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Academy chapel to add outdoor circle to worship areas
Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier uses white sage to consecrate a Pagan worship area on the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and the Visitor Center at the Air Force Academy just after sunrise on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2009. The chapel is scheduled to officially designate the circle as a Pagan chapel during a dedication ceremony in March 2010. Sergeant Longcrier is the Pagan lay leader at the Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
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 At the Air Force Academy, it's all about respect - 2/3/2010
Academy chapel to add outdoor circle to worship areas

Posted 1/26/2010   Updated 2/3/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

1/26/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy chapel will add a worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions during a dedication ceremony, which is tentatively scheduled to be held at the circle March 10.

The circle, located atop the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center, will be the latest addition to a collection of worship areas that includes Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces.

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, NCO in charge of the Academy's Astronautics laboratories, worked with the chapel to create the official worship area for both cadets and other servicemembers in the Colorado Springs area who practice Earth-centered spirituality.

"Feel free to check the site out, but treat it as you would any other religious structure," he said.

The stones that now form the inner and outer rings of the circle once sat near the Visitor Center, where the chance of erosion made the rocks a safety hazard. The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron moved the rocks to the top of the hill in spring and early summer. Once finished, the circle will also include materials from a smaller circle that Sergeant Longcrier briefly set up in Jacks Valley.

"We used the (Jacks Valley) circle during Basic Cadet Training, and it was great," he said. However, the new circle offers significant advantages.

"The circle that we secured in December is much bigger, better and closer to the cadet area," he explained. "This will allow cadets to use the circle anytime they feel the need."

The Academy's chaplains have supported Sergeant Longcrier's efforts every step of the way, the NCO said.

"There really haven't been any obstacles for the new circle," he said. "The chaplain's office has been 100-percent supportive."

"Every servicemember is charged with defending freedom for all Americans, and that includes freedom to practice our religion of choice or, for that matter, not to practice any faith at all," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William Ziegler, Cadet Wing chaplain. "Being in the military isn't just a job -- it's a calling. We all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and that means we've all sworn to protect one another's religious liberties. We all put on our uniforms the same way; we're all Airmen first."

The presence of diverse worship areas reflects a sea change from five years ago, when reports surfaced alleging religious intolerance at the Academy. Sergeant Longcrier became Pagan shortly after arriving at the Academy in 2006 and said he believes the climate has improved dramatically.

"When I first arrived here, Earth-centered cadets didn't have anywhere to call home," he said. "Now, they meet every Monday night, they get to go on retreats, and they have a stone circle. ... We have representation on the Cadet Interfaith Council, and I even meet with the Chaplains at Peterson Air Force Base once a year to discuss religious climate."

Earth-centered spirituality includes traditions such as Wicca, Druidism and several other religious paths that, while relatively new, trace their roots to pre-Christian Europe, Sergeant Longcrier said. Gerald Gardner founded the first Wiccan tradition in England in 1952, with neo-Druidism following in the early 1960s.

Some Earth-centered traditions involve the worship of gods and goddesses, whereas others may involve only one deity or none at all. Reincarnation is a popular concept, as is rebirth and celebrating the cycle of the seasons.

Famous outdoor worship circles include Stonehenge and Avebury in England and Native American sites such as the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and Cahokia Henge in Illinois. A worship circle at Fort Hood, Texas, became a flashpoint for discussions about Paganism in the U.S. military after it was established by the Sacred Well Congregation in 1999.

The Fort Hood Open Circle was vandalized on four separate occasions from 1999 to 2000, including an incident Oct. 27, 2000, in which the half-ton limestone altar was destroyed outright. In response, a member of the Sacred Well Congregation wrote, "If we speak together, we are a chorus to be heard. If we whisper alone, we are but a sigh in the dead of night."

"We want to create that chorus," Chaplain Ziegler said. "We want to invite the Academy leadership, the Cadet Interfaith Council, the news media and people from every religious background for the dedication ceremony. We want this dedication service to be another example of celebrating the freedom we enjoy as well as the freedom we, as Airmen, have pledged to defend."

9/6/2012 10:33:43 PM ET
Update... I'm not a Pagan anymore and pretty sure that I never truly was due to my metaphorical beliefs in deities vs. believing them to be real. I don't care for labels that much anymore but the closest thing to what I consider myself now days would have to be Pantheism. What's a Pantheist I like to say that Pantheism is Paganism without the belief in the supernatural but go to pantheism dot net if you'd like to learn more. My journey over the years has been nothing short of amazing. I'm extremely happy where I'm at but continue to study various practices when I get a chance.
Brandon Longcrier, Colorado Springs
12/29/2010 11:45:15 PM ET
And to those of you who are no longer proud of your Air Force Academy you should be ashamed of yourselves not the Academy. God and Goddess forbid that we let other people worship. Would you prefer the Cadets be marched to chapel like in the good ole days where they were forced to take their medicine and like it You people probably wish that Blacks and Women weren't in your beloved military either. Well guess what We don't play by those rules any longer so either get with the program or move out of the way.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
12/29/2010 11:39:26 PM ET
At Jai Maharaj who said WILL THE AIR FORCE ACADEMY CHAPEL BE CREATING A WORSHIP AREA FOR HINDUS If someone wanted to put in as much time and energy as I have then I'm sure the Hindus could have a place set aside for them as well.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
12/29/2010 11:34:27 PM ET
At Sylvia Fullerton. If you're a Christian then followig the THERE SHOULD BE NO GODS BEFORE ME is great. And if you're a Christian then why wouldn't you follow what your God says But for the rest of us that simply doesn't apply. Oh by the way God wasn't talking to us Gentiles in the Old Testament. It wasn't till Jesus came around that the rest of us were considered good enough to be in the GO TO HEAVEN CLUB.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
12/28/2010 6:11:26 PM ET
For those of you who dont understand the role of a Chaplain you should do a little research before sounding like fools. Chaplains are not Christian Chaplains Jewish Chaplains etc... The correct term would be Chaplain of the Christian Faith or Chaplain of the Jewish Faith etc... Chaplains are Chaplains first and if you go to www.usafhc.af.mil youll read things like chaplains provide ministry to persons of their own faith group yet also act as guardians of the free exercise of religion for all Air Force members and their families the Air Force accepts endorsed and qualified applicants from every faith chaplains are members of their unit commanders' staff and serve as advisors to commanders regarding religion religious accommodation for diverse faith groups represented in the Air Force ethics and morale etc.... Furthermore the word God wasnt created by Christians nor was spirituality so stop trying to claim both as something that was only created a
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
2/12/2010 1:33:39 PM ET
To those who think the government should be a judge of which religions are cults to be denied their Constitutional rights while their members are putting their lives on the line for our country, your knowledge of history is painfully ignorant. Rome persecuted Christianity as a cult for 200 years. State-backed religious factions tore Europe apart for centuries in the name of Christian disputes. And we're fighting terrorists who want to impose THEIR religion on all of us by force, the same way you apparently do. Are you so sure you'll end up on the right side? Quite simply, people who cannot support our Constitution, or the men and women fighting to protect it and all of us, are un-American. You have freedom to express your view but don't pretend to be anything different. Actually, read our Constitution before you continue claiming our state should enforce Christian versions of Sharia Law on the brave men and women fighting to protect YOUR freedoms.
Kieran Conroy, Cambridge MA
2/9/2010 3:47:47 PM ET
This is a wonderful thing. Another step towards tolerance is a good thing. Those who have no need of the circle are not being forced to attend it. Blessed be.
Cat Lyons, Colorado Springs
2/9/2010 9:55:49 AM ET
I am absolutely thrilled that the AFA has decided to move forward with a space like the stone circle. Being pagan myself, I find myself wishing that my family, friends and community might show the same religious tolerance that the Air Force has shown here. I've always been weary of the Academy because of rumors I'd heard regarding religious intolerance there but this has certainly earned them some respect from me. My only condition is that they address matters of defacement VERY seriously... I know that a large cross was found lying in the stone circle recently and I would equate this kind of supremacist statement to a swastika on a synagogue wall or a satanic symbol spray painted on a church. It should be treated with the same amount of severity that these other cases would surely elicit. A mediocre response to a hate crime will not turn that hate away. I hope no one here is using this story as a platform to promote any particular faith. This should not be about self-serving..
Jasmine, Kansas
2/8/2010 10:59:36 AM ET
And God spoke all these words saying 'I am the LORD your God 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'
Sylvia Fullerton, Alabama
2/6/2010 6:40:08 PM ET
Merry Meet I raise my hands and salute the US Air Force and The United States Air Force Academy and all of the personnel who made this Circle happen. It has been a long battle for Pagans to be recognized by the armed forces. In my case as a Wiccan Priest. No longer do the dog tags have to have no preference. 4.0 Air Force. Wiccans and other Pagans of your academy keep it real. And know the sky is not the only limit in your futures anymore. May the rites you perform in your beautiful Circle Harm None. Feel free to contact me if you have the need. I have many other service personnel that I keep in touch with. Many Blessings to you all. Keep up the good work. Merry Part. Charles
Charles Howard, Missouri
2/6/2010 10:41:59 AM ET
I think everyone should read Tom Slaughter's comment posted at 222010 124207 PM ET.I am a fundamentalist Christian but I do not think that God is American or Republican. He's God. Some people here have commented about the Crusades and other things done in the name of God. I'm not an expert but it seems like the Crusades were political motivated and Christianity was just a convenient way to get willing soldiers. There's no way to use Jesus and His teachings to justify the Crusades and any of the other atrocities committed by so-called Christians. However many people in this forum describe Jesus as loving and tolerant to the extreme. Well He is loving but tolerant He loves people unconditionally and his actions proved it but He never hesitated to tell someone heshe was wrong--in both sins AND religious hypocrisy. So what do I think about this article Well I do not agree with Paganism etc. but I do appreciate the religious freedoms I enjoy here in America. So sure g
Ryan Sullivan, Alabama
2/4/2010 10:04:54 AM ET
I heard on a blog that this site had already been defiled by cynics leaving religious icons there is this true. Did people who have a 3.5 million dollar chapel actually come outside and disrespect the sacred space of someone else If this is true it is extremely petty. Air Force Academy Factsheet
TSgt Charles W. Weber, Eglin AFB
2/4/2010 12:28:13 AM ET
My Father is Captain Clifford Sherman and he served two years in Korea. He was a Flight Commander and Jet Pilot. He died a hero and loved his country. I am glad the AirForce is allowing Pagans to worship in the way that they want. Thanks for allowing thisCLS
Cheryl Lynn Sherman, Sonoita Arizona
2/3/2010 10:56:07 PM ET
This announcement marks a wonderful moment in the history of this blessed Republic. When my fellow Christian can stand up for the right of his fellow warrior to worship as he or she chooses marks a great moment in history. As for those who choose to use The Bible as a source of bigotry, you may be interested in a certain worship community in Westboro. You might agree with them.
Ed Skaife, Madison WI
2/3/2010 9:37:26 PM ET
Any one see any irony in the Air Force Academy building a religious area for folks who will be worshipping the Sun or Horned God that might look an awful lot like the Naval Academy mascot?
Robert, New Mexico
2/3/2010 8:54:00 PM ET
To everyone who says that they will no longer support the U.S. Air Force I have only one thing to say: don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!
Tony, Durham NH
2/3/2010 8:19:20 PM ET
To Bethany Alabama I am appalled that you call yourself an American. As a Wiccan and former serviceman, you disgust me. I don't care what YOU think your Bible says, you are not anyone that I would picture assuming the mantle of Christ. Christ was humble and loveable. You and your hate are NOT. I wish well to your military children. I hope they grow to be unlike you. The world needs more love not ignorant religious hate.
Sheavepin, Salem MA
2/3/2010 3:52:41 PM ET
Just a couple observations: 1. Amazing how a little tolerance of someone else's beliefs polarizes people who defend with their lives the right for others to practice those beliefs. 2. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't recall any Wican pagan or Druid followers perpetrating any terrorist activities. We do, however, have centuries of Christian, Jewish and Muslim terrorist history.
irreligious, AK
2/3/2010 12:45:29 PM ET
And furthermore the people who desecrated the circle don't deserve to wear the uniform of the US military. The only uniform they deserve to wear is the white robe and pointy hat of the KKK for that is exactly the kind of people they are.
Bryon Morrigan USA-Ret, Pennsylvania
2/3/2010 12:36:50 PM ET
I haven't been on the LZ in nearly 10 years. My memories are mixed between training sessions and relaxing twilight evenings overlooking the Springs.I imagine that even if I went back to visit the Academy that I wouldn't have climbed the LZ. I'm sure I'll be back for some reason or another and I know now that I'll go up there to take a look around. I wonder what I'll think of what's become of it.
Dave, Washington D.C.
2/3/2010 12:19:40 PM ET
DM stated What a bunch of Hippocrates...Um I believe the word you were looking for was 'hypocrites.' Hippocrates is the name of a Greek god. LOL. Oh the Freudian slips
Bryon Morrigan USA-Ret, Pennsylvania
2/3/2010 12:10:14 PM ET
As a fourth generation member of the USAF I applaud the courage of the Academy. As the highest form of education the USAF has to offer and the alma mater of my father I'm proud that it stands as an example of the freedom so many of us have dedicated ourselves to. I hope the rest of our esteemed service men and women can recognize the importance of equality and freedoms and follow suit. Thank you for making me even more proud of the service my family has given for this country and the Air Force.
Tara former ANG, WV USA
2/3/2010 10:56:25 AM ET
Several commentators have stated that the Chaplains were responsible for the approval of Wiccan and Pagan services at the Air Force Academy. On the contrary these sites were established at the request of cadets who are practicing these religions. Believe it or not there is a growing number of servicemen and women who are designating these as their religions and even Arlington Cemetary has started engraving the Wiccan and Pagan symbols on their graves just as they do for those Christians, Jews, Islamics and Buddhists when they are buried.
Michael McEleney, Jacksonville FL
2/3/2010 10:48:13 AM ET
I don't have a problem that the Academy has placed this as people have the right to worship whatever they like. What I have a problem with is the chaplain staff who claim to be Christian but yet supported this. What a bunch of Hippocrates...
2/3/2010 9:10:18 AM ET
As a Christian I may not agree with your beliefs or even like them but religious freedom and freedom of speech are the most important rights we have as Americans. It's the reason the founding fathers came here in the first place. I would be remiss in my duties as a Christian and an understanding human being to deny ANYONE those rights. Which is why I joined the military in the first place to fight for the people who think I'm a murderer and those who think I'm an intolerant Christian.Kudos to you sir and the chapel there for giving us a living example of the right that so many people don't seem to understand.
Sarah , NM
2/3/2010 9:08:05 AM ET
We in the service don't have the luxury of deciding which parts of the Consitution we swear or affirm to protect and defend nor to whom the freedoms outlined therein will apply.We protect and defend the whole document and it applies to all Americans. If you think it applies to only one subset of Americans then you don't truly understand it.
Dave Hall, South Carolina
2/3/2010 8:48:22 AM ET
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -Amendment I of the United States ConstitutionI served to make sure that the belief system of ALL religions are protected. Likewise I served to make sure that ALL are able to express themselves freely and without fear of retribution regardless of what my own personal beliefs are. Tolerance is a sign of a highly-developed civilization. I leave it to you Gentle Reader to decide what these comments indicate.
Bob Topping, Jackson MI
2/3/2010 8:30:42 AM ET
As a practicing Pagan who served in the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan I'm glad that the Academy is providing for a ever increasing group of Airmen. It's good to know that the freedoms I spent most of my adult life fighting to defend are still around much to the chagrin of some people in this country.
Paul, Warner Robins GA
2/3/2010 8:11:54 AM ET
Congratulations on being able to make a place of worship. I am a Christian myself regardless of what other's believe I full entrust that everyone may follow whatever they wish to believe. Bless everyone who's been a part of the process.
Brent Whitaker, SJAFB NC
2/3/2010 12:46:57 AM ET
Just because a mouse is in the cookie jar, that doesn't make him a cookie. Some chaplains faithfully represent the God of the Bible but many who claim the name Christian are in high rebellion against Christ. And while we're quoting treaties, how about the opening of the 1783 Treaty of Paris? In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third by the grace of God. Clearly it was the Triune God of Christianity that Adams and Franklin signed off on here. A little more research into the history of the Treaty of Tripoli and the founding of America may save some people future public embarassment.
Jeanette Faulkner, Virginia
2/2/2010 11:54:51 PM ET
If you don't support the many Pagan troops that serve our country then you do not support the troops.Take that yellow ribbon off your car and move to Iran where your religious hatred will be more appreciated.
Bryon Morrigan USA-Ret, Pennsylvania
2/2/2010 11:49:26 PM ET
I am appalled that this has happened on one of the proudest places in our country Our military academies are difficult to get into and are supposed to be the cream of the crop of students. I am the Mother to 3 military children and a retired military husband. This saddens me to hear that we are actually acknowleding this as a religion. You call something a religion and it opens up so many rights. This is NOT religion
Bethany, Alabama
2/2/2010 11:04:46 PM ET
I can't believe they put this on the LZ. If Pagans wanted this more power to them but the LZ That was and forever will be an important training site and a part of Academy history and now that it's been designated a 'holy' site I'm sure no more training will be allowed. Very sad that a place for pagans couldn't be found without bulldozing over tradition and history.CHG
Ryan, MD
2/2/2010 10:31:39 PM ET
It is amazing the lack of tolerance espoused by so-called Christians I didn't realize that we were a Nation of my god can beat up your god. Congratulations to Brandon Longcrier and Chaplain Ziegler.
Julie, San Antonio TX
2/2/2010 9:54:16 PM ET
As an Air Force Brat and long time Wiccan I want to thank the USAFA and all those who worked for it for providing cadets with a sacred space. Thank you for addressing the recent problem as well. You all contribute to our safety and you deserve to do so in peace of mind in perfect love and in perfect trust.
Ce Noyes, Michigan
2/2/2010 9:25:35 PM ET
I am a southern Baptist by faith and serving in the military. I believe that if anyone no matter what faith they are wants to practice then they should with freedon be able to practice that faith. It states in the first ammendment that we have freedom of religion. I am proud to be able to serve in the same military with someone that practices what we all fight for. With that being said i believe that everyone should not hold their ignorance upon someone that has the stones to openly practice a faith. Same for someone who is Gay and wants to serve their country. If anyone has any objections to that i tell them to go to Arlington Cemetery and tell the thousands of men there that they cant
David, Ga
2/2/2010 9:16:57 PM ET
After reading all the comments on this page I agree with the bumper sticker I saw on a car the other day Lord protect me from Christians..
val bobincheck, cheney wa
2/2/2010 7:50:56 PM ET
Our constitution protects every American's freedom of religion so I totally support this endeavor. The constitution also protects every American's freedom of speech. So while I detest most of what you bible-thumping whiners are complaining about I fight and serve my country to give you that right.
Brad, Honolulu
2/2/2010 7:49:47 PM ET
Remember do you really want to create officers who control the awesome power of military authority who believe in paganism - ben ramsaur Asheboro NC I don't want any officers or leaders who cannot separate their beliefs from reality and that goes double for Christianity. I don't think I saw the same groups complaining when he led us on the religious crusade in Iraq.
Jason, Alaska
2/2/2010 7:37:48 PM ET
I have three sons that went thru the academy...by the time the second one got there it was like going to preschool....I am sick to death of the word tolerance...where did it get our soldiers at Ft Hood.....my support for the Association just ended..not another from us. Obviously there is no leadership left. What will we do when we need leaders. - Joyce Joyce are you seriously suggesting that Ft Hood wouldn't have happened if we had persecuted Muslim Americans and not allowed them in the military Here's a hint there's a difference between a psychopath that would murder his fellow soldiers and your average religious person.
Jason, Alaska
2/2/2010 7:34:23 PM ET
I am appauled to read all these negative comments. This is a positive sign of the nation moving towards acceptance of diversity and away from bigoted ignorant small mindedness like you are exhibiting. I am very proud and grateful to see a step in the right direction for this country.
Amy , St. Louis MO
2/2/2010 7:33:08 PM ET
Neo-PagansChaplain's Staff good on you way to go for making this happen.Angry people shame on you you cannot say you love America the military and the constitution while saying that Neo-Pagans should be denied a place to worship on USAFA's thousands of acres. Costs too much Really a circle of rocks costs too much No that is your mind trying to justify your intolerance.
09ButterBar, Barksdale AFB
2/2/2010 7:15:11 PM ET
Christians being intolerant on a message board. What a shock. What makes your religion less fake than the others? Kudos to the AF for attempting equality despite the bigotry they had to know would rear its ugly head.
Chris, Arizona
2/2/2010 7:02:35 PM ET
It seems some members of the service do not have equal rights when practicing their religion. Do you know the US Military's policiy on displaying the Bible in Iraq or Afghanistan? Perhaps you can enlighten me. Last May dozens of Afghan language Bibles sent to a soldier in Afghanistan were confiscated and then destroyed by fire because the command believed the Bibles were intended to proselytize Muslims which is a violation of military rules and Afghan law. A Pentagon spokesman said the act was a force-protection measure to preclude Afghans from perceiving the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims which could lead to a violent anti-American reaction. Two weeks ago the year-old Bible burning incident was resurrected by three journalists who corroborated to attack evangelical Christians for using the military to advance their religious views. This episode demonstrates four disturbing phenomena a double standard a one way cultural and religious bias political correctness
jill manfreddi, new york city
2/2/2010 5:54:01 PM ET
Yeah because heaven forbid we put our trust in someone who believes in protecting our environment peace a balance between men and women etc... I'd much rather put my trust into those like our former President who had meetings with the likes of Ted Haggard every week or those who desecrate religious sites of those who practice outside their own faith or those who don't follow a single word of what Jesus actually taught like Judge not and ye shall not be judged condemn not and ye shall not be condemned.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
2/2/2010 5:40:38 PM ET
I may not be Pagan but I sure as heck support your right to worship as I do every other religion.
Gary, Dallas TX
2/2/2010 5:31:43 PM ET
I am an Air Force retired vet and very ashamed at my former service. To allow a cult to practice there nonsense is disgusting. So when do the satanist and luciferians get a place of worship How about jedi's There are so many shameful groups that call themselfs a religion. Does each and evryone of them get a building now or some glorified pile of rocks
James, Corpus Christi
2/2/2010 5:28:37 PM ET
I have three sons that went thru the academy...by the time the second one got there it was like going to preschool....I am sick to death of the word tolerance...where did it get our soldiers at Ft Hood.....my support for the Association just ended..not another from us. Obviously there is no leadership left. What will we do when we need leaders.
joyce, alaska
2/2/2010 4:45:38 PM ET
I cannot imagine telling a soldier who is willing to sacrifice his or her life to protect my freedom that I don't believe that soldier deserves freedom of religion. Kudos to the AFA for providing this for soldiers who practice alternative faiths. Those soldiers need comfort and solace as much if not more so that the rest of us need also.
Stephanie Stanton, Louisiana
2/2/2010 3:34:34 PM ET
I wanted to add my support and thanks for this endeavor. Anyone from any religion who is willing to serve our country in the military - or elsewhere - should receive respect and accommodation. I am glad that the military is able to recognize and support another religion in the services.
E. Pyatt, State College PA
2/2/2010 3:30:37 PM ET
As a pagan man myself and one proud of all my family and friends in not only the Air Force but the other branches of the US military I applaud Brandon Longcrier for his efforts in promoting equality and thus equal recognition.To those who have posted such close minded and hypocritical remarks as to denounce the faith of those who can be at a moment's notice sent off to die for the will of your own government shame on you. I am a pagan man and at any time I could be sent off to die for the ideals my country holds dear. I would do this in a heartbeat. But if I can be drafted if I can enlist if I can be trained and sent off to service for a country founded on the principle of worshiping the Almighty as we feel is right yet I am told that my beliefs are full of baloney... where is the freedom in that Where is the acceptance the tolerance the equality Remember there was a time when another minority was looked down upon... it took a civil war and a century of work to br
Brandon Cornwell, Versailles Missouri
2/2/2010 3:17:28 PM ET
As they say Off we go into the wild blue yonder
Debbie Nowak, Colorado
2/2/2010 2:59:15 PM ET
How do we know reality Reality is absolute truth. Truth is self-existent self-evident self authenticating sovereign reality. Based upon this nature of truth true scientists seek evidence disconfirming their hypotheses so that they can discard them and come up with better testable hypotheses that can be substantiated by empirical evidence. The Air Force Academy leadership have forsaken Truth for the false hypothesis of politically correct religious equality. In doing so they have betrayed their purpose. Let me disconfirm their hypothesis and expose their infidelity. Anything call it A cannot be both B and non-B in the same way at the same time. That is the law of non-contradiction a rule of logic essential to all reasoning. Now it is not earth shattering to be illogical about non-essential things. And there clearly can be things that are matters of taste. But when it comes to foundational issues of what is and is not reality a much stricter standard is nec
Charles S. Folkart, Palm Harbor FL
2/2/2010 1:59:23 PM ET
First let me say I'm not wiccan and I'm not like Wooo wiccans are great and everyone else is wrong. But I'm at least applying some common sense here as many many of these comments seem to be lacking it. Tom Slaughter - kudos to you for the common sense in saying that you don't have to agree with Pagans... but that you respect their right to freedom to worship. Major Kudos. Katie in NM - your complaint is there is no scientific basis for wiccan creation myths Umm isn't that EVERY religion No religion has a SCIENTIFIC basis it's religion it's based on FAITHKay Neil in OK - Please do your research. Wicca is not a cult it is a federally recognized religion.
WinterReiver, CA
2/2/2010 1:30:41 PM ET
My son graduated from the AFA in 2001 I don't seem to remember any stories about witchcraft at Jack's Valley..but then the cadets were busy learning to be officers at that time. It will be interesting to hear from some of the cadets themselves and their take on it.Derek's mom USAF Combat Control last mission Memorial Day 2005.
Deb Argel-Bastian, Lompoc CA
2/2/2010 1:25:55 PM ET
For those that continue to push the idea that we are ONLY a Christian nation - the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli which any Naval Officer should be aware of stated in article 11 that As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion this was a treaty initiated by President Washington signed by President Adams and ratified by a Congress full of Revolutionary War Veterans - all of whom approved of this language.
Lloyd Clark, Beaver Dam WI
2/2/2010 12:42:07 PM ET
From reading these comments quite a few seem to be forgetting that the main reason the Pilgrims came to this country was to be able to worship as they chose to. While I am a Christian I have served my time in the Army to help defend the right of freedom of Religion in this Nation and though I disagree with the views of this Pagan group I will defend with all I have their right under the Constitution to practice their religion. Too much blood has been shed to preserve that right.
Tom Slaughter, Raleigh NC
2/2/2010 12:38:36 PM ET
Our nation's founders installed the Constitution based on Judeo-Christian principles and law. Tax supported promotion of pagan worship runs contrary to those values. Where does PC stop altars to Baal, Zeus, Satan.. Why not create an altar with a giant Coors can for cadets who want to fellowship and relax with a few cold ones.
J D Miniear, Indianapolis IN
2/2/2010 12:37:45 PM ET
Congratulations to Brandon to the Chaplain to everyone who helped bring this about. What a wonderful step forward for religious freedom.To those of you who claim this is terrible or that we've gone too far - did you at least say the same thing about the Jewish Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces This is the US military upholding this country's most basic tenets that of equality and religious freedom. KUDOS Thanks for letting me know that in some ways this country is still right on track
JHarte, California
2/2/2010 12:35:07 PM ET
As a Christian I believe in a triune God and in Jesus Christ who as both God and man paid the ultimate price for our sins and by doing so assured our individual futures. As an American I sometimes struggle with the freedoms that our founders put in place to allow others to live out their beliefs especially when they conflict so profoundly with mine as do many of the earth-based religions.I choose to see this situation as the Air Force's faithful observance of the intentions of our founding fathers and if our son is fortunate enough to be accepted to the Academy next year as an opportunity for him to be a light to his fellow cadets who may be more open to discuss their beliefs as a result of this step tha the Air Force has taken. Our first duty as Christians is to share the Good News of Christianity with others and I pray that this action though distressing to me personally will help open doors for that message to be delivered to those who God would have hear it.
Tom Gallagehr, Louisville KY
2/2/2010 12:26:23 PM ET
I commend you TSgt Longcrier. Your hard work and dedicaton has paid off in full. The fact that you had the full support of the Chaplins office on this endevour speaks highly of the caliber of Airmen that are at the AFA. Hopefully one day there will be something of the same at the Marine Corps bases as well. As a prior Marine and wife to a Marine it would be wonderful to have a space allocated on all bases for the earth-based religions to meet and worship together.
Blair, havelock nc
2/2/2010 12:24:56 PM ET
You're kidding right I've heard the phrase There are no atheists in foxholes but I've really got to wonder how many soldiers in foxholes stay paganWicca druidism and general paganism is illogical no scientific basis for creation etc. Why do people want to worship the creation instead of a Creator
Katie, New Mexico
2/2/2010 12:12:31 PM ET
I applaud the US Air Force for recognizing diversity in spiritual beliefs. I find it difficult to understand why welcoming witches, warlocks and other pagan characters into the military are more preferable then gays
Chris, New Jersey
2/2/2010 12:10:33 PM ET
I am appalled at this blatant mockery of Freedom of Religion My son graduated from Air Force Academy and now my pride in this facility is totally gone How can a Chaplain recognize a cult as a religion Heaven help the USA I am writing to my Senator and Congressman.
Kay Neil, Moore OK
2/2/2010 12:08:37 PM ET
Some of the comments here are disgusting. I can only pray none of the judgemental fools here become officers I have to serve under.
Mike, UK
2/2/2010 12:08:08 PM ET
God Bless the U.S. Air ForceWhich one
Larry, Atlanta GA
2/2/2010 12:04:16 PM ET
Wow what a colossal waste of time and money. This is officially the first time since I graduated that I am ashamed to say I graduated from USAFA. We should not be celebrating this I am hanging my head in disbelief and shame...
Steve USAFA 2007, Langley AFB VA
2/2/2010 11:58:07 AM ET
Some Earth-centered traditions involve the worship of gods and goddesses whereas others may involve only one deity or none at all. Reincarnation is a popular concept as is rebirth and celebrating the cycle of the seasons.Reincarnation is making a comeback.
William Slater, CHICAGO
2/2/2010 11:55:08 AM ET
Kudos to the Air Force. After some missteps in the past this is a good start to restore their image of respecting all faiths.
Lawrence McNamara, Washington DC
2/2/2010 11:46:43 AM ET
The US Constitution grants freedom of religion in this country. I take this as anyone can believe anything they want. That's what makes this a FREE country. The US Military is here to protect our FREEDOMS and uphold the Constitution. That does not mean ONLY Christian but every free man and woman. And why should not our warriors have spirituality. I would much rather have a spiritually mature service member protecting me over a snotty nosed ignorant punk that does not really care about anything. When your on the battle field you fight. When and if you need to you pray. It's your choice. Let's keep it free. Thank you USAF
Curtis Popke, Harrison AR
2/2/2010 11:31:57 AM ET
I salute USAFA for it's dedication to the principles of religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution. And to all of those Christians who have exposed their intolerance in their comments above I remind you of Gandhi's observation I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Jim Mason, New Jersey
2/2/2010 11:16:33 AM ET
Congratulations on a well written article to Staff Sgt. Don Branum. objective writing to which all journalsts should aspire. the only agenda is to support the Constitution in its purest form. All I want to know is what time and where will we meet for the dedication. I would be honored to be there.BB HavenWood
Gary HavenWood van Houten, Lakewood CO
2/2/2010 10:44:23 AM ET
Blessed Imbolc to all who were a part of this wonderful journey. My congratulations to the open-mindedness at AFA and may many generations in the future enjoy the work you have done. You know you have a strong support community here in Texas.
Rev. Scott Carpenter, Austin TX
2/2/2010 10:26:49 AM ET
I love the Air Force. Their ethos on this issue is a representation of what is best vis-a-vis the American Spirit. God Bless the U.S. Air Force and the AFA.
Bruce Howell, Massachusetts
2/2/2010 10:22:38 AM ET
I am proud to live in a country where people are allowed to practice and display their beliefs whatever they may be. I am excited to see this article.
Cynthia Baute, Blacksburg VA
2/2/2010 10:21:09 AM ET
If I read this right they put the circle on top of the LZ I hope the chaplains will ensure enough education among the cadets that they understand they're looking at a sacred site and not something that shold be used for training purposes.
Joe Adamski, Atlanta GA
2/2/2010 9:17:55 AM ET
How could any Christian chaplain reconcile what God commands in the bible with supporting this I am not disputing anyone's civil right to worship as they please...fine. But for an ordained Christian pastor or minister to go out of their way to enable this is nothing more then SIN period and they know it. I hope they are falling on their faces and praying for forgiveness.
Brian , Maryland
2/2/2010 8:44:23 AM ET
Are you kidding me This political correctness has gotten ridiculous...Yes our country gives them the right and our soldiers fight and die to give them the right but LORD have mercy on us.
jane, NC
2/2/2010 8:01:11 AM ET
You gotta be kidding me
Mike S., PA
2/2/2010 6:30:56 AM ET
Certainly the PC crowd will decry my thoughts but just a few months after the massacre of military personnel at Fort Hood as perpetrated by a known Muslim officer with radical ideas that many of the brass ignored due to a policy of tolerance you have given credibility to a group that now will be able to plague the military as they have our prison system. Remember do you really want to create officers who control the awesome power of military authority who believe in paganism
ben ramsaur, Asheboro NC
2/2/2010 6:03:32 AM ET
Congratulations to my brother and sister Pagans at the Air Force Academy for this blessed milestone. My thanks to the Air Force for allowing the worship circle to come to fruition.
Barry McClung, Bastrop Texas
2/2/2010 2:34:39 AM ET
Outstanding story and excellent work on the circle and freedom to practice your faith We need one of these at Misawa
John Hamilton, Misawa AB Japan
2/2/2010 2:20:30 AM ET
i am so glad that the air force gave a space for Pagan-Wiccan soldiers to practice their religion. THANK YOU SO MUCHmarylou schmidt
marylou schmidt, topeka kansas
2/2/2010 2:16:23 AM ET
i am so glad and proud that the air force recognized that Wiccan is a real religion and will allow Wiccan soldiers a place to practice their religion. THANK YOU SO MUCHmarylou schmidt
marylou schmidt, topeka kansas
2/2/2010 1:55:54 AM ET
What a crock The service academies and the services in general would be better off ignoring all religions altogether than recognizing crap for the sake of diversity. Perhaps if the Pentagon were to return to the old school idea of prevailing over our armed enemies by killing them dead rather than winning their hearts and minds by embracing their Godless sociopathic cultures we could get out of our military entanglements in fewer than 100 years.
James Yeakley USNA '71, San Diego CA
2/2/2010 1:26:38 AM ET
Political correctness gone mad.
Lynn, USA
2/2/2010 1:10:46 AM ET
You must be kidding.
AOC U.S.N. RET., Great Plains
2/2/2010 12:49:21 AM ET
I must be the only one who has a problem with this. Since when has the clergy been responsible for supporting the worship Satan i.e. witchcraft. Our forefathers came to this country to worship God as they chose. Read the quotes chiseled in marble in our nations capital. While reading this article I could not help but imagine what God was thinking as members of our clergy not only supported but also gave hearty approval of the practice of witchcraft in one of our service academies. Wow. One day we shall all give account of our actions before our Creator.
J Hunter, USAF Academy
2/1/2010 11:10:32 PM ET
My appreciation to all serving our country who are reading this. You are all truly HEROS Thank you for a wonderful story about Witches. It's great they will now have a place of their own.
Susan Hovan, Sagamore Hills Ohio
2/1/2010 11:03:47 PM ET
The beauty of free-will. We all have a choice to make decisions about out religious beliefs. Then again we will all stand and have to give an account of those free-will choices in the end. Best of luck.
Tim, Utah
2/1/2010 10:56:18 PM ET
Thank you USAF. It's a marvelous thing that nowadays a military Chaplain can actually BE a Chaplain and serve all faiths. I clearly remember Bob Barr's fight against Pagans in the military...in fact I got on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation list for calling his office and calling him an ignorant idiot. He tried to claim that dead babies were laid under the Circle of Stones or something stupid like that.I am curious about something...does the Chaplain lead Circle With or without his female equivalent
Sage, Idaho City ID
2/1/2010 10:35:57 PM ET
I salute the efforts of the Air Force Academy It's Senior Leadership and TSgt LongcrierWhile religious freedom and tolerance have always been a cornerstone of military service It's nice to see the Air Force Academy once again lead the way and allow an NCO we really run the show to achieve this accomplishment.A salute also to Chaplain Zeigler and his hard working staff.SincerelyFrank M. HaydenTSgt Retired
Frank M. Hayden , Parker CO
2/1/2010 10:14:27 PM ET
Ridiculous. Seems some cadets wishing to have special outside privileges have hood-winked the AFA all in the name of diversity and tolerance. What next
momsright, God's country
2/1/2010 10:07:35 PM ET
The Air Force has just sunk to a new low. I can not believe that they would build such a thing for pagans. Don't they realize that this nation was founded on christian virtures and principals. It was GOD that made this country great and blessed it not pagans. I really feel that GODS wrath is going to come down on us because of things like this
richard slate, pinellas park florida
2/1/2010 9:57:22 PM ET
As a volunteer lay chaplain with my local VA Medical Ctr and a moral Leaderhip Officer in the Civil Air Patrol I am appalled at such travsity to allow pagan worship at the AF Military Academy. Shame on the Chaplains for allowing this to go forward. Paganism has no place in our military protocol.
Preston Lawrance, Loudon NH
2/1/2010 9:21:15 PM ET
This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in my life. What an embarassment.
Jim Scott, Houston Tx.
2/1/2010 9:07:31 PM ET
Absolutely dispicable
Josh, Florida
2/1/2010 9:04:44 PM ET
Since the United States Air Force is prompting Neo Pagans then I no longersupport the U.S. Air Force period.And my father and uncle are Air Force veterans.Its that simple you don't need our support anymore.
David Bumgardner, Jenkins Kentucky
2/1/2010 9:01:07 PM ET
Regarding the Pagan Circle created for the worship of the earth by those who practice Wiccan... I must tell you that God calls witchcraft a sin. 1 Samuel Chapter 15 verse 23. Those who practice witchcraft will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. See Galatians chapter 5 verses 20 and 21. The USAF and anyone else would be wise to follow the One True Lord Jesus Christ and refrain from such practices. He will hold the USAF accountable for this action so please repent and remove the Pagan Circle.
Leisa Price, Arkansas
2/1/2010 8:35:01 PM ET
Really This is what we have to do Really There is no better way to spend time and taxpayer dollars than to plan out construct and create rules for 'witches druids earth-centered cadets' Really
Jason , New York
2/1/2010 6:44:04 PM ET
I am a pagan. It gives me great joy and hope for everyone to see positive stories about alternative religions.
Charles Centers, Kentucky
2/1/2010 6:29:32 PM ET
Religious tolerance run amock Everyone in command who supported this should be fired. A total sham and complete waste of DOD funding
Tom Russell Chaplain Major US Army Ret, California
2/1/2010 3:36:45 PM ET
Good Job Brandon You rockIf you need anything including a place to vent.feel free to call me...David's got my number It's a great day when I see this article and I find out that Dyess AFB just got the ok to stand up their own circle which will be led by my favorite little Jewgan
Morgan Becky Ginther, Fort Hood TX
2/1/2010 7:50:59 AM ET
What a bunch of crap.I once was a proud retired USAF vet.I know longer we have anything to do with with the USAF.I will no longer refer any young person to join the USAF.I just placed all my awards in a box and packed them away.My uniforms no longer have any meaning.What a sad day.
Mike, Parkersburg WV
2/1/2010 1:08:11 AM ET
A civilian's salute to you and your comrades Sgt. Longcrier. May that circle serve it's people well.
Felicia, Lower Alabama
1/31/2010 8:10:14 PM ET
Will the Air Force Academy chapel be creating a worship area for Hindushttpen.wikipedia.orgwikiHinduism
Jai Maharaj, USA
1/31/2010 9:00:46 AM ET
As someone who grew up on the grounds of the Academy I was disturbed by the reports of religious intolerance a few years ago. They reminded me of the space allocation in the Cadet Chapel when I was a child with Protestants on top Jews and Catholics in the basement.It is encouraging to hear of progress in the area of religious tolerance.
Mick McQuaid, Detroit MI
1/31/2010 12:14:03 AM ET
I am thrilled to hear about this. As a fellow Pagan in service to our diverse spiritual community I too can attest to the growing environment of acceptance and tolerance. It's a beautiful thing. Thank you to Brandon Longcrier and the entire USAF Acadamy for supporting religious freedom. The creation of this stone circle furthers not only the religious freedom of our men and women in uniform but that of all Americans.
Joy Burton, Highlands Ranch Colorado
1/29/2010 4:50:49 PM ET
What a great accomplishment TSgt Longcrier I know you have been working so hard on this journey for quite a while. The circle is beautiful and I can't wait for the dedication in March. What a well written and accurate article SSgt Branum. Kudos to Chaplain Ziegler and top AFA leadership for setting the standard for religious freedom from the beginning of our cadets' careers. Let this be a positive model for all military organizations across the US.
Misty Garrett, USAF Academy CO
1/29/2010 3:24:42 PM ET
Congratulations and felicitations to both the Academy and Sgt. Longcrier. May the space you have created provide a calm center for all who choose to use it whatever their conception of faith and deity.
Grant Hogarth, Salt Lake City UT
1/29/2010 10:33:42 AM ET
As a member of a military family brother in the army and ministry student who has worked closely with some wonderful dedicated military Chaplains I can truly attest to the dedication open-mindedness and inclusiveness of many of the dedicated Chaplains working in the services across a broad range of theological and religious perspectives. I am pleased to see despite some earlier problems that the US Air force Academy is demonstrating the values which have been my experience with the military on the whole. As a lifelong Christian who is personally very involved in work supporting the concerns of indigenous communities and with close friendships in neo-pagan communities I am encouraged by this step which brings the ideals of enshrined in our Constitution on religious freedom on step closer to reality. I hope that it will continue to benefit the needs of many sometimes mistreated religious communities and encourage the young women and men who have placed their lives on the li
Kieran Conroy, Harvard Divinity School
1/29/2010 12:35:12 AM ET
Yet another reason of the many that I am proud to be an American - my tax dollars can go for this sort of thing anytime.
Susan Cohen, DC USA
1/27/2010 11:47:55 PM ET
This isn't the first worship circle to grace the grounds of US military bases but I hope this article encourages other Earth-Centered faith group leaders across the globe to think about doing the same thing. If you play your cards right and get the right people involved then you'd be surprised what you can accomplish. It doesn't hurt having Chaplains like the ones we have here at the Academy who truly understand what freedom of religion and respect is all about. Your Chaplains should be the same way. They are Chaplains first and should be there to help your efforts not hinder them. We are very fortunate here at USAFA.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
1/27/2010 6:23:15 PM ET
To Chaplain Ziegler TSgt Longcrier and all the folks at USAFA Congratulations and thanks for helping to protect and preserve religious freedom I applaud your efforts and hope to visit this wonderful location on my next trip to Colorado. Brightest Blessings to all
MSgt Darren Krumwiede USAF ret, San Angelo TX
1/27/2010 3:49:12 PM ET
What a wonderful story Brandon Congratulations and a tip of the hat to AFA for facilitating this historic endeavor.
Holli Emore, Columbia SC
1/27/2010 1:38:37 PM ET
As a practitioner of nature-centered spirituality myself I am so happy to see an outdoor circle at the Air Force Academy This is truly wonderful news
Paula Jean West, Lynchburg VA
1/27/2010 3:42:42 AM ET
The US military has had a written tolerance policy for all religious beliefs since at least the 70's when they published a pamphlet for chaplains telling how to help pagan servicemen with funeral marriage etc. rites. I believe that in a country where the constitution guarantees freedom of religion this is a good start for the military and should be continued wherever there are alternative beliefs that want to establish their own places of worship.
Niyati Brown, Hawaii
1/26/2010 5:55:09 PM ET
I just wanted to thank the USAF Academy Chaplains Office the Sacred Well Congregation Circle Sanctuary Cherry Hill Seminary the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and everyone else who had a role in making this all happen. We couldn't have done it alone and we're very thankful for all the help we've received on this journey.
Brandon Longcrier, USAF Academy
1/26/2010 4:30:56 PM ET
Brandon, Congratulations. Thank you for your hard work in making this happen and please pass our thanks and appreciation to Chaplain Ziegler and his staff.David
Dr. David L. Oringderff, Schertz Texas
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