An Air Force Academy program to teach cadets to respect the religious beliefs of comrades will soon go to all Air Force bases and schools if academy chaplains have their way.
While a target date has not been set for the program's expansion, chaplains hope to transition the Religious Respect Training Program throughout the Air Force as soon as possible, chaplain Maj. Shawn Menchion said Wednesday at the conclusion of the academy's Religious Respect Conference.
“It may reach basic training for enlisted airmen before it reaches the officers,” Menchion said.
The program was launched in 2010 at the recommendation of senior academy leaders after several years of religious-related controversies, Menchion said. Initially, it was a one-hour training session on the First Amendment's clauses that relate to religious freedom, and was taught by academy chaplains to the class of 2014 at basic training.
Last year the academy and its partners, including the Anti-Defamation League, developed three additional lessons that will be taught at other times: one-hour lessons during sophomore and junior years, and a two-hour lesson during senior year, Menchion said.
The training teaches cadets “to become allies to other cadets when they witness respect infractions,” he said. “We're giving them avenues to address those issues. We emphasize addressing those issues at the lowest level.”
“This is something new,” he said. “No other military members are getting this training except for the cadets.”
The program was a major topic of discussion at the third biannual conference, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the academy. Military and civilian attendees representing the ACLU, Buddhist Churches of America and Islamic Society of Colorado offered feedback. The program consists of lectures and discussions based on scenarios.