West Point Survey Blasted for Religion Questions

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation objected to an anonymous survey it says was sent to all the members of the Class of 2013 and asked 89 questions related to leadership and character

Friday, Aug 24, 2012  |  Updated 8:38 PM EDT
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West Point Survey Blasted for Religion Questions

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A watchdog group on Friday demanded that the U.S. Military Academy withdraw an online survey of cadets that asks about religion, claiming it violates their constitutional protections.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation objected to an anonymous survey it says was sent to all the members of the Class of 2013 and asked 89 questions related to leadership and character.
 
The survey consists of statements such as "I am ambitious" and "I am an original thinker." Respondents are asked to click on one of five circles describing how the statements apply to them, ranging from "very much like me" to "very much unlike me."
 
The foundation criticized a half-dozen of those questions related to faith and spirituality, such as "My faith makes me who I am" and "I practice my religion." The group claims the questions represent an unconstitutional test of religious preference.
 
Foundation president Mikey Weinstein said multiple complaints from cadets and faculty members prompted his letter to Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon demanding that the survey be pulled.
 
"They just feel like they're being spiritually molested," Weinstein said of the cadets. "They're not allowed to ask these questions."
 
One cadet complained in an email to the foundation that there are "many others here at West Point who are being regularly and systematically degraded and marginalized by academy leadership for our lack of 'chain of command-endorsed' religious beliefs." Weinstein withheld the cadet's name to protect his or her identity.
 
West Point's director of public affairs, Lt. Col. Webster M. Wright III, said Friday the U.S. Military Academy was looking into the statements made in Weinstein's letter.
 
"The survey referenced in that letter is voluntary and anonymous," Wright said. "For the most recent survey 25 percent of the cadets chose to participate."
 
Weinstein said the foundation would file a lawsuit if the academy does not pull the survey.

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