Air Force Academy Removes Chaplain Who Criticized Religious Environment

Earlier this month, Captain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran minister and executive officer of the chaplain unit at the Air Force Academy, was removed from her position and transferred to Okinawa, Japan. Capt. Morton was an outspoken critic of the religious climate at the Air Force Academy. According to the Washington Post, she said that evangelical Christianity dominated the campus, and “the evangelicals want to subvert the system. They have a very clear social and political agenda.”

In 2004, a team from Yale Divinity School examined the Air Force Academy‘s program for incoming freshman, and found pervasive proselytizing on the part of evangelical officers and cadets. The Post reports that this study was done as part of the investigation into the sexual assault procedures at the Academy, and was denounced by the Academy’s chief chaplain. Capt. Morton, who agreed with criticisms in the Yale team’s report, had been assured of her position through summer of 2006. Morton was working on several projects including pastoral care for victims of sexual assault, reports the New York Times, but she was abruptly transferred on May 4. Morton remains outspoken on the issue, calling the evangelical bias “systemic,” according to the Denver Post, and claiming pressure from supervisors to denounce the Yale report. The Pentagon is now investigating her removal. Capt. Morton believes her removal is a retaliatory move intended to promote compliance among the remaining chaplain’s staff, reports the Times.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, a Pentagon task force has also investigated the religious climate at the school. The task force briefed Air Force Secretary Micheal Dominguez on Monday, and the full report is expected in a few weeks. The Gazette reports that 46 Democrats in Congress signed a letter to Dominguez asking for his personal involvement to avoid a whitewash similar to that of the sexual assault scandal two years ago.

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Colorado Springs Gazette 5/23/05; Denver Post 5/15/05; New York Times 5/15/05; New York Times 5/24/05; Washington Post 5/13/05

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