Allegations of Unequal Restrictions on Muslim Cadets at Air Force Academy Surface

June 17, 2005

Source: Rocky Mountain News,1299,DRMN_21_3862347,00.html

On June 17, 2005 the Rocky Mountain News reported, "Muslim cadets at the Air Force Academy were prevented from attending mosque services last semester because of school obligations, while similar duties were scheduled to avoid conflict with Jewish and Christian services, a Muslim student says. The issue of unequal treatment for the academy's Muslims comes as the school is working to address charges of religious intolerance, favoritism and proselytizing by its large evangelical Christian population. Of the 4,300 cadets at the academy, about 2,600 are Protestant, 1,300 are Catholic and 43 are Jewish. The nine cadets who are Muslim are too few to justify their own chaplain, the academy has said, so last fall they attended Friday services at Colorado Springs' only mosque as their schedules permitted. But in March, the group formally sought permission to skip Friday lunch and the following two hours at the academy - from noon to 2:30 p.m. - for the remainder of the semester to attend a weekly service. Part of that period, from 12:25 to 12:55 p.m., is called 'commandant's time,' which consists of marching, safety briefings and other issues the academy commandant considers important. Classes resume at 1 p.m. Academy officials said they tried to accommodate the cadets regarding classes, but said their request came midsemester, too late to adjust schedules... 'If there's a way for them not to have a class during that specific period, then we're going to do that,' said academy spokesman Lt. Col. Laurent Fox. 'We're going to do that as much as possible, but we still have the mission to educate here.' An Air Force task force is expected to release its report on religious intolerance next week, including allegations that Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. John Weida improperly promoted his religion."