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Football team’s pre-game prayer raises questions on the role of religion in the Armed Forces




The Air Force Falcons sing the Alma Mater after defeating the Colorado State Rams.
The Air Force Falcons sing the Alma Mater after defeating the Colorado State Rams.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

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Before a November game, players from the Air Force Academy’s football team were seen gathered on the field and formed a prayer circle.

It’s something the Falcons have done many times before. But their pre-game ritual has now sparked a debate on the role of religion in the military.

After complaint from a watchdog group, the academy has launched an investigation into the practice. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation charges that these public prayers give the impression that the academy and the Air Force are endorsing a particular religion.

The Air Force Academy’s football team has run into similar problems before. The Falcons were censured after then-head coach Fisher DeBerry hung a banner in the team’s locker room that read: “I am a Christian first and last. … I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.”

But are pre-game prayer circles the same as proselytizing?

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Guest:

Pauletta Otis, Ph.D., former resident instructor with the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College at Quantico, VA who is now teaching with the Marines' extended studies program at Miramar and Pendleton