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Cadet quits, cites overt religion at West Point

ALBANY, N.Y. — A cadet quitting West Point less than six months before graduation says he could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.

Blake Page announced his decision to quit the US Military Academy this week in a much-discussed online post that echoed the sentiments of soldiers and airmen at other military installations. The 24-year-old said that a determination earlier this semester that he could not become an officer due to clinical depression played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.

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Page criticized a culture where cadets stand silently for prayers, where nonreligious cadets were jokingly called ‘‘heathens’’ by instructors at basic training, and where one officer told him he’d never be a leader until he fills the hole in his heart. In announcing his resignation this week on The Huffington Post, he denounced ‘‘criminals’’ in the military who violate the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.

West Point officials on Wednesday disputed those assertions. Spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff said prayer is voluntary and noted the academy has a Secular Student Alliance club, where Page served as president.

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