Reader: Correct this blatant violation of the separation of church and state 

  • Courtesy Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy recently announced the Cadet Chapel will be closed for four years for a renovation estimated to cost $68 million. History tells us that that figure is likely to be exceeded.

As the Indy has reported many times in recent years, there are serious issues concerning how religion plays out at the AFA. There is an overriding issue involving the chapel itself. Why do we fund what amounts to a national religious shrine in the first place?

I've been a student of church/state issues at the chapel since my first visit there in 1971. Back then, there was high attendance of cadets for weekend services. At one time, attendance was mandatory, but even after it was not, there was a carryover effect.

Recent visits reveal that is no longer the case. Attendance of cadets at services has dropped dramatically. Most who attend services do so off the base.

Which brings me to what I think the structure's central importance is today. It's a national religious/military shrine. Hundreds of thousands of camera-toting tourists flood the place. It is one of Colorado's most popular tourist attractions. It promotes nationalism and militarism with a civil religion veneer.

The closure affords an opportunity to reboot and start over with how religious activity happens on Academy grounds. In the next four years, the AFA plans to revise its various religious programs. It involves cooperation with local churches and synagogues and other religious resources. Religious counseling services will remain the same.

Going forward, we should not duplicate the earlier mistake of building a national religious facility at taxpayer expense. It's time to correct this blatant violation of the separation of church and state mandated by the Constitution.

— Bill Sulzman, Colorado Springs

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