This summer, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) scored a big victory, getting the Air Force to review all of its so-called "ethics" training. This decision by Air Force leadership was made after thirty-one Air Force officers decided to take a stand against what some officers had nicknamed the "Jesus Loves Nukes speech," part of the Air Force's missile launch officer training. These Air Force officers came to MRFF for help with getting this overtly Christian "ethics" training removed from the "Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare" class, a mandatory part of the first week of training for all officers in missile launch training at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
In late July, Truthout.org exposed the content of this training in an article titled "Air Force Cites New Testament, Ex-Nazi, to Train Officers on Ethics of Launching Nuclear Weapons." The Air Force immediately suspended the training.
David Smith, the spokesman for the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command, made the following statements to Fox News Radio explaining the Air Force's decision: "In an effort to serve all faiths, we try to introduce none in our briefings and our lectures. Once we heard there were concerns, we looked at the course and said we could do better," and, "The military is made up of people from all walks of life, all faiths. It's most appropriate to let folks practice their faith on their own and not try to introduce something else to them." Nobody could have a problem with this, right? Wrong.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, doesn't like the Air Force's decision, and has written the following letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.
The Honorable Michael B. Donley
Department of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330
Dear Secretary Donley:
I write to express my concern regarding recent reports that the Department of the Air Force has suspended a course entitled "Christian Just War Theory." It is my understanding that this course, taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base, was suspended and is currently under review by Air Force officials after complaints were made that the curriculum referenced passages from the Bible.
As you may know, the reports indicate that a spokesman for the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command has said that the main purpose of the course was to enable missile launch officers to understand that "what they are embarking on is very difficult and you have to have a certain amount of ethics about what you are doing to do that job." Our military services, like our nation, are comprised of people representing all faiths. However, that fact does not preclude military chaplains from teaching a course on just war theory -- a theory that has been a part of moral philosophy and the law of war for centuries -- merely because it has historically been predicated on religious texts.
Moreover, suspending a course like this because of references to religious texts misinterprets the First Amendment. Although our Founding Fathers rightly included language in the Constitution that precludes the Federal government from establishing an official religion, this language does not, as some have argued, protect them from exposure to religious references. The First Amendment is intended to guarantee an individual's right to the free exercise of religion according to his or her conscience. The Air Force personnel who have taken this course for the past 20 years have been free to determine, according to their own consciences, whether they accept or reject the premises of just war theory.
With these concerns in mind, I strongly urge you to ensure that a correct interpretation of the First Amendment is applied in resolving this situation. Moreover, I ask that you provide me with a detailed report on any actions taken by Air Force officials in response to these complaints.
I appreciate your attention to this request. Thank you for your service to the men and women of the United States Air Force and our nation.
Let's get something straight here: This isn't about a few Bible references. It's about slide after slide of Bible verses, as well as a slide presenting former Nazi and SS officer Werhner Von Braun not as a scientist, but as a moral authority promoting the Bible (for some reason, defenders of this training like Senator Cornyn keep leaving that pesky little detail out). The training quoted Von Braun, upon surrendering to American forces in 1945, saying: "We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured."
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