Just a few years ago, the Air Force Academy was considered such an evangelical hothouse that the place got sued for its alleged discrimination against non-Christians. Today, the Academy is boasting of its thriving pagan community...and its friendliness towards spell-casters.
In a press release issued Thursday, the Academy features Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier (pictured), "the lay leader for the Academy's Earth-Centered Spirituality community, which includes Wiccans and Pagans from various traditions." (It's part of a larger effort by the school to promote an image of tolerance.)
During an inter-faith discussion group, the release notes, one cadet asked Longcrier "whether Wiccans or Pagans practiced ‘black magic.'"
Sergeant Longcrier responded by citing the Wiccan credo, or Rede: "An it harm none, do what ye will." That would seem to preclude harmful spellcraft.
However, the Rede "would not apply to a battlefield," according to the Academy release. Which gives new meaning to the term "magic missile."
Two other unnamed pagan cadets offered a spirited defense of the power of magic.
"If I put out a healing spell - say, I wanted to heal you from pizza poisoning - if it doesn't work for you, but it works for somebody else, does that mean it didn't work?" one cadet asked.
"But also keep in mind that magic doesn't necessarily mean miracles," another said. "Say you have cancer, and someone does a healing spell for you. It doesn't mean the cancer disappears overnight. It could mean your doctor thinks up a different treatment."
This would be an unusual conversation at any military institution. But considering the Academy had "55 complaints of religious discrimination" against non-Christians between 2001 and 2005, it's close to miraculous - er, magical. According to according to CNN, all "9,000 cadets and faculty and staff members are now required to take a 50-minute course on religious sensitivity."
But apparently, the pagan-Christian tension hasn't been completely deflated at the Academy. Earlier this year, the Academy set aside an area for a "pagan circle" in the woods nearby campus. But before it could be officially dedicated, a large wooden cross was planted in the middle. Longcrier called it a "hate crime."
This post originally appeared on Wired's Danger Room. Wired.com has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.