Academy chapel to add outdoor circle to worship areas
by Staff Sgt. Don Branum, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs, Posted 1/26/2010
"U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy chapel will add a worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions during a dedication ceremony, which is tentatively scheduled to be held at the circle March 10.
The circle, located atop the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center, will be the latest addition to a collection of worship areas that includes Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces.
Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, NCO in charge of the Academy's Astronautics laboratories, worked with the chapel to create the official worship area for both cadets and other servicemembers in the Colorado Springs area who practice Earth-centered spirituality.
The stones that now form the inner and outer rings of the circle once sat near the Visitor Center, where the chance of erosion made the rocks a safety hazard. The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron moved the rocks to the top of the hill in spring and early summer. Once finished, the circle will also include materials from a smaller circle that Sergeant Longcrier briefly set up in Jacks Valley.
The Academy's chaplains have supported Sergeant Longcrier's efforts every step of the way, the NCO said.
"There really haven't been any obstacles for the new circle," he said. "The chaplain's office has been 100-percent supportive."
"Every servicemember is charged with defending freedom for all Americans, and that includes freedom to practice our religion of choice or, for that matter, not to practice any faith at all," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William Ziegler, Cadet Wing chaplain. "Being in the military isn't just a job -- it's a calling. We all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and that means we've all sworn to protect one another's religious liberties. We all put on our uniforms the same way; we're all Airmen first."
The presence of diverse worship areas reflects a sea change from five years ago, when reports surfaced alleging religious intolerance at the Academy. Sergeant Longcrier became Pagan shortly after arriving at the Academy in 2006 and said he believes the climate has improved dramatically.
Earth-centered spirituality includes traditions such as Wicca, Druidism and several other religious paths that, while relatively new, trace their roots to pre-Christian Europe, Sergeant Longcrier said."
Air Force Builds Worship Space for Wiccans
by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service, Friday January 29, 2010
"The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado will set aside a worship space for followers of "Earth-centered" religions such as Wicca and Druidism, according to an Air Force news release.
The Air Force has been accused of allowing evangelical officers to openly proselytize and pressure cadets of other faiths. In 2005, the Air Force issued new guidelines pledging to "accommodate free exercise of religion and other personal beliefs."
Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, who worked with academy officials to create the space, said in the news release, "there really haven't been any obstacles for the new circle. The chaplain's office has been 100 percent supportive.""