DENVER -- The Air Force Academy has set aside an outdoor worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and other Earth-centered believers, school officials said Monday.
A double circle of stones atop a hill on the campus near Colorado Springs has been designated for the group, which previously met indoors.
"Being with nature and connecting with it is kind of the whole point," said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, who sponsors the group and describes himself as a Pagan. "It will dramatically improve that atmosphere, the mindset and the actual connection."
The stones were moved to the hilltop last year because erosion threatened to make them unstable in their previous location near the visitors center. Crews arranged them in two concentric circles because they thought it would be a pleasant place for cadets to relax, Longcrier said.
When Longcrier and academy chaplains were looking for an outdoor worship space, they discovered one already existed in the form of the circles.
Lt. Col. William Ziegler, one of the academy's chaplains, said designating the space is part of the school's effort to foster religious tolerance and to defend the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.
"It's about our commitment as airmen to protect freedom and defend freedom. To me this is a freedom thing," he said.