August 3rd, 2011
07:50 PM ET

Air Force: Bible and nukes don't mix

By, Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo, CNN

Washington (CNN)–The Air Force has suspended an ethics briefing for new missile launch officers after concerns were raised about the briefing's heavy focus on religion.

The briefing, taught for nearly 20 years by military chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is 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.

The Air Force halted the class last week after 31 missile launch officers reported the religious nature of the briefing to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group which tries to ensure religious freedom among the troops.

"There were several things that they found disgusting," Mikey Weinstein founder of the foundation said. "The first was the fact that there is actually a slide that makes it clear that they're trying to teach that, under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, war is a good thing."

Weinstein said his group had to act.

"We were literally blown away by what we saw on the slide presentation. And one of the first things I did was to contact some of the most senior leadership for the Air Force in the Pentagon and made it very clear that this has to stop immediately," Weinstein said.

The Air Force said 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 which initially reported the story.

Here is a link to the story and associated slides CNN obtained from Truthout.org.

"That is when we became aware of concerns about the course and our commander here reviewed the course and decided immediately that it was not appropriate for what we want to do and suspended using that briefing," David Smith, an Air Education Training Command spokesman said.

The briefing was meant to mimic an academic setting where concerns could be voiced, according to Smith who claims chaplains were used to oversee the briefing for that reason.

"A chaplain is not required to take action if concerns are voiced," Smith said.

A review is underway at the base to see if an ethics briefing is needed at all.

"Ethics discussions are an important part of professional military development and it is especially important for our airmen who are training to work with nuclear weapons because they have to make hard decisions," Smith said.  "We are looking to see if we need a briefing like this... but it will not be a religion based briefing."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Military • United States

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soundoff (1,189 Responses)
  1. kr

    Mikey Weinstein has allowed himself to be a tool of the devil by fighting everything that is about God and religion. Now as an old man, he will soon discover in the after life the real master he has been serving in this world.

    August 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • SilentThunderStorm

      So what you are saying, in short, is that Jesus is for stronger nuclear armament?

      Let's just be clear that you are arguing that God likes war, here... which is directly contradicted by the bible.

      If this is what they are using for ethics, then it isn't simply bad ethics, it's horrible theology.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  2. kr

    Even without mentioning the Bible, the just war theory, our moral foundations as a nation, and most of of our ethical practices were spearheaded by religious people. Without ethics and morality to guide us, our society and families will be in chaos as we see happening now.

    August 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  3. Joel

    Slightly ironic that the majority here seem to be almost solely focused on the discussion as to whether religion is evil and the world would be better off without it, while nukes are getting a free pass!

    August 24, 2011 at 3:37 am |
  4. Al C

    Religion is a remnant of our primitive consciousness. The sooner humans cast off this remant and actually see the amazing beauty and power in the universe as naturally occuring and not the work of some mythological figure(s), the better off we'll all be. Education is key. Ignorance kills. Religion is poison.

    August 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  5. William Buchanan

    It seams to me that we've been looking east every time religious fundamentalist or radical is mentioned, we often forget we have them on our doorstep. Christian fundamentalists have caused so much pain and suffering doing anything possible to hang on to power and get people to worship what they tell them and live their lives the way they are told. It's not going to be long before they bump up the nasty because more and more people are making their own choices, which don't include the bible. Nuclear weapons should never be used in the first place!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  6. Austin

    "We were literally blown away by what we saw on the slide presentation."

    Literally? Did they get nuked?

    August 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  7. mto from ma

    Mr. Weinstein was "LITERALLY blown away"? As in across the room? Halfway across the country? I really think he meant FIGURATIVELY, or better yet, just plain "blown away".

    August 14, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  8. Kuma

    In reply to steve88, Religion has been around for many years and was infact used as a control method to an extent to keep power over its people and as previously stated as a means to generate revenue. Don't get me wrong, Religion is a powerful tool as evident in todays wars as it's used in music lyrics, political speeches with religious overtones among other things. It's very much alive in the American populace in Washington D.C. As you had said in an earlier post that mind control is used in North Korea, point made and you are absolutley correct. I have nothing against people and their religions, but there are right wing nut jobs and religious fanatics that like to put their twist on everything in order to gain the trust and confidence in their select audience to instill falacious claims and belifes while trying to justify the means to their madness. Political leaders in a majority of countries use religion as a tool sad to say in order to win peoples votes during election or re-election while having a hidden agenda.

    As far as Obama's "Change" is concerned I have seen change but not for the better. Today's housing bubble has been bust and the Dow continues to fall in the financial market with little to no gains. Also the economic outlook for this country is on a decline due to governemnt over speending and supporting the wars in Afganistan and Iraq which cost the U.S tax payers billions to pay for. Now Congress wants to remodernize the Retirment system for the military which if it goes through will affect retires and active duty alike. This is a slap in the face for all those who have served their country. So where is the change?

    August 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  9. Concerned America

    It is about time we take a good look at religion both in politics, and in the military. At no time should the two paths ever cross. Ethics can be taught, and enforced without religion of any kind, and the mere fact this training film used the images it decided to use is wrong, and mileading. Good for them.

    August 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sorry America but as for me as an individual would trust any God fearing person of any religion rather than a person who has no belief in God existence rejecting any religion of the righteous paths.
      The only thing to be taken into concern is only to chose people bases their moderate mentality after being put to test for ever your fears were....!

      August 8, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  10. Muneef

    Why they don't mix;

    August 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  11. Muneef

    It is clear what the tyrants fear of;

    These pictures are the same pictures that Jewish people could get the
     Sympathy of the world for what they have suffered with Hitler and his army.
    But now they are doing the same crimes with the Palestinians
    Please try to send
    And cooperate to publish as much as possible


    August 8, 2011 at 11:24 am |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.