Air Force Academy Religion Probe

U.S. Air Force Academy Generic, Cadets
A task force will investigate the religious climate at the Air Force Academy after reports of intolerance, including incidents of anti-Semitism, officials said Tuesday.

It will assess Air Force policy and guidance when it comes to religious respect and tolerance, acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael L. Dominguez said in a statement.

The task force also will look into practices by commanders "that either enhance or detract from a climate that respects both the free exercise of religion and the establishment clauses of the First Amendment."

A preliminary assessment is due by May 23, officials said.

The creation of the task force comes after complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

Last week, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld a 14-page report based on a two-month investigation. The group said it talked with about 15 cadets and staff.

The report concluded that students, faculty, staff and members of the chaplains' office frequently pressured cadets to attend chapel and receive religious instruction. Others said prayers were frequently conducted before official events.

Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, N.M., a 1977 graduate who has sent two sons to the school, applauded the formation of the task force. He has said his younger son has been the target of anti-Semitic comments.