Cadets and professors at the U.S. Air Force Academy failed to "fully accommodate" all students' religious needs and blurred the line "between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs," but did not engage in "overt religious discrimination," a report commissioned by the Air Force concludes.
The report released Wednesday followed months of agitation and charges that evangelical Christian cadets sought to convert Muslim, Jewish and atheist classmates. Separate reports from the Yale Divinity School and Americans United for Separation of Church and State in April accused chaplains at the academy of encouraging that sort of proselytizing.
In May, the acting secretary of the Air Force, Michael L. Dominguez, asked a panel of Pentagon officials to "assess the religious climate" at the Colorado Springs, Colo., academy, which trains junior Air Force officers.
Based on a series of interviews and focus group discussions, the panel rejected the outside groups' contention that cadets and staff members at the academy had engaged in illegal religious discrimination. The report states, though, that it identified seven cases of potential misconduct that had been referred to Air Force headquarters for "follow-up."
The panel said it had found instances in which "some cadets had been overly aggressive in the expression of their faith, offending some and, in some cases, creating an impression of insensitivity regarding the beliefs of others."
Faculty and staff members, too, the report said, "also have strong religious beliefs that have, on occasion, been expressed in ways that others found offensive," reflecting a "lack of awareness that their position as instructors and government officials made these expressions inappropriate in a particular setting."
The report said that Air Force leaders had "identified some of these expressions of faith as inappropriate in the environment in which they were made, and has taken action to correct them." It did not offer details.
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