AFA changes oath, Philharmonic legend dies, Merrifield announces for Senate, plus our endorsements 


'God' optional in AFA oath

Last week, the Air Force Academy proclaimed as optional the phrase "so help me God" in the academy's honor oath, which reads, "I resolve to do my duty and live honorably so help me God."

The issue came to light when the Independent received a photo of a poster displaying the phrase after requesting photos from the academy's Preparatory School. Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, complained about the God reference Oct. 18, and the poster was taken down the same day.

On Oct. 25, the academy said the phrase would be optional, with Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson saying the academy strives for a "culture of dignity and respect ... to freely practice and exercise their religious preference — or not."

Weinstein questioned how the academy will convey that the phrase is optional, considering the oath appears in cadet training materials and verbal lessons. "If the words are going to stay there with no further explanation, if clients are willing to come forward, we will sue the academy in federal court," Weinstein says. — PZ

Get out your vote

For most of us, voting this time around should be easy: Simply fill out your mail ballot, slap postage on the envelope, and send it in.

But for those who prefer to vote in person, or who need to change their voter registration, there are options. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder has seven "voter service and polling centers."

They are located at the following clerk's offices: Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, #2202; Southeast Powers Branch, 5650 Industrial Place; Downtown Branch at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; and the North Branch, 8830 N. Union Blvd. The clerk's office locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 30, Oct. 31, Nov. 1, Nov. 2 and Nov. 4. They are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 5, election day.

Three additional locations are also available: Fountain Police Department, Community Room, 222 N. Santa Fe Ave., Fountain; Monument City Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road, Monument; and El Paso County Fairgrounds, Exhibit Hall, 366 10th St., Calhan. They are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 4. They are also open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 2, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.

There are also multiple ballot drop-off locations for those who don't wish to mail their ballots. For info on those, check elpasoco.com. — JAS

Philharm's Smith dies at 77

"I'm focusing on life, and celebrating every day of my life," said Lawrence Leighton Smith during a 2011 interview on KRCC-FM. Now Smith's friends and admirers are doing the same, as they recall the life and legacy of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's music director emeritus.

Smith died Friday at age 77 from complications associated with Binswanger's disease, a form of dementia that forced the conductor to retire from the Philharmonic post now held by Josep Caballé-Domenech.

Prior to moving with his wife to Colorado Springs 13 years ago, Smith had earned international recognition for a host of international performances and recordings. He'd also served as music director for high-profile orchestras in Louisville, Austin, San Antonio and at Yale University.

In accordance with Smith's philosophy, a celebration of his life will be held in place of a public funeral or memorial service, on Nov. 16 and 17, with details forthcoming. The Philharmonic has also set up an online site at facebook.com/conductorlawrenceleightonsmith, where friends and fans can go to share their memories of the late conductor. — BF

Merrifield in for state Senate

Former four-term state representative Michael Merrifield has announced he will seek the state Senate District 11 seat in the November 2014 election. Merrifield hopes to be the Democratic candidate.

The seat was previously held by Senate President John Morse, a Democrat, who was recalled in a September election after supporting gun control legislation. Voters chose Republican Bernie Herpin to fill the seat through the remainder of Morse's term.

A retired high school teacher, Merrifield has also owned two businesses. — JAS


Last week, the Independent made the following endorsements for the Nov. 5 election:

Amendment 66: Yes

Proposition AA: Yes

Manitou Springs Issue 2A: Yes

Manitou Springs City Council, Ward 3: Nicole Nicoletta

Academy School District 20 board: Larry Borland, Catherine Bullock, Linda Van Matre

Colorado Springs School District 11 board: Charlie Bobbitt, LuAnn Long, Jim Mason


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