A variety of news sources are now reporting the US Air Force ended a training class after an internet article belittled its religious content. Contrary to some assertions, this is actually not a big deal.
This much has been accurately reported: The Air Force training slides had Bible verses, and the course was led by a Chaplain. There was a public article. The Air Force pulled the course to “review it.”
Beyond that, much of the other reporting has been misrepresented or inaccurate.
The Air Force has suspended a training course for nuclear missile launch officers that used Bible passages and religious imagery to teach them about the ethics of war.
Unfortunately, that’s essentially a misrepresentation, likely because the conclusion was drawn solely from a copy of the slides used in the brief — sans notes or context. The course did not use Biblical citations to teach ethics. The ~40-slide PowerPoint presentation was an ethical discussion on the conduct of war, with emphasis on the application of nuclear weapons. (The title of the first seven slides is “Ethics;” the second section is “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare.”)
Michael Weinstein has repeatedly demonstrated an animosity toward the association of the US military with the Christian Bible. In 2009, his Military Religious Freedom Foundation opposed a Chaplain bringing Swahili Bibles to Iraq, despite the fact they were requested by third country nationals supporting the US military effort. The “religious freedom” organization opposed support for the religious freedom of US allies.
In 2007, Weinstein highly publicized a cropped photograph of a US Army trainee posing with his M-16 and his Bible — alongside a similarly photographed Hamas suicide bomber. (The photos can be seen here; the original article was written by Jason Leopold, currently an editor for TruthOut, for which Weinstein is a board member and fundraiser.) Weinstein’s MRFF is quoted saying “fundamentalist Christianity” in the US military “is starting to mirror Islamic fundamentalism.” (Tellingly, he never made similar statements about photos of Jewish Soldiers and their weapons, some of which can be seen here.)
Michael Weinstein recently published a letter “about the importance of supporting” a left-leaning website that is apparently suffering a financial shortfall. The letter was used in a fundraising push for the site, for which MRFF ally Jason Leopold is a “managing editor” and Weinstein himself is a board member. The message included an allusion to his oft-repeated conspiracy theory that Christians are trying to take over the US military (and the world): Continue reading →
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation recently “amended” its lawsuit against the Department of Defense. It made one substantive addition, saying Army Specialist Chalker had
sought relief for his claims by invoking an intra-army administrative process. He has exhausted this alternative remedy but has obtained no substantial relief.
The premise of the cryptically vague statement (that Chalker used the Army’s in-place grievance systems) was already included in the lawsuit, so it does not appear that an amendment was judicially required. The announcement of the changes to the lawsuit–which was only filed approximately three months earlier–did highlight the suit in the press for a short time.
The other changes, upon which the MRFF has focused attention, have been additions to the long list of allegations (unrelated to the primary complaint) of Christian endorsement in the US military, which founder Michael Weinstein says is a “national security threat:”
The military command and control of our nation’s nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional and laser-guided weapons has been unconstitutionally compromised by a tsunami of unbridled fundamentalist Christian exceptionalism, triumphalism and proselytizing. Continue reading →