, we didn’t have a place to call our own, to be outside in nature,” said cadet Nicole Johnson, a member of the earth-centered group. Johnson and others used to meet in an engineering classroom to worship before construction of Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle, on a 7,200-foot hill top that overlooks the main cadet chapel.”
While the circle was created in response to a genuine need among Pagan cadets, it has also been something of an PR tool for an institution that has long been accused of being a focal point for evangelical Christian takeover of the military, and is still struggling to create an environment friendly to all faiths. This struggle was underlined when the Pagan site was vandalized shortly after it received press attention, an event the academy is trying to ensure never happens again.
“It’s clear that the academy is worried about security at the site. The circle of stones is surrounded by metal poles containing video cameras and signs on the trail that leads to the site warn that the area is under electronic surveillance.”
Despite the controversy and setbacks this has been a step forward for the equal treatment of Pagan religions within the military. The Air Force Academy still has a lot of work to do in the area of equal treatment and safety for all religious personnel, but for now we can congratulate the Pagan cadets and their superiors for making this happen. You can read all my coverage of this issue, here.