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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. blueangel0313

    Christianity against war? I guess God and Satan haven't been at war for ages. lol. Regardless of what religion you are or if you are still lost, God goes by many names.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  2. David

    Ah yes, one more case of someone, (yes one) being offended and traumatized so we better make sure we do the PC thing and get rid of the whole program or at least the biblical references. I am so sick of America kicking God out of everything. And we wonder why this country is the way it is. I am tired of moral relativism. CNN is full of it. God Help Us. This country is going to Hell. God Help Us.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Wes

      I'm tired of god and religion being shoved down my throat by people who don't seem to think separation of church and state is a moral obligation. I'm tired of people think their beliefs should somehow be forced upon others who don't believe what they do.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • NJBob

      Yes, and hyper-religious conservatives are taking us there. Do you have a problem with complexity? It's not one-size-fits-all in life. Keep your obscene bible to yourself. I don't recognize its authority - and why should I be interested in the opinions of a few bronze age farmers and goat herders?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  3. NJBob

    Anyone who looks to the bible for lessons in ethics is a fool. Besides, that presentation was clear violation of the separation of church and state. At least someone had the sense to put an end to it.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  4. Stephen

    Ha, "we were literally blown away". So, literally speaking, did you explode? Or were you simply caught in hurricane force winds, as a result of this information?

    August 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  5. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Bu... but... I thought only the Quran is EVER used to justify violence and war...

    August 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  6. postedbygeorge

    Christianity is the epitome of pagan war. It is against anything that does not believe like it does. This class lifted the curtain and exposed the truth of Christianity. The Middle eastern religions are warmongers and don't like being exposed.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  7. Ron Leach

    What, do we suppose, is a chaplain to talk about, the weather?

    August 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  8. blueangel0313

    Looks like the devil is very busy these days. Trying to pull Christ out of everything. Really a sad day. Usually the last thing people call out to before they die is God.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • JeramieH

      > Usually the last thing people call out to before they die is God.

      Care to cite a source of this "fact"?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • KK Denver

      I don't want to be screaming GOD because some born again whacko is trying to bring about the rapture

      August 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • McJesus

      They also cry out for the big magic man in the sky when they get busy with a friend.... or a hand.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Joe

      the other thing people cry out is 'Oh $*%*" .. what's your point?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  9. Bob

    Gandi once said, "I like their Christ; it's the Christians I worry about". Christianity teaches forgiveness and seeking to live in peace. War is incompatabile with the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Bible has been used far more often to justify our own bad behavior that it has to transform it.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Hey Bob, Ghandi also argued in court, when he lived in South Africa, that little Indian children of color should not be treated the same African children of color. That they should be treated the same as European children.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  10. Chris Honry

    ""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.
    Look at the last name- Jewish. No wonder he hated it.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Jon O

      A lot of what they seem to have taught would have Old Testament origins, meaning as a Jew he probably wouldn't inherently against it.

      Some people just actually believe that religion has no place in policy, whether it be on the front end or operational end.

      You can teach ethics and morality without involving God. It is called logic.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • ValentineW

      Jesus was a jew. You are a bigot (just in case you hadn't realized it yet).

      August 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Michael

      Oh, horsecr*p. I have a feeling he is Catholic. It isn't the name that makes some a particular religion, it is their belief system.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  11. tmm77625

    Personally, I don't give a damn about the religious aspect, ethical aspect or any of that.

    I just want to make sure that the people at the switches of the nukes push the button when, and only when, ordered to do so, hopefully by a competent President, and hopefully never.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Kevin Logan

      Would a competent president even order such an act?

      August 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  12. Jim P.

    "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."

    As the Brits might say "Pull the other one, it has bells on it." If something goes on for twenty years and the managers don't know about it, they are incompetant or lying and in neither case should they hold positions of responsbility.

    Besides, they have forgotten that the current secret missions is to portray Christianity as the "relgion of peace" and Islam as the nasry evil 'war is coool because God wills it."

    August 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • tmm77625

      You know, it's just possible that for 19 years the briefing was nonreligious and really focused on ethics, and only recently did some screwball get in and "update" it. The article does a great job of making it sound like the same slide show with the same content has been used for 20 years, but that is pretty unlikely. Typical poor journalism by CNN.

      Based on what you see in the video, only a few slides seem to have anything religious on them. The rest look just like typical ethics slides. And, in a briefing that is intended to address ethical considerations for people who may be required to push a button and kill a few million people at a time, addressing religious conflicts in the weapons officer is a valid concern. Certainly listening to Mikey (who has his own agenda) it sounds like the slides are some sort of Christian propaganda, but the reader/viewer really doesn't get enough to make a determination.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  13. ron brooks

    Why did they not complain before? Because their careers were at stake in the military!!! Try to complain too much while in the military and see how far it gets you.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  14. Chain of Command

    I am confused by the statement of the Air Command Training Spokesman who said "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." I would assume that the airman they are training do not make any decisions. The decisions to use nuclear weapons are made by the Commander in Chief, and the airman they are training need to know nothing more than how to receive the order and how to turn the key.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • KK Denver

      it seems to me that the training might actually be to prompt an officer to push the button when ordered to do so even if his religious beliefs make him want to hesitate.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • tmm77625

      Yes, but if they are flying over Tehran and have been ordered to nuke the place, you can't have them having an ethical debate in their heads because they have just now considered the ethics involved. They DO make the decision of whether or not they push the button.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. Sam

    Organized religion and over population are the two most dangerous things human kind faces. We could do with out religion just fine and certainly not in the silos

    August 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Kevin Logan

      Organized Religion was created FOR the over population problem. Well, that and fluoride, chemtrails, vaccines and Republicans.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • tmm77625

      Sorry, Kevin, religion was around far earlier than any sort of overpopulation problem.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  16. David, CA

    Religion and most things don't mix. Just ask the Taliban; Afghanistan or American "christian" versions.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  17. GeorgeW

    What did the other 20 years' worth of students do? How could sane people endure this for so long? FINALLY! Yes! Keep gods out of the military and government. One day the preferred god may not be yours.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  18. SlayFalseGod

    "Revelation 19:11 Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior
    LOL !

    August 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  19. nathaniel

    So glad they cleared this up for me, because I really had no idea. (insert eye roll here)

    August 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  20. George Sales

    Isn't the Air Force Academy based at ground zero in Fundamentalist Christian territory? Is this just a coincidence?

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

      @ George Sales. No, the Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs, CO and Vandenberg is in California. Neither of which are in the Bible Belt. Check your facts before you make yourself look foolish.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Smilin' Jack

      Yes, Colorado Springs is home to many fundamentalist movements. Brad should check his facts before he makes himself look foolish.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • stormsun

      Brad: With all due respect, George is not wrong. He said nothing about the Bible Belt. He said the AFA is "at ground zero in Fundamentalist Christian territory," and a good argument could be made that he is right. I lived in Colorado in the late 1980s and though the 90s. During this time something like two dozen fundamentalist groups relocated their headquarters to Colorado Springs (where the Air Force Academy is), and encouraged as many of their congregations as possible to follow. Some of the biggest and most organized evangelical Christian groups in the country are based there. I used to listen to their radio broadcasts as they told their listeners that "the separation of church and state is a mistake that we must work to correct." And other equally subversive messages. Do a little homework for yourself, and you will quickly see what I mean about Colorado Springs. It used to be a really nice town.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bob

      @Brad–Colorado Springs is about 2.5 hour drive south from Fort Collins, which is certainly a fundy-influenced area. Vandenberg is in southern CA near Orange County, a not-very-progressive area of the state. George is pretty close to the mark.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:37 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.