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Group Trains Air Force Cadets to Proselytize

They included photos of the Navigator Cadet Ministry Team, a group of cadets who "have shown an interest in receiving training and development to have a personal ministry among their peers at the Academy," the letter said.

"Please pray for unprecedented wisdom for Gina and me as we coach these cadets to live among the lost, sharing the Gospel in the midst of this current climate. We must be so careful. Yet we do not wish to squelch the passion of men like Daniel," a cadet who has vowed to "impact the lives of 200 men with the Gospel" before he graduates, Darren Lindblom wrote.

In a postscript, they said, "We respectfully request that you not share this letter publicly. Due to the lawsuit recently filed, the contents of this letter are confidential."

A spokesman for the Air Force Academy said the Navigators are one of 19 outside religious groups -- including Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic and Mormon organizations -- that hold voluntary meetings on Mondays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in a program known as SPIRE, for Special Program in Religious Education.

The groups are invited on campus at the request of cadets, and each is assigned a room, but only for that 90-minute period once a week, said the spokesman, John Van Winkle. "They can't just use the room whenever they want. That would be a violation of the memorandum of agreement they have to sign," he said.

Asked about the Lindbloms' assertion that they recently were given a classroom to "meet with cadets at any time during the day," Van Winkle said he would check. He called back to amend his statement, saying the academy's chaplains had set aside an extra room that any SPIRE group could use for counseling cadets at other times.

Weinstein said the academy was "furiously spinning." He said he had been told by people on campus, whom he declined to identify, that the room was Fairchild Hall 2D11, in the academy's main classroom building, and that only the Navigators have been using it. Van Winkle said he did not know the room number or which other groups had used it.

The Rev. MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran chaplain who resigned in June over the religious climate at the academy, said the Navigators "used to have an informal agreement that they could meet cadets in the library." But because that location was "too visible," she said, they were told this year not to use it anymore.

Morton said the SPIRE program, which is limited to a few hours a week, should not be confused with the Lindbloms' efforts to be in continual contact with cadets throughout the week. "This Navigator thing is a whole different thing," she said.

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