Religious Extremism At West Point

The United States Military Academy at West Point is the oldest continually occupied army facility in the United States. Established on the 27th of January in 1778 by the Continental Armies under General George Washington, West Point has been the starting point for famous Generals, Judges, Congressmen, Astronauts, Cabinet Members, CEOs, Senators, Governors and even Presidents. With a facility of such note and reputation, some things become established, and perpetuate themselves through inertia. With such an old institution, change is many times subtle and is not noticed until it comes into conflict with some outside force. For West Point, that outside force is one of their former cadets, Blake Page, who found the academy not reflecting the values of the United States, instead having become an evangelical recruiting ground for evangelical fundamentalists, also called dominionists.

In his resignation to West Point, reproduced in part at the Huffington Post he writes:

I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same. Examples of these policies include mandatory prayer, the maintenance of the 3rd Regiment Shield, awarding extra passes to Plebes who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, as well as informal policies such as the open disrespect of non-religious new cadets and incentivizing participation in religious activities through the chain of command.

Cadet Blake reports of a situation, where there becomes a tiered structure through the cadets, of the dominionists, and those not, comes as a shock for those of us who support our men and women in uniform.

With the shock of the “Jesus Guns” still in the system, and with the “spiritual fitness” of General Patraeus now in ruins, it is time for a thorough reminder of the role of both religion and government, in particular when it comes to the US Military, and especially those who are trained to lead that military in the future.

Some may point to the Bill of Rights, in particular, the first amendment, to state that the government cannot interfere with religion. It’s a common right-wing talking point we all have heard. What is often overlooked is that before the passing of the Bill of Rights, a wall between church and state already existed within the US Constitution. Turn your eyes to Article VI, paragraph 3, and you can read these words written down by our founding fathers:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

In black and white, “no religious test shall ever be required.” The first amendment was to protect religious institutions from abuses by the government, after the government had already kicked religious out. A military officer is a public trust, to help defend this nation in times of trouble. These young men and women are being abused by leadership, put into position over the years by the evangelical fundamentalists¬†with the goal of creating a Christian Nation.

To have this dreamed of nation, they need an army. Instead of raising one, the goal is to co-opt the military of the US through slow, subtle manipulation. 10 years ago, the Jesus Guns would never have passed muster, the lower level officers would have seen the inscriptions and rejected them. Now, the issue was not noticed until these weapons began to enter the field, because the buffer, the officer corp, no longer saw this as an issue. But the Jesus Guns are not the worst offender, with the famous “Jesus Loves Nukes” program designed to turn nuclear armageddon into a religious experience to make the soldier one with their lord and savior. You can see the slideshow of the presentation given to cadets here.

It gets even more bizarre than that. When Republican strategist Shirley Hassar was asked about the religious extremism at West Point and is reported by the Huffington Post as saying (our emphasis added):

It looks like this was a really bad marriage for you, like you got in bed with someone and it didn’t work out to well for you. But I don’t understand why you have to go public in such a way. I mean, this is a religious institute and there are people who are Christians who believe in prayer and people need prayer in this country right now.

And so is the issue, in the dominionists world view, every government and religious facility is a religious institution. And they seek to impose this view on to the rest of us. The Air Force Academy has already become embroiled in a similar controversy, and has been sued over its own past allegations of religious fundamentalism at the academy.

The continuing push by dominionists to take control of the United States is not stopping. If anything they are pushing even harder. Those who seek to destroy this country claim to be trying to restore it, but what are they trying to restore it to? Their actions mirror the tactics used by the Taliban, which rose to power by talking of “family values” and the restoration of “Muhammad’s will” in the nation ripped apart by infighting after the Russians pulled out in 1989. By wrapping their language in a friendly package, the general citizens of Afghanistan did not realize the snake they were taking to their breast until it was too late. Dominionists here in the United States seek to do the same, and will stop at nothing to get their way, a one-nation-under-god, their god, the god of greed, corruption, of oligarchy, a dictatorship of the church replacing the home of the free.

What Mr. Page has done is opened up a dialog long needed, and shined a light into one of the oldest institutions inside the United States. That takes the bravery we expect from the men and women who serve our nation in the armed services. West Point has lost one of its finest cadets, but the United States is better for him being there. Some have compared him to Rosa Parks, the first woman to say “no” to prejudice in the south. Only time will tell, but this is an important first step forward in the march to save the United States.