Air Force Academy Welcomes Pagans, Druids and Witches – Oh My!
The Air Force has officially signaled its support of people with alternative religious beliefs. What are the alternative religions? Pagans, Druids, Wiccans, Witches and followers of Native American faiths are now welcome to practice just as mainstream believers can.
The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, dedicated an $80,000 outdoor worship center this year, in order to provide a place where the .1 percent of its student body with “Earth-based” belief systems can practice their religions. The Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle, a small, Stonehenge-like circle of boulders that sits high on a hill and surrounds a propane fire pit, is no different at the academy than the chapel rooms that were converted into worship spaces in the past for cadets of Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu faiths.
According to Chaplain Major Darren Duncan, the branch chief of cadet faith communities at the academy, “We’re here to accommodate all religions, period.” He considers their policy not religious tolerance, but a First Amendment issue. He says that if the military is to defend the Constitution, it should also be upholding its guarantee of religious freedom. “We think we are setting the standard,” said Duncan.
The academy also requires that all cadets take courses in understanding the religions of those who may someday fall under their command, and other branches of the military are taking note. Duncan says he’s received calls from West Point and Annapolis about replicating the Air Force’s efforts.
Of the academy’s 4,300 current cadets, 3 practice paganism, 11 are Muslim, 16 are Buddhist, 10 are Hindu and 43 are self-identified atheists. Duncan says the beliefs of all are to be respected.