The Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have asked the Superintendant of West Point (the U.S. Military Academy) to stop including prayers during official events. Prayers are offered at events that cadets are required to attend, and the letter from AU said that these events,
…are milestones in the careers of West Point cadets, and all require cadets’ attendance The inclusion of prayers creates a pervasive atmosphere of religiosity and cannot be reconciled with the…First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Family Research Council has a different view. They say that the prayers are voluntary–no cadet is required to pray. FRC’s executive vice president, LTG Jerry Boyken (U.S. Army, ret), noted:
The heritage of Judeo-Christian faith in our military is as old as the American Revolution and as needed as up-to-date weaponry and training. When America’s future leaders voluntarily decide to honor their Creator through prayer, they are building into their lives the qualities of character and faith so vital not only to their future but the future of our country. Prayer at West Point is not mandatory, nor should it be, but exercising a tradition as old as the school should not be prohibited because of the objections of anti-Christian organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Boyken further speculated on the effect of a ban on prayer at West Point:
This sad effort, should it succeed, would diminish both religious liberty and freedom of speech not only at the United States Military Academy but in all spheres of public life, from opening prayers at the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to the courtroom of the Supreme Court that depicts the Ten Commandments on its wall.
To stifle the open and voluntary expression of commonly-held religious conviction in order to placate a tiny minority that thrives on both the spotlight and insistence upon its own angry way would be a breach of our commitment to the liberty we are asking young West Pointers to uphold.
This attempt to ban prayer at West Point is another in the ongoing attempt to change the robust “freedom of religion” enshrined in the Bill of Rights into an anemic “freedom of worship.” Freedom of religion includes the right to live your faith in public. Freedom of worship would leave the West Point cadets able to pray in church services, and perhaps in their rooms. Unless they had a roommate of a different religion, of course.