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Is the Air Force confused about the 1st Amendment?

Over on the homepage, Billy wrote this morning about the recent controversy surrounding the Air Force's decision to suspend a course following complaints about the inclusion of Bible verses in the curriculum.  In response, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, argued that the Air Force's action "misinterprets the First Amendment."

But speaking of the Air Force and the First Amendment, The Daily recently released this video report on the practice of religion at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  It's here that cadets are treated to every accommodation conceivable for the free exercise of their personal religions -- from chapels for the Christian Protestants and Catholics, to the Buddhists' temple and the pagan Falcon Prayer Circle, recently constructed at a cost of $80,000:

Is the government really required to make such accommodations for religion?

In The Daily's report, an unnamed Air Force spokesman remarked explained: "We are driven by the First Amendment, and the First Amendment seems to be almost contradictory -- that the government won't establish a religion, but we are responsible as chaplains to provide for the free exercise thereof."

That's actually not at all what the First Amendment says.  With regard to religion, the First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

It seems to me that there's a big difference between being responsible to "provide for the free exercise" of religion and ensuring that one's free exercise of religion is not prohibited.

In 2005, the Air Force Academy came under fire for alleged "religious intolerance, insensitivity and inappropriate proselytizing."

The report came after allegations that officers at the academy promoted evangelical Christian beliefs and were insensitive to cadets who were of a different religion or chose not to practice a faith. The allegations spurred a heated debate about the separation of church and state at the federally funded military school and caused a backlash among the chaplain community there.

Forgive my Catholic reference, but is building an $80,000 stone prayer circle for 12 pagan cadets on campus some kind of penance for these politically incorrect sins?  Is it really the government's role to provide for an individual's own free exercise of religion?

One last thing…
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