Suspending a course like this because of references to religious texts misinterprets the First Amendment. [The Constitution] does not, as some have argued, protect them from exposure to religious references.
(Some continue to use the word “misrepresents,” though the published letter says “misinterprets.”)
Michael Weinstein’s MRFF — which claims a Constitutional right to freedom “from” religion — will no doubt be along to defend its “victory” in its prior coercion of the Air Force. However, Senator Cornyn’s point is not only valid, its important.
As already noted, the course addressed a wide variety of potential objections to the use of nuclear weapons; religion was only one of them, and given the relative religiosity of the American culture, it is reasonable to expect.
The course also provided possible responses to those objections. For example, for those who might object to the use of nuclear weapons due to the number of casualties they inflict, the brief noted as many people died in the firebombing of Tokyo earlier in World War II. Likewise, to those who might have expressed a Christian reservation, it noted Christian Biblical references.
Though the MRFF didn’t mention it, for those who might have Jewish reservations, it made Jewish references as well.
Senator Cornyn rightly points out there is no expectation the military should purge itself of religious references. The mere presence of religious references is not the illegal, coercive act some are making it out to be.
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.
The same is true for every other reference in the course. The Christian references did not promote Christianity any more than the Jewish ones did Judaism. Those slides were no more used to “defend” the use of nuclear weapons than were the ones referencing Tokyo or von Braun.
It is important to note that a hypersensitivity to religion could result in a violation of the Constitutional protections of religious freedom, not the defense of it. If, for example, military members felt the Air Force’s perfunctory pulling of the course after a complaint had the effect of legitimizing that complaint — despite all the other factors involved – they might feel the military was, in effect, creating an environment “hostile” to the Christian faith.
What are the chances Michael Weinstein would defend those military members?
Also noted at the Religion Clause.