August 9th, 2011
05:14 PM ET
By Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The Air Force’s use of Christian religious messages goes beyond those used in briefings for missile launch officers, as reported by CNN last week, and extends to training for ROTC cadets.
In a lesson designed to teach the Air Force’s core values to ROTC cadets, Christian beliefs such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule are used as examples of ethical values, CNN has learned.
Slides go on to explain what each of them are, for example listing 7 of the Ten Commandments.
An Air Force ROTC instructor came forward with the slides to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group which tries to ensure religious freedom among the troops, after seeing a CNN report last Wednesday on Christian biblical references and saints’ pictures included in ethics briefings for missile launch officers.
“I felt extremely uncomfortable briefing some of these slides, deleted them, and added what I felt were more relevant examples,” the instructor said in an email to Mikey Weinstein, the foundation’s president.
The instructor, who wishes to not be named due to fear of backlash from the military, claims the lesson was provided by the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), the same unit that oversees the training of the missile launch officers.
David Smith, a spokesman for the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command, verified the ROTC ethics briefing and said a comprehensive review is underway "of training materials that address morals, ethics, core values and related character development issues to ensure appropriate and balanced use of all religious and secular source material."
Smith added the teaching of ethical issues must be done "in a religiously neutral way that assures we comply with the Constitution's Establishment Clause."
Last week, the Air Force suspended its ethics briefing for new missile launch officers after concerns were raised about the briefing's heavy focus on religion.
The Air Force says headquarters officials were not aware of the religious component of the ethics course, despite it being taught for nearly two decades by chaplains. The matter came to their attention they said when they received an inquiry by Truthout.org, an online publication that initially reported the story
The briefings for missile launch officers, taught for nearly 20 years by military chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, are intended to train Air Force personnel to consider the ethics and morality of launching nuclear weapons – the ultimate doomsday machine.
Many of the slides in the 43 page presentation use a Christian justification for war, displaying pictures of saints like Saint Augustine and using biblical references.
"Abraham organized an Army to rescue Lot," one slide read, referring to the story of the Hebrew patriarch and his nephew found in the book of Genesis.
"Revelation 19:11 Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior," another slide read.
At least group is not happy with the briefing’s suspension, and wants it re-instated.
“I can testify that there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution of the United States that disqualifies a presentation of St. Augustine's ‘just war theory,’ and related biblical references,” Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, wrote to the AETC Commander Gen. Edward Rice.
“ ‘Just war theory’ is taught at state institutions all across the nation-explicitly citing Augustine's contribution-and never has it been an issue," Donohue's letter continued. "Moreover, biblical passages are often cited when referencing the work of Rev. Martin Luther King. Should we similarly censor them?”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.