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The cadet who claimed to be quitting West Point as a public protest over proselytizing and religious favoritism at the academy was already disqualified from receiving a commission because of clinical depression and anxiety.
Cadet Blake Page said West Point had told him he could graduate on time in 2013 with an academy degree, but he could not serve in the military.
“They said you’ve got a lot of opportunity, just stick with it. Just get out of here [as a graduate] and be a civilian,” Page told Military.com on Thursday. But Page said he wanted to bring attention to the influence of evangelical Christian faculty, staff and students at the historic school. He said he made his decision after talking through his choices and his views with counselors who work for the school.
He said he was also advised by Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to complete his degree program at West Point. Blake headed up a campus branch of the MRFF and also was president of the West Point Secular Student Alliance.
“When I first told him [I was going to quit] he said that’s stupid, why throw away your degree?” Page recalled. “He didn’t want me to do anything. He opposed my decision. But when I said I was going to do it anyway he said, okay.”
Blake, a former Army enlisted man, said he was interested in being an officer and did not care about a West Point degree. He said today that once he found he would not be commissioned there was no reason to stay on and graduate.
Blake submitted his resignation about a month ago, but wrote about it in a column that ran on Tuesday at The Huffington Post. That he was disqualified by reason of a medical diagnosis from receiving a commission was reported Wednesday by The Associated Press.
West Point spokesman Frank DeMaro confirmed Thursday that Page was meeting academic standards at the school, was not having any disciplinary problems, and would have graduated with his class on time. DeMaro also confirmed the school would not to seek reimbursement for the cost of Page’s education.
In an interview with Military.com on Tuesday Page said he began having some academic problems in his second year after his father committed suicide but made no mention of having been clinically diagnosed with depression and that it disqualified him from receiving a commission.
Page said he has no regrets about his decision because it is important to focus attention on the influence of religion at the school. West Point, as well as the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and the Naval Academy in Annapolis have been the subject of reports and investigations into evangelical Christian faculty and staff exercising undue influence on the campus and attempting to proselytize.
The schools and the Defense Department officially reject illegal proselytizing and religious favoritism.