The Letters to West Point Focus on Prayer

Jan 17, 2013

Credit Courtesy of the U.S. Army

A national watchdog group that espouses the importance of the separation of church and state is calling upon the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to stop including prayers during official events. In response, a Chaplain Alliance is asking West Point officials to allow such prayers to continue.

Prayers during public events at West Point, such as during the Martin Luther King Award Dinner, Plebe Parent Weekend, and graduation, have long been offered, for more than 200 years. Yet now, Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State has written to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point asking them to stop the prayers at such events, saying the prayer policy runs afoul of the Constitution. As for why the church-state watchdog group is raising the issue now, staff attorney Ian Smith replies:

Smith says his group has not received complaints from cadets at the other military academies.

Chaplain Ronald Crews is the executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, based in Alexandria, Virginia, and his organization wrote a letter to West Point leaders in light of the letter from Americans United.

Crews, who is a retired U.S. army chaplain, says West Point does not require cadets to participate in or listen to the prayers.

Yet Ian Smith, with Americans United, calls participation in the prayers involuntary.

Repeated requests for comment from West Point officials were not returned in time for this broadcast.

As for Americans United, should West Point not respond to AU’s letter, Ian Smith says his group would probably write a follow-up letter.

He says his group’s letter asks that West Point respond within 30 days, which would be by next week. He says he has received no indication whether West Point will respond.