West Point’s top general said Friday that people complaining about prayer at an Army football game had completely “valid concerns,” saying the football coach would apologize for his actions and adding that he has already gone through reeducation.
Army football Coach Jeff Monken requested Sept. 2 that a staff assistant lead his team in prayer after a win against Temple University, The Washington Post reports.
That prayer resulted in an uproar, which was instigated by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to remove any trace of Christianity in the military, and in this case, the group complained about a government-funded school promoting Christianity, prompting West Point Athletic Director Boo Corrigan to take down the video of the prayer.
To leave it online, said West Point superintendent Army Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, would be similar to “grinding salt into the wound.” Still, Caslen admitted the prayer had an incredible amount of support.
“Maybe 90 percent of the people who were out there supported the prayer,” Caslen said, according to The Washington Post. “But, when you look at it from a legal basis and from a legal standpoint, and then you look at it from a leadership standpoint, there were some concerns, and I think they’re valid concerns.”
“It creates an atmosphere where it is expected from everybody to say a prayer regardless of their faith or no faith,” Caslen added. “It’s like me as the superintendent of the Corps of Cadets saying, ‘Let’s take a knee and say a prayer together.’ I don’t have the authority to do that. I cannot use my position of authority — my public position of authority — to direct my subordinates to do something that is inconsistent with their rights. So, that’s probably where we crossed the line.”
Caslen wants Monken to apologize to his own team this week. Athletic Director Corrigan has since spent time with Monken to reeducate him about the harm of showing partiality, which has the consequence of making some people feel uncomfortable.
“So, regardless of faith … everybody in that room should feel comfortable that they were not under coercion to say that prayer,” Caslen said. “There’s a way to make that happen with the chaplain, and an invitation without a coercive effect and without showing reprisal against some of the other people that had elected not to participate. That’s the proper way to do that.”
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