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Coach takes it down at school's request

11/20/2004 - Air Force Falcons

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Longtime Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a Christian banner in the team's locker room a day after the academy's superintendent announced the school would do more to fight religious intolerance.

DeBerry agreed to remove the banner, which bore the
"Competitor's Creed," on Friday after officials said it was
inappropriate, academy spokesman Lt. Col. Laurent Fox said
Saturday.

The creed on the banner includes the lines "I am a Christian
first and last ... I a member of Team Jesus Christ." Fox said
DeBerry put the banner up Wednesday to encourage the team which has been having one of their worst seasons in recent years.

On Tuesday academy superintendent Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa
announced the school would do more religious tolerance training.
Some non-religious cadets reported on a survey that they felt
ostracized in a school where 90 percent of cadets are either
Protestant or Catholic. Others reported hearing religious slurs,
comments or jokes.

Outgoing Air Force Secretary James Roche issued a statement Friday backing the academy's effort.

"Our policy is clear. Tolerance of gender, racial, ethnic and
religious diversity is required at our Air Force," Roche said.

The training began Nov. 2 but The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported Saturday that some staffers are still not clear on what is and isn't allowed at the school, including where Bible studies may be conducted.

Citing an unnamed source who attended a briefing on the new
training program, the newspaper said that Commandant Brig. Gen.
Weida contradicted chaplain Michael Whittington during a briefing
by saying that Bible studies would be allowed in dormitories.

Fox said Saturday that Whittington said that he prefers that
Bible studies be held in the chapel where rooms are set aside for
that rather than in dorm common rooms, where cadets also study and
watch television. Fox said that during the meeting Weida was only
clarifying that Bible studies are still allowed in dorms.

In September, officials sent a memo to everyone at the school
explaining the government's e-mail policy after some staffers put
New Testament verses at the bottom of their e-mails. Some cadets
were admonished in March for using academy e-mail to encourage
other people to see "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's
movie about the crucifixion of Jesus.