The Air Force Academy is once again looking at whether God has a place on the football field after an advocacy group complained about the Falcons holding hands and praying in the end zone before games.
The academy is looking into the matter, but not everyone is opposed to the football team praying in public, said academy spokesman Meade Warthen.
"The Air Force Academy Inspector General opened a third-party complaint and referred the issue to the athletic department for an informal inquiry," Warthen said in an email to Air Force Times. "Friday morning we received an opposing viewpoint requesting cadets continue to be afforded the right to pray. Thus, we are being prudent and deliberate in our review of this issue."
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that opposes proselytizing in the military, complained about the Air Force Aacademy football team praying after its the Nov. 28 game against the University of New Mexico, but that did not stop the Falcons from praying in the end zone before their Dec. 5 game against San Diego State University.
"This end zone praying is just another territorial conquest of the religious Christian right," said MRFF group founder and president Mikey Weinstein. "This stands in a long line of conservative Christian acts like this."
The advocacy group has also been at odds with the Air Force and the academy before.
In June 2005, an Air Force task force report found incidents of proselytizing at the Air Force Academy. For example, then-head football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a banner in the football team's locker room that read: "I am a Christian first and last. ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." DeBerry announced in December 2006 that he was retiring from the academy.
Warthen said the academy is "attentive to all religious freedom concerns."
"The Air Force is dedicated to maintaining an environment in which people can realize their highest potential regardless of personal religious or other beliefs," he said.
However, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation currently represents 144 Air Force Academy cadets, faculty and staff, including five players of the academy's current football team, said Weinstein, who did not express confidence in the athletic department's inquiry.
"Allowing the Air Force Academy to investigate itself — this is simply the fox investigating the hen house," he said. "We expect that we'll get nothing positive out of this and we'll continue to take a look at whether our clients could possibly get '"John'" and '"Jane Doe'" protections to go into federal court to seek an injunction."