ANNAPOLIS, Md. â€” On Sundays at the Naval Academy Chapel, at a few minutes past 11 a.m., the choir stops singing and a color guard carrying the academy flag and the American flag strides up the aisle.
Below a cobalt blue stained-glass window of Jesus, one midshipman dips the academy flag before the altar cross, and the other dips the American flag.
The dipping of the flag has begun this nondenominational Protestant service at the Naval Academy for 40 years. But in civilian life, the American flag is never to be dipped, and the Navy says, it is not dipped at any other worship service at the academy or at any other installation.
In October, after the academyâ€™s superintendent, Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, raised questions about the ritual with the academy chaplains, they suspended the flag-dipping because â€œthere was a concern over teaching midshipmen something not practiced anywhere in the fleet,â€ the academyâ€™s spokesman, Cmdr. Ed Austin, said in an e-mail message.
But the pause lasted only a few months. Now the flags are being dipped again, and the superintendent, who has held his post since June, has stopped attending the 11 a.m. service. Evangelical Christians and their critics alike assert that the academy had to reconsider after an outcry by congregants and alumni.