41% of non-Christian AF cadets cite proselytizing

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An Air Force Academy survey found that 41 percent of cadets who identified themselves as non-Christian said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing at least once or twice last year.

Overall, 19 percent of all cadets said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing.

Participation by cadets in the official academy survey, conducted in December and January, was both voluntary and anonymous. Forty-seven percent, or 2,170, cadets participated in the poll.

Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the academy superintendent, had resisted disclosing specifics of the survey but now plans to release some details on Friday after several groups, including The Associated Press, filed Freedom of Information Act requests.

The AP obtained a copy of the figures on Thursday.

Gould has said he could make more headway on correcting problems and building on progress by working internally than by making the survey results public.

An academy spokesman did not immediately return an after-hours message from the AP on Thursday.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., has criticized the academy for not releasing survey details and went to the school in September and October to discuss the issue.

The academy has periodically conducted surveys on religion and other topics. In a survey in 2004, religious tolerance became a sensitive issue at the academy with a finding that many cadets heard slurs or jokes about other religions and that some felt ostracized because they weren't religious.

Gould, who was not at the academy at the time of the 2004 survey, has made it a priority to improve religious tolerance, launching new programs and frequently reminding cadets, faculty and staff of the need to respect others' beliefs, or lack of beliefs.

In August, when he described the latest survey in general terms, Gould said the results showed fewer cadets felt pressured to participate in religious groups than in previous surveys.

The documents obtained by the AP appear to support that contention. They show that the percentage of Christians and non-Christians, including atheists, who felt pressure to get involved in religious activities declined, compared with a survey in 2007.

The most recent survey asked cadets how often during the previous 12 months they had been in situations when someone subjected them to unwanted proselytizing and gave five choices: very often, often, sometimes, once or twice and never.

The academy's analysis of this survey notes that about 10 percent of non-Christians reported they experienced unwanted proselytizing often or very often, and it labels that figure as a "primary concern.

The breakdown in each category for non-Christians shows that five cadets or 3.8 percent said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing very often, eight or 6.1 percent said often, 19 or 14.5 percent said sometimes and 22 or 16.8 percent said once or twice. Nearly 59 percent or 77 individuals reported they never experienced it.

The breakdown for Christians shows that nine or 0.6 percent said they experienced unwanted proselytizing very often, 10 or 0.7 percent said often, 45 or 3.3 percent said sometimes and 133 or 9.8 percent said once or twice. About 86 percent or 1,164 individuals said they never experienced it.

Cadets who said they had no religious preference or who didn't identify as Christian, non-Christian or no preference reported lower rates of unwanted proselytizing than non-Christians.

The documents did not explain how the reported number of respondents who answered the question was less than the total number who completed the survey.

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