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U.S. Navy, Chad J. McNeeley/AP

Navy’s Daily Prayer Under Fire

June 27, 2008 06:02 AM
by Denis Cummings
The ACLU is threatening to sue the U.S. Naval Academy if it does not abolish its daily lunchtime prayer.

30-Second Summary

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In a May 2 letter to the Naval Academy, the American Civil Liberties Union summarized complaints made by midshipmen who object to mandatory attendance at a pre-lunch prayer. The letter states that midshipmen who choose not to take part in the prayer are viewed as nonconformists and ostracized.

It is demanding that the Navy abolish the prayer or face a lawsuit like the one it filed against the Virginia Military Institute in 2001. A federal judge ruled that the dinnertime prayer at VMI was unconstitutional, reasoning that the strict, conformist culture of the military coerced students to take part in the prayer even if they did not want to.

In 2005, the Air Force, under pressure from cadets and civil rights groups, released guidelines ordering its officers and instructors to cease proselytizing their faith. Many cadets had complained of an overwhelmingly Christian atmosphere that went far beyond a daily prayer.

The Navy has said that it will continue the prayer, which has been offered since the school’s founding in 1845. It released an email saying, “The academy does not intend to change its practice of offering midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements.”

Headline Links: ACLU demands prayer bam

Background: VMI and the Air Force

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