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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. maine liberal

    This reminds me of the scene in monty python "holy Grail" the Holy Hand grenade of Antioch

    August 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • tldixon

      that rabbit's dynamite!

      August 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying,
      'O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that, with it, Thou mayest blow
      Thine enemies to tiny bits in Thy mercy.'

      August 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Hypocrits

    We pray to God to protect our soldiers. Our enemies pray to the same God to protect them against us. Someone is being listened too. Could it be...everyone?

    August 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • JeramieH

      I liked the sign that had a picture of the Grim Reaper saying "I support everyone's troops".

      August 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  3. gary

    I guess the 6 th Commandment doesn't apply to the USA military. God is pretend, but I shiver when I hear people talk about God, then God Bless Our Troops. Why do they think their god would be nice to paid killers?

    August 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Will

      Killers not murders. The 6th commandment is thou shall not murder. Also some food for thought: If a terrorist is about to blow up a building and you have a chance to shoot him, wouldn't it be the same as murder if you let him kill of the innocents inside? By not shooting him? The world is a murky place.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  4. vel

    This is another excellent example of how Christians can't agree on what their god "really meant". We have JC the peaceful savior and JC the holy warrior killing all of those unbelievers. This is what you get by belieiving your imaginary friend is real.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Dubious Dissent

      Ignorance on display! You'd have a valid point if Jesus Christ were indeed presented in such a contradictory fashion.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  5. seter16

    Please KEEP RELIGION IN CHURCHES AND OUT OF PUBLIC!!!! OR PAY TAXES!!

    August 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Ummm....out of the Public. No

      Public is the public. No more ask Gays and Lesbians to keep themselves at home or any other part of society you do care for.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  6. GH

    I wonder if any of those 31 – those who are faithfully under oath to defend our nation (which btw their oath has "God" in it 6 times) – know that in 1956 the 84th CONGRESS passed a joint resolution by a vote of 99% to make our National Moto "In God we Trust." (*GASP!*)

    President Eisenhower signed the resolution into law! Law! Go figure. Let's sue him. Wait.. let's sue God for getting in our way!!

    August 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • seter16

      Yeah in other words it was forced down our throats. Some of us can think for ourselves and don't need to be told what to think.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • vel

      oooh, the gov't made our motto the "law". Well, dear, that was evidently because they thought that saying "god" would make those "godless commies" burst into flame if they said it. We never needed your god in the motto or the pledge during two world wars or anytime else. And the US military is full of those who beleive in your god, who don't believe in it or believe in another god altogether. They are patriotic people too, no matter your ignorant claims that only Christians can serve in the "correct" way. If you failed to notice, Christians were also complaining about this training, not only non-Christians. Again we see that Christians can't agree on what they believe either.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • CM

      That was a pointless argument!

      August 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Gumboz1953

      Yes, there is a saying, "in God we trust," and "one nation under God," but that's wishful thinking and, IMHO, blasphemy. For anybody who follows Christ, consider: Everything Jesus said to do, we are doing exactly the opposite. Mistreating the poor, ignoring the sick, bankrupting the most vulnerable, slapping more people in prisons than anywhere, culture of violence and cult of personality, killing innocents abroad, killing unborn children at home through abortion, killing born children everywhere through neglect and idiotic policies, and deciding for ourselves which "sins" are worse than others while refusing to remove the planks in our own eyes....Did I miss anything? Until "christians" sell all their goods and "follow him," serving the poor and sick and vulnerable, they should just STFU. I don't pretend to be a christian; I know I can't live up to those standards, and never met anybody who could, except the original. G'day.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • JeramieH

      > cult of personality

      Have you seen North Korea? Tell me where we have that here.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • GH

      Now, now, "dear" reach way way back to the Declaration of Independance... that pesky "God" was mentioned there... the Pledge of Allegiance, coinage, and has even left His mark on National landmarks in D.C. And Merry Christmas. Im sure you'll take that day off from work.... compliments of Him. 🙂

      August 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Gumboz1953

      JeramieH - North Korea has a cult of personality, as do many other countries. But they're not pretending to be Christian or some blessed favorite of God.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  7. Gumboz1953

    Never mind the religious aspect of this. . . what I can't get over (as a retired USAF officer) is why these launch officers are being taught ethics as part of their missile combat duties. Don't get me wrong, I have come to believe that nuclear war is totally immoral. But these are officers in the military - when they receive an order from the President to "turn keys," they need to obey the order. Not weigh the ethics of what they're doing. If they don't like that, they need to crosstrain into some other specialty, or resign.

    If the ethics briefings have to do with the normal Federal ethics rules, which we all had to learn - that's another story. But a judge advocate should be doing those briefings, not the chaplain.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • vel

      Unfortunately they weren't beign taught ethics, they were being given an excuse why it was okay to turn those keys. There was no idea of them considering what to do if they received the order, only that this would make them feel better and guarantee that they would do it.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • JeramieH

      That's what I thought too... it sounded more like a "ignore ethics" class – don't worry about what you're doing because the Bible has already said it's OK.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  8. SMS USAF

    Now you can not even stay God before you go out on patrol in a combat zone ..the biggest investigation I ever observed was when someone left a flyer that had the word of God on it while in Iraq,,, a 2 star General was sent out to a Forward Operation Base to oversee the investigation, WOW how far have we fallen
    So much for God and Country

    August 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • vel

      Nice lie there, Christian. Care to tell some more for your god?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Another SMS USAF

      In Iraq – leaving a personal religious note or an organized campaign is not a bright idea. I was at a location where that happened and it was a group trying to recruit local persons into christian beliefs. It may be the same location. I felt embarrassed. I am not about to serve a nation that is trying to spread religious beliefs. Let non-profits do that.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  9. Jessica

    The religious right has been trying for decades to make the military more "Christian" or at least their version of it. Stories abound of people in charge lecturing subordinates with bible passages and the such. Religion is a personal thing, keep it to yourself please.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  10. William Demuth

    Hey

    Somebody tell Jesus to get back to work, our stock market is collapsing as we speak, and all the futures point to ALLAH!

    August 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Somebody tell Jesus to get back to work, our stock market is collapsing as we speak, "

      We can't Willy , We can't.... only thing Obama left us with are jobs in the Government sector and a group of militant Atheist armed with the ACLU are barring Jesus from even getting a Application. ...

      🙁

      August 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mark from Middle River

      Actually I heard Jesus was deported by the INS,

      So tragic, we shall have to muddle along without him.

      Luckily my futures position shall make me weep all the way to the bank!

      August 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • GH

      Jesus preached Hope and Change. Guess who took his place. Don't blame Him now.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Yeah ... maybe deported him to China.

      Wonder if that is the reason they are growing by leaps and bound.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  11. I boned Paul, Mark, Luke & John

    No need to waste nukes on Bibles, just napalm them along with all Catholics and that will solve a lot of the problems in this world.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Yep... anyone we hate .... GOOD GRIEF !!! Everyone in society is hated by someone else in society .... Wanna share and stand under my napalm proof umbrella my Atheist brother ? 🙂

      August 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mark from Middle River

      Better to burn with an athiest then shelter with an indoctrinated zombie.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”Better to burn with an athiest then shelter with an indoctrinated zombie.”

      I would prefer to not have anyone burned or exterminated for their beliefs, be he or she a Atheist or a person of Faith.

      I guess that is the difference between you and me. 🙂

      August 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  12. Ronald Raygun

    praise the lord and pass the ammunition

    August 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  13. 2bits

    Religion always try to subvert the world to their views which is why organized religions should be banned worldwide.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • DC from NJ

      Amen!

      August 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  14. Bannister

    "There were several things that they found disgusting," Mikey Weinstein founder of the foundation said.

    Is it really any surprise that Jews find a Christian organization disgusting?

    August 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Gas many Jews have ya?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • meowser

      Since when is the Air Force a Christian organization?

      August 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Gumboz1953

      The Air Force is a "Christian" organization? REALLY?

      You better read the New Testament again; specifically , Jesus' teachings. I'll help - it's the RED text.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  15. Mortamus

    I love the way religion is forced to us and somehow it is in all faces of life.....what a waste of life...Life is so much more then religion and its stupid stores for the sheep.........it is much bigger then what they tell you much bigger....

    Religion has killed more people then any other cause......wars are fought over religion...people die every day for religion...what a supreme waste.............get real and dig into life and really see what it is all about...buy a telescope start there....such simple minds.....people who speak religion and climb behind it like it is real lol

    August 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • grayman

      Joseph Stalin was not a christian and he killed approx. 20 million people not in the name of religion. Jesus came to save man. God is clearly good, man is the one who messes up religion, politics and everything. I am not trying to make anyone mad or upset. I just believe Jesus is Lord and died to save all people, if they will accept His gift.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  16. Gabe

    This is hilarious. You get rid of God you get rid of why. No God, no problem.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  17. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Not the first time the United States Air Force Corporation got in trouble over religion. A couple of years ago they had a full blown DoD investigation at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs. Apparently, a large number of the instructors at the Academy were Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, as was the school Commandant, and open proselytizing was not uncommon. This went as far as giving lower Fit-Rep marks to those who were not Fundies among the Corps of Cadets.

    Lots of folks got reassigned as a result of that. Unfortunately, as this happened under the Bush Administration, it didn't get that much publicity. Now, don't get me wrong – I served as a Lay Leader aboard two different submarines. We had regular participation in our services by officers and enlisted personnel. We also had active religious support groups at our bases throughout the Navy. What we did not have was overt proselytizing by Evangelicals as part of our day-to-day operations and training evolutions. We did not need "moral training" associated with our Nuclear weapons because we were more aware of the destructive nature of our capabilities, as opposed to folks who checked in for their shift in a bunker in the middle of the desert. We were also more aware that within 5 minutes of our launching, the folks who didn't like us would figure out where we had been and send bad people (to quote the Governator) to get us. Given that, I think that as a whole, submarine crews were far more prepared to meet our Maker than the Air Force members were. To us, war was much more of a possibility than someone in an air-conditioned bunker could ever consider.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  18. Asklepios417

    "Abraham organized an Army to rescue Lot," one slide read..."

    That's great. Lets have a national defense policy based on fairy tales.

    The consensus of archaeology is that these tales of the Patriarchs are completely mythological.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      Another slide read, "We also need accurate topographical maps to prepare our troops to manoever in unfamiliar territory.

      After all, it was the lack of such preparation that caused Jack and Jill, on a water procurement mission, to tumble down a hill and break their crowns."

      August 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>"That's great. Lets have a national defense policy based on fairy tales."

      Hmm.... And we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan for...

      Good grief, we do not know who or what really happened to the USS Maine.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      And don't forget, God created Jack and Jill, not Jack and Phil.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  19. ModMn

    So who would Jesus nuke first? Trying to justify nuclear war in the name of Jesus is staright out of 1984.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Chase

      Jesus was a fair man, he would nuke everyone equally.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      He'd nuke Satan, totally.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

      ...and that was right out of John 8:7 🙂

      August 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      "So who would Jesus nuke first?"

      He'd probably wipe out those wicked fig trees once and for all.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  20. bozon

    2000 years of the christian/catholic church running riot w/ wars and crusades should remind us that religion has no place in politics, war, or the military.. Zealotry in any form leads to death and destruction..

    August 4, 2011 at 3:29 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.