7
   

Religious Objector Quits Academy: Army Wants Recoupment

 
 
Reply Sat 16 Feb, 2013 03:25 pm
WASHINGTON -- A former West Point cadet who resigned from the military academy in November over what he says was unconstitutional Christian proselytizing may now owe the institution hundreds of thousands of dollars in a turn of events that have left the 24-year-old “shocked.”

Blake Page, who served in the Army prior to attending West Point, submitted an official letter of resignation from the academy on Nov. 6. In an op-ed in The Huffington Post, Page explained that he no longer desired to be part of a group of “silent bystanders” witnessing what he called “egregious violations” of the Constitution.

“The tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution,” Page wrote. “These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation.”

Now, Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is accusing the Army of retialiating against Page for going public with his story. The new controversy was first reported by NBC News on Thursday.

“There’s no question that this is a vicious and aggressive form of reprisal and retribution,” Weinstein, who has hired Page as a special assistant, told The Huffington Post. “This is the last thing [Page] expected and we’re certainly not going to take it sitting down.”

Weinstein added that if the Army chooses to seek financial reimbursement from Page, his organization will pursue a “massive federal lawsuit,” citing the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.

Graduates of West Point are not typically responsible for paying tuition while at the institution. Instead, students “pay off” their educational costs through military service. Students who resign or are dismissed from West Point may be subject to recoupment.

According to Page, shortly after his resignation, an Army captain told him that the U.S. Military Academy would not seek recoupment from him, either through enlisted service or financial reimbursement. In a letter provided to The Huffington Post dated Dec. 12, Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon did, in fact, recommend to the Army that Page be honorably discharged and that his educational expenses at West Point be waived.

Approximately one week after Page left West Point -- and after he went public with his story -- he said he received a call from an official telling him that a mistake had been made and the superintendent’s decision was not final. The official added that Blake should “keep his head down” until a final decision on recoupment had been made -- a process that could take up to six months.

On Feb. 12, Page returned to his home in Minnesota to find a letter from the assistant secretary of the Army. The letter informed Page that, while the superintendent's recommendation to honorably discharge Page was approved, an investigation was underway to determine if the former cadet was responsible for recoupment.

“I was shocked,” Page told The Huffington Post. “I didn’t really know how to process it because I had been told already that it was done, that I wasn’t going to see recoupment. I had been told multiple times, and now that this comes up it’s just hard to process.”

Page, who was determined non-commissionable due to medical reasons that arose while he was at West Point, is no longer eligible for enlistment, leaving him with only one option if recoupment is sought -- he'll have to pay back the government for his educational expenses, which carries an estimated price tag of $200,000.

“Right now, I’m just trying to strategize how I can make that much money,” Page said.

Weinstein, an Honor Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, said that it is “extremely rare” for the secretary of the Army to rule against a recommendation coming through the chain in command, making the move to investigate Page’s possible recoupment a clear “declaration of war” against the former cadet.

“They’re screwing this kid for standing up and doing something bravely,” Weinstein said.

In a written statement to The Huffington Post, Lt. Col. Tom Alexander at Army headquarters said that Page’s case “is being reviewed as all cadet resignations from the United States Military Academy are reviewed.” He also noted that the Army cannot discuss specific details on Page’s case until the investigation is complete.

Officials conducting the recoupment investigation have 120 days from the case's start date -- which was Jan. 28 -- to make a final decision. In the meantime, Page is left to wait for a ruling on whether or not he will owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Army.

Weinstein said that Page shouldn't be required to pay West Point anything.

“If the amount is anything north of zero, they’re going to be finding themselves facing [a lawsuit],” Weinstein said.

 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Feb, 2013 06:03 pm
@Advocate,
This might be a time when I'll end up agreeing with you, Advocate.
Very interesting.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Feb, 2013 08:45 pm
@Advocate,
Quote:
“These men and women are criminals,


Criminals in training anyway.
Advocate
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 01:23 pm
@ossobuco,
ossobuco wrote:

This might be a time when I'll end up agreeing with you, Advocate.
Very interesting.


But where do you come down in this issue.

I think it is ridiculous for the army to demand recoupment. Subjecting the cadet to religious proselytizing is illegal under the first amendment. Moreover, the cadets are adults and should be free of any religious requirements.

I think that the army should be liable to the cadet. Its people forced the cadet out of his career training, and caused the cadet to waste a year of his time.
Advocate
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 01:24 pm
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

Quote:
“These men and women are criminals,


Criminals in training anyway.


The criminals are the proselytizers.
engineer
 
  3  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 01:51 pm
@Advocate,
Advocate wrote:

I think it is ridiculous for the army to demand recoupment. Subjecting the cadet to religious proselytizing is illegal under the first amendment. Moreover, the cadets are adults and should be free of any religious requirements.

The rules are clear when you sign up. You can drop as a freshman without penalty, but when you start either you sophomore or junior year you sign a paper that says you agree to recoupment if you resign. I don't agree with the proselytizing but this guy also knew the rules and chose to stay in. I remember when he resigned he acknowledged that this could be coming so I don't know why he is surprised now. He continued to take tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars and then bailed at the end. I understand his position and even agree with a lot of it, but I understand the Army's requirements as well. If there is a history of waiving recoupment, then his should be waived. If there a history of seeking recoupment, then he should pay up.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 02:14 pm
@Advocate,
Yes and yes.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 03:20 pm
@Advocate,
Quote:
The criminals are the proselytizers.


And then they "graduate" to go on to become war criminals and terrorists.
Advocate
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 04:25 pm
@engineer,
Your statement amazes me.

The cadet was constructively forced out by the proselytizing. The contract was rendered voidable. Also, as I stated, the cadet has a good case for damages from the army.
Advocate
 
  0  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 04:26 pm
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

Quote:
The criminals are the proselytizers.


And then they "graduate" to go on to become war criminals and terrorists.


Hear, hear! They would be the types who would become war criminals and terrorists.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  3  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 04:34 pm
@engineer,
[quote="engineer"]
[quote="Advocate"]
I think it is ridiculous for the army to demand recoupment. Subjecting the cadet to religious proselytizing is illegal under the first amendment. Moreover, the cadets are adults and should be free of any religious requirements.[/quote]
The rules are clear when you sign up. You can drop as a freshman without penalty, but when you start either you sophomore or junior year you sign a paper that says you agree to recoupment if you resign. I don't agree with the proselytizing but this guy also knew the rules and chose to stay in. I remember when he resigned he acknowledged that this could be coming s
o I don't know why he is surprised now. He continued to take tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars and then bailed at the end. I understand his position and even agree with a lot of it, but I understand the Army's requirements as well. If there is a history of waiving recoupment, then his should be waived. If there a history of seeking recoupment, then he should pay up.
[/quote]
I am with Advocate on this one. The problem I see for the cadet is that the Army will never let any testimony re:proselytizing to be part of the proceedings.
He needs to sue the bastards first for violating his Civil Rights.

Joe(worship like us, they said, or your career is over.)Nation
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 04:39 pm
@Joe Nation,
Hear, hear, and hear some more.

This seems connected, to me, with the prevalence of the south. I don't dislike the south, but I'm not all keen on those from there with all the personal religion in their backpacks somehow running our army at whatever level.

Moving on - did all this happen after the draft stopped?
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 04:41 pm
@Advocate,
Advocate wrote:

The cadet was constructively forced out by the proselytizing. The contract was rendered voidable. Also, as I stated, the cadet has a good case for damages from the army.

Do you think the proselytizing started his senior year or did he experience it from day one? If he went through this for four years (which I think is the case) and complained right before graduation, I don't see his claim at all. The agreement is clear: education expenses for service. If he doesn't want to serve, pay the money back. As for damages from the army, what harm has he taken? Four years of free education, room, board and expenses? Don't you have to show damages before you can sue? I can see no indication that the army in any way penalized him for his lack of religious belief. The army did not refuse him graduation or penalize him so what is his case? If the army let other students resign without recoupment, they should let him do so as well. If they are enforcing the same rules on him that they do on everyone else, then failure to seek recoupment would be a religious preference for him. Same rules for everyone.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 04:53 pm
Just out of curiosity, does anyone think that this guy if faking it? When I was in the military, there were always cases of people trying to void their commitment to get out and I imagine that with a war on and facing the prospect of getting shot at it is more prevalent. Four years ago this guy probably figured Obama would have us out of Afghanistan by now. I love his argument and I think it shines more light on problems in the academies but part of me remembers those cases and wonders why this guy waited so long to resign.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 05:15 pm
@engineer,
Quote:
End Religious Discrimination in the Military




Despite data indicating that one out of five members of the United States military identify as atheist, agnostic or having no religious preference [1], nontheists serving in the U.S. armed forces are frequent targets for religious discrimination and coercive proselytizing. Upon enlistment, military personnel pledge to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [2] The Constitution plainly states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” [3] and that our government can neither advance nor inhibit religion. [4] Despite this pledge, assignments and promotions based on religious membership rather than merit [5] have been documented.

The problem of coercive proselytizing in the military came into public view in 2005 when a report [6] was released showing that officers, faculty, and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs promoted evangelical Christian beliefs and displayed insensitivity toward and harassed cadets who practiced a different religion or no religion at all. [7] This coercive proselytizing is not an isolated occurrence and extends into all five service branches.

In recent years, organizations such as the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OFC) [8], the Military Ministry of the Campus Crusade for Christ [9], the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) [10], and the Christian Military Fellowship (CMF) [11] have encouraged soldiers to proselytize as their primary mission in the military. The CMF identifies itself as “an association of believers who are committed to encouraging Men and Women of the United States Armed Forces […] to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.” The CMF instructs its members to “evangelize every segment of the military society by any means which honors Christ.” [12] Such evangelizing co-opts military resources and personnel to market Christianity.

As part of the U.S. Army’s “Comprehensive Soldier Fitness” program, soldiers are evaluated on their “spiritual fitness.” Sergeant Justin Griffith, an atheist, reported that the spiritual fitness evaluation contained questions aimed primarily at soldiers who believe in god or another deity, virtually ensuring that nonbelievers who answered honestly would score poorly. [13]Soldiers who score poorly are often referred to chaplains for training in order to increase their scores in the area of “spiritual fitness.” Given the over-representation of evangelic Christians in the Chaplains Corps, this “training” often becomes nothing more than a taxpayer-funded promotion of one particular brand of Christianity.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Chaplains Corps of the armed forces exists to “engage in activities designed to meet the religious needs of a pluralistic military community.” [14] The Court has observed that military chaplains are employed to serve military personnel “who wish to use them” and are not authorized “to proselytize soldiers or their families.” The chaplains have a mandate to serve and foster a religiously pluralistic population but too often are silent when members of their units are ostracized, harassed, denied promotion or threatened with physical violence for their beliefs or lack of belief in god. [15] Furthermore, chaplains and religious groups continue to perpetuate the disparaging claim that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” [16] In order to foster a truly pluralistic military community, military chaplains must have the resources, the training, and be willing to address the needs of all service members regardless of their faith.

The Secular Coalition for America urges the Department of Defense to end religious discrimination and the unconstitutional proselytizing that takes place in our nation’s military. The Secular Coalition for America asks that the Department of Defense provide military chaplains with training to enable them to assist service members with humanistic and nontheistic life views.

http://secular.org/issues/military
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  2  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 05:22 pm
@engineer,
Engineer: Are you reading some other information than what is presented here? I don't see where he was a Senior, not that that changes anything as far as I am concerned.
If you were working for a large company that had sent you to school for additional training and had you sign a long term contract agreeing to using those skills in the advancement of the companies products and services, but three years later you found out :
that a powerful cadre of people within the company controlled who got the best assignments and who got the **** work and
that the criteria for making their decisions on such things was based solely upon your attendance at weekly meetings of a cult whose main beliefs centered upon the worship of soap bubbles as spiritual beings, and
YOUR ADHERENCE TO THOSE BELIEFS >>>
would you be out of line to think that your professional career was in jeopardy because of your refusal to carry your "assigned" amount of holy soap and special swizzle stick?

You are one of the best in your field at your job, you can't perform your job because of the non-job related influences. If you leave the job, your contract says you cannot work in the field for an additional seven years. Is it your right to sue to remove the undue influences?

Joe(200 words, please)Nation
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 06:02 pm
I agree with both Engineer and Joe. The cadet knew the rules and therefore is liable for recoupment. However, there is no reason why he can't file a multi-million dollar suit against the Army, the Academy at West Point, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and anyone else even marginally involved (the POTUS?) claiming mental anguish and psychological trauma as a result of being coerced to participate in something which seems, prima facie, to violate certain provisions of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Then sit back and watch how quickly the powers that be drop the demand for recoupment and make an out-of-court settlement.They certainly don't want this to go to the Supreme Court; they don't need the attendant publicity.
JTT
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 06:17 pm
@engineer,
Quote:
I imagine that with a war on


There's no war on, E. Just another of the myriad US illegal invasions of sovereign nations.

Some 200 hundred of them. Is that the definition of evil or what?
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 06:18 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Quote:
The cadet knew the rules and therefore is liable for recoupment.


No, he didn't know the rules, Merry. He was completely misled. The US military committed fraud. It lied, what's new there, right?
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Feb, 2013 06:22 pm
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:

Are you reading some other information than what is presented here?

Yes, I saw the story when it first came out in November. Here is Page's original Huff Post article where he says:
Quote:
As I write this, I am five months from graduation. After nearly three and a half years here, there is no reason to suspect that I would be in any way incapable of completing the final requirements and walking across the stage in Michie Stadium with diploma in hand in another 174 days. Choosing to resign at this point also carries significant risk. The Army may seek recoupment in the form of about $200-300k which I will personally owe, or an additional term of up to 5 years of enlisted service.
According to him, he is not facing any penalty for his ongoing position against religious preference in the academy and he was completely aware of the potential penalty.

Joe Nation wrote:
If you were working for a large company that had sent you to school for additional training and had you sign a long term contract agreeing to using those skills in the advancement of the companies products and services, but three years later you found out :
that a powerful cadre of people within the company controlled who got the best assignments and who got the **** work and
that the criteria for making their decisions on such things was based solely upon your attendance at weekly meetings of a cult whose main beliefs centered upon the worship of soap bubbles as spiritual beings, and
YOUR ADHERENCE TO THOSE BELIEFS >>>
would you be out of line to think that your professional career was in jeopardy because of your refusal to carry your "assigned" amount of holy soap and special swizzle stick?

That's an interesting take but not at all what Page is claiming. He does not claim that he is leaving because his career would be stunted or because he would be denied opportunities. He says he is leaving because ...
Quote:
I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same.

I salute him for that and personally I think he is completely sincere but that doesn't give him a free pass.
 

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