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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. 21k

    funny how the god that did not stop the brutal murder of 6 million of his innocent chosen ones by others who were also made in his image during the Holocaust, is the same one that the people working the big red button are supposed to pray to. good luck with that. better off flipping a coin if they have some misgivings at the critical moment. no wonder palin wants to be president: she can start the end-of-days more easily after re-instating xtian brainwashing of our nuke warfare officers, once in office.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      funny that God did not stop the murder of Abel by Cain.Funny is not a word I would choose to use when talking about the Holocaust,Did You notice that from the horrors of the second world war, the chosen people of God were forged into a nation, that will never again be displaced?

      August 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • steve88

      Proof of a negative, that deities not doing A, does not disprove anything, (though the burden of proof of such a claim is still on the shoulders of the person making the claims). There is an invisible, intelligent, all? powerful, undetectable, tea kettle in orbit around Neptune. However the tea kettle did not stop murder of a person! Therefore.. the tea kettle does not exist... ? Not necessarily.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  2. Sean

    Republicans don't care if the environment gets destroyed. They think the world will end anyway cause its in the bible.

    Oh ya God put dinosaur bones in the earth 3000 years ago.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  3. kingofthenet

    Was Jesus Scared when the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell No!, Nether should you be

    August 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Dog Boy

      The Germans?
      Forget it, he's on a roll.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      where did you study history? just exactly how many "Germans "bombed pearl harbor?

      August 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • jellylee2020

      Jesus wasn't scared when nailed to a cross either. Let's have a go of that with you shall we?

      August 4, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Separation of Church and State

      And there's probably as much truth in Germans bombing Pearl Harbor as there is truth in the bible.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Dog Boy

      Not sure, but I think he was making a reference to "Animal House". You know, the scene where Bluto is trying to fire up the brothers to get even with the dean? Of course, I could be wrong.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @separation
      Where did that bit of wisdom come from?
      Basic writing skills ,used in proper context ,the word is Bible.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  4. msapril

    I wonder what moral code we WILL apply to nuclear weapons. There definitely needs to be one. Morality and nuclear weapons must, necessarily, go together. Would we rather trust the Koran? hhmmm.. I think not. but I'm struggling to find even one single thing wrong with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. "do Unto others...." "Judge not lest you be judged." "Render unto Ceasar.,..." That whole sacrificing yourself to pay the debt for those who didn't deserve it. Yeah, I'm thinking that's the kind of morality that should be taught to people who control nuclear weapons.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • CrownRoyal

      It is. But the leftists don't want to talk about it. They have an agenda to fill.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • steve88

      Ya don't need the bible to teach ethics. (or any other holy book). Ideas can be taught regardless of religious overtones. (Not that all ideas in a holy book are bad, many are good because they existed prior to such holy scriptures, and may sometimes be found in other cultures. ie the Golden rule as be around longer than the bible itself. Ideas are just that, Ideas. =)

      August 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • jellylee2020

      There's nothing wrong with the teaching of Jesus or Confucius or Buddah. But it's offensive to people who don't share your faith having your faith pushed on their face constantly and involuntarily.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Separation of Church and State

      If you're in the military, and your job is to push the button when told, you do NOT need a course on Christian ethics so you can decide whether or not to follow orders. If you don't like it, do something else with your life other than putting 300+ million Americans at risk. Deliver pizza, flip hamburgers, shine shoes, I don't care, just go do something else.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • 21k

      these people go thru extensive training and testing to make sure that no second-guessing goes on when the command to launch comes in. and if they were to hesitate, there is always the 9mm strapped to their commanding officer's waist to resolve the issue. it's not like out here, they don't fool around.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  5. JJ

    Bible's and America don't mix.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • msapril

      That's ridiculous. And definitely false.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • DGS

      Agreed

      August 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • DGS

      I should be clear. I agree with JJ.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • jellylee2020

      Freedom of religion doesn't give any one religion freedom to trample over others. People needs to understand boundaries. Within your own boundary you are free to do whatever as long as it is within your boundary and you are free to do whatever with each other as long as all party involved are adults who gave consents. Pushing your religion on others is offensive and outside your boundary, so please keep your religion to yourself.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Separation of Church and State

      He's correct. They don't mix.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • steve88

      That is ridiculously true, as religion is a kind of brainwashing upon the population, especially upon children. If you are not with us, and believe our book, then you are an evil nonbeliever with no morals.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  6. Two Witnesses

    Any consideration of ethics has to include history. Religion is history AND ethics, like it or not. Deal with it.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • GodPot

      I remember learning about Egytian god's in my world history class, that doesn't mean I was taught to worship Ra. There is a clear line between proselytizing and education. It's the difference between knowing something and being something. There is no reason to "teach" about Jesus to our soldiers, there are no ethics that cannot be taught without the bible.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  7. caw

    Definitely started after 1988 when I left Vandenberg AFB as a Launch Officer.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Captain Crunch

      So they didn't bother to tell you that Vandenberg was a test facility that did not launch missiles at enemies?

      August 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  8. Jeus Is Lord

    I am very grateful for our men and women in the armed services who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom of religion and way of life in this country. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless them, protect them and fill them with His Holy Spirit.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Separation of Church and State

      All kinds o' lords I suppose,

      Jesus, and many more. But I admit I never heard of your lord, Jeus.
      Nonetheless, just keep them and yours out of the military.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  9. hereticzero

    Must have started after I left the AF in 1979. I never heard of the program. We never got to see the pretty pictures.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  10. Jonathan

    The bible is just one big book of multiple choice written by a bunch of Bronze Age goat herders anyway.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Two Witnesses

      ...or it could be a dispensation given to humanity by extraterrestrials....you don't think we're alone in the vast universe do you?

      August 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • msapril

      Actually, it's 66 books, sometimes more or less depending on the version. written by many authors ranging from Kings to doctors. Get an education before you post stupidity on the internet.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Spy

      So true! I'm also wondering whether some of them might have been delusional. whatever!

      August 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • andrew

      you RIGHT! and God spoke to each one of them***and through them! Holy Spirit was in control of every word minute and second those goat herders where wrighting those words down on scrolls

      August 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Jonathan

      "depending on the version" being the key point there...hmm which stories do we like best...we'll call them our holy book. And really, kings and doctors from 2000 to 3000 years ago are supposed to be impressive?

      August 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  11. Joe908

    KILL EVERYONE!!!!!!! BURN THEM!!! BURN THEM WITH THE GREEK FIRE!!!!RUUUUUAAAAAAAAUAGHUAGHUAGH!!!!

    August 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  12. Bam bam

    There you go the US comparing themselves to Jesus warriors, so ignorant for murdering government that runs those puppets

    August 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  13. Tom Leykis

    Is is that difficult to keep the myths ouf of the military? I'm a USAFA grad and the godsquad there is out of control and fraught with mouth breathing losers. KEEP RELIGION OUT OF public policy, foreign policy, military policy, law and public schools. It's a myth, get over it.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Jeus Is Lord

      Jesus Christ is the answer. He is the ONLY way to the Father in Heaven. Believe, repent and be saved!

      August 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • MandoZink

      Come on man, get a hold of yerself! Just believe in Jesus and PUSH that DAMN button!

      August 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Onzz

      Great to see a comment from a fellow Grad. The very first thing I thought of when reading this was how upset I was to find so much religious influence at the Academy. The religious supporters fail to acknowledge the capacity of humans to understand morality without the need for religion. These things are not the same and to think otherwise is just ignorant. I would have been disgusted to have to attend this training which I'm sure was mandatory. Kudos to those who reported it.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  14. asdf

    The Air Force is just bent that they are largely irrelevant to our current conflicts and as the branch costing us the most money for little gain also had their budget cut the most.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • caw

      Not sure of your logic, but Air superiority has been critical in all of our recent wars. The Army can't move until the Air Force controls the skies.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  15. Kuma

    Religion was established as a means to control people in society and to brainwash them into doing things that would benifit the state as a way to generate revenue, nationhood, and to establish policies and guidence in context with. Clearly the United States supports Pro Christian belifes in military values, television, and many other facets within the government. Religion was the greatest lie ever told......Don't drink the political kool-aid as this stuff gets drank by the gallons everyday in Washington. Obama is not a Christian but claims to be as this is only a vasade to win the support of the majority of Christian Americans who are dumb enough to believe otherwise to include the auhinticity of his birth certificate. Don't believe everything you read about in the papers or whats on television.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • tifoso

      But we should believe *you*? What makes you an authority?

      August 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • msapril

      Uh no. Actually, religion wasn't established at all. It is simply mans attempt to understand the facts.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • steve88

      @Msapril, I actually agree with your statement, well technically anyways. (Though religions are a kind of brainwashing, in that a significant portion of the population will believe supernatural claims regarding morality, mysteries/ the unknown/ unexplained, life, and death; ie N Korea is an interesting example of a state with a kind of secular state religion with outstanding supernatural claims, which large numbers of the population believe..)

      August 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • DGS

      If, by 'understand the facts', you mean "well, we can't explain it, so god has a plan". Or "well, we don't know what's going on, but trying to understand means we're questioning god!"

      August 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  16. Callmeishmael

    The Air Force has, in a way, been a fundamentalist organization for awhile now. People should read a bit about what occurs at the Air Force academy. It's downright unnerving, espec. considering these are the people with their hands on our nukes. It wasn't always this way, however. I was an air force brat until my father retired in early 89. I had trouble convincing him of what was going on with the Christian indoctrination of AF officers these days. He had a hard time believing it. I suppose the Republican party isn't the only thing the Christian Right have manipulated in America.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • asdf

      Yep I am so glad that Dr. Strangelove and the Air Force leader that decides the communists are poisoning our body fluids with flouride and ends the world is complete fiction.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Tom Leykis

      I'm a USAFA grad and I can tell you the mouthbreathing, nutjob god squad is out in force there spreading their stupidity and myths. Myths and science are mutually exclusive.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Tom Leykis

      I'm curious to hear more about your direct experiences !

      Peace...

      August 4, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • caw

      I served as an Air Force Officer between 1987-1992 and I currently am a civilian in the Army and religion is prevalent, but it can be ignored. There are prayers before every social event and such but no one is playing god police.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  17. ColJim1956

    For those of you who want to have a serious discussion on this, you should know that the U.S. Military has a highly-developed ethics process, and allows it members to play prominent roles in organizations such as the International Society for Military Ethics (www.isme.org). As a retired colonel, I can tell you that the military can and must continue to educate its members in Just War Theory, the Law of Armed Conflict, and ethics. Without this kind of education, we are little more than an armed mob.

    Any ethical theorist of merit will acknowledge the contributions of Augustine. There are many other ethical antecedents, and we are well-served to discuss Aristotle. We are well served to discuss our own ethical failings and successes, as well as those of other nations (ancient and modern). Unfortunately, Mr. Michael Weinstein has been on an anti-religion in the Air Force (yes, specifically the Air Force) crusade for many years. You can check it out. He believes that any mention of religion (specifically Christianity) must be outlawed. Well, if one cannot say the word "St Augustine" in the discussion of ethics, then one is educating inadequately.

    Finally, do not forget that incidents such as Abu Ghraib, My-Lai, and the like happen because an officer in command failed to instill a sense of ethics in his subordinates. At least in the military, we continue to talk ethics. I wish some other sectors of our economy would give it a shot.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • steve88

      hmm i've always been curious of the ethics which play out in the "final hour". What happens if we are assured destruction by nuclear means, we would then strike back right? this is just mere retribution, with no possibility for any positive outcome of any party, is it not? I ask because it makes me wonder about loopholes similar to the event of September 26, 1983 .

      August 4, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • asdf

      Wow so I am sure you have a very tight ethical justification for Vietnam too huh? Better dead than red I suppose.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Tom Leykis

      Mike Weinstein is right, end of story. Keep your religion and bigotry to yourself.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Onzz

      Morality and religion aren't the same things Colonel. It's one thing to include a balanced review of religious theory and teaching to enhance the training. It's a completely different thing to have chaplains doing the training. This from a proud military supporter and proud USAFA grad. I appreciate your intellectual contribution and your knowledge, but you are missing the point. When there is no choice it's indoctrination, not training.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  18. saaaly

    anderson cooper and straight people don't mix

    August 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  19. JimmyAZ

    SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) is a fantastic organization! Check them out along with their founder Morris Dees. They are my number one charitable donation. Started putting all my church offering money into them 15 years ago!

    August 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  20. glab

    Onward Christian Soldiers! The Romans had it right. Let the christians and all of the other religions who judge and acuse fight each other to the death an leave the rest of us in peace.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Whatev...

      Yes, lets let all the atheist run the show like Stalin. Your "religion" of atheism should be included in the fighting as well.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • steve88

      @ Whatev... Usually atheism is not a religion as the position often posits no absolute claims. Not to say that some really do believe~ they can claim to know an unknowable claim is true or not with certainty. Furthermore an all powerful state, or dictator, or elites can often become the god of a society. Sometimes, they don't like competi_1tion. The best example of a cross between the two extremes is N. Korea.

      August 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.