"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pagans at the Air Force Academy

Cadets gather for the dedication ceremony of the Air Force Academy's Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle worship center this spring. The center serves cadets whose religions fall under the broad category of “Earth-based.”

Freedom of Religion  -  It is also for Druids, Witches and Pagans

Paganism and Druids may not be what the Founding Fathers were thinking about when they wrote the first Amendment, but freedom is still freedom and must be respected.

The Air Force Academy this year dedicated an $80,000 outdoor worship center — a small Stonehenge-like circle of boulders with propane fire pit — high on a hill for the handful of current or future cadets whose religions fall under the broad category of "Earth-based." Those include pagans, Wiccans, druids, witches and followers of Native American faiths.

There are no witches among the cadets this year. But the two spiritual leaders for all Earth-based religions — one a civilian, one an Air Force reservist — are witches and regularly cast spells, which they say is not so different from offering prayer. There also are no druids this year. But there could be next year reports the Los Angeles Times.

A Pagan Patriot
Patriots come in all shapes, sizes, colors and religions.
 "We're here to accommodate all religions, period," Chaplain Maj. Darren Duncan says. The building of the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle on the hilltop, he says, is no different from the past conversion of chapel rooms into worship spaces that serve this year's 11 Muslim, 16 Buddhist and 10 Hindu cadets.

"It is very nice to have our own space," says Cadet 1st Class Nicole Johnson, a 21-year-old senior from Florida who became a pagan after entering the academy.

A small gathering of pagans, led by two witches, begins preparations for the coming winter solstice.  the pagan cadets decorated yule logs with bits of ribbon and glitter. Yule logs, whose ritual burning symbolizes faith in the reappearance of the sun, will be displayed alongside the Christmas trees and menorahs in next month's crowded religious calendar at the academy.

And though Johnson acknowledges that her beliefs are often misunderstood, she says she has taken no serious grief from other cadets, save occasional questions about whether pagans dance naked (she doesn't) or whether she can cast a spell on commanding officers (she wouldn't even if she could).

The rule is no spells cast without someone's permission. There is a prevailing tenet of her faith, she says: Do as you will, but harm no one.

"Freedom of religion is great.  Now we can join the Air Force too."

For more on this story

No comments: