August 9th, 2011
05:14 PM ET

Air Force's use of Christian messages extends to ROTC

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?”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Military

soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. morris2196

    I greatly resent Bible verses being used to justify war. It is also too close to the “holy war” doctrine of the Muslim nuts. Jesus told us to spread the Gospel to non-believers, and go out of our way to make friends of them, not kill them.

    September 1, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  2. TonyK

    Actually not allowing this in the military helps Christians because in about 2200 AD moslems may be the majority demographic in the US how how would you liked to be forced to see examples from the Koran?

    September 1, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  3. Mychele

    Faith, this is not a Christian country. This is a country of freedom to believe as you wish, and unfortunately one that allows freely allows people to completely twist the good words of a fine prophet who preached compassion, love, acceptance and peace. Thank you but I'll stay in the country of my birth, this nation that I care about. If you want to live in a theocracy you are free to move to Vatican City or Saudi Arabia though.
    And what is this about Americans never invaded by villains? Odd choice of words. You might try reading some history too.

    August 31, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  4. BKS

    I can remember when I was in Boot Camp many years ago that we were forced to attend religious services on Sunday. We had only the choice of either Catholic or Protestent services but we HAD to attend one of them. I have never liked or approved of being forced to listen to Fairy tales and thatthat the saying I hear ever so often that there are no Atheists in a Foxhole?? Well I am here to tell you that there are plenty of non-religious, non-myth spouting people in foxholes.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Atheist Army Veteran


      August 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  5. Dan

    Faith, I am Christian and I don't believe in anything you're bringing to this discussion. I pity you.

    August 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  6. myweightinwords

    Unless we have insti-tuted some religious test for allowing only a certain faith group into the Air Force, which would be unconst-itutional, then religious teaching has no place in the training of Air Force personnel. Period. Full stop.

    I don't care what the men and women of uniform believe in their private lives. I do care about what would appear to be government endorsement of a particular brand of a particular religion, something we know is forbidden by our consti-tution.

    August 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Clovis

    I think we should ban religion in the military

    August 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  8. Faith

    America, before you become sicker with perversion, please bring decent freedom to Muslims, please. Don't collapse before you do that.

    August 11, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • Reality

      And the "red-neck" lady of many names continues to spout in her inanity!!

      August 11, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  9. Faith

    America must keep fighting and never back down until the last person on earth gets freedom, human rights and justice along with the Gospel message. That's the real American Dream come true, America's glory and mission.

    August 11, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • myweightinwords

      And...this has what to do with the article?

      August 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • george-in-arvada

      I heard this on the radio while on vacation! It applies to you and to others like you, Faith!

      "Ignorance is Not a Crime; You're free to Go!"

      August 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Dan

      We're not in a Holy Crusade here. America was founded by people escaping religious prosectution. Why should one religion's ideologies be compulsory to the public, much less the military? If you want a history lesson, those were our beginnings. Religion and war are a dangerous mix. I'm Christian, but I don't believe it should be forced on anyone to convert. Faith, you have a very narrow-minded view of the world.

      August 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  10. Beth

    Islam's jihad and St. Augustine's "Just War Theory" seems to be talking about the same thing.

    August 10, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  11. David Crosby

    I live around Colorado Springs and the large box churches and the Air Force Academy are one and the same..birds of a feather..If you aren't a new evangelical you'd better pack up any business you have with the Air Force and leave..

    August 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Faith

      David, really? How wonderful! America is alive. Loving my America forever – never forgetting the good others did.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:00 am |
  12. Frogist

    Anybody happen to notice the only objection being raised to restructring the ethics class material is by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League? A group that makes its name by attacking comedians, folk singers and tv shows? The same people who go on the war path because people say "Happy Holidays"? A guy who said of the Catholic child abuse scandal that it wasn't a pedophilia problem but a hom-ose-xual one? The guy who threatened an artist by saying "You're lucky I'm not like the Taliban, because you would lose more than your head"?
    That guy? I'm glad to be on the side he is not.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      True. If Bill Donohue disagrees with you, you're on the right side more often than not.


      August 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • J.W

      I consider myself fairly liberal but I will admit that I have never said happy holidays

      August 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      I consider myself fairly liberal but I will admit that I have never said happy holidays

      I am liberal on sociual issues and conservative on government. Believe it or not I still wish people Merry Christmas. : o

      August 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I have no doubt he was buggered by a priest, and enjoyed it.

      August 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Ron

      " I consider myself fairly liberal but I will admit that I have never said happy holidays"

      I do as there are 11 holidays during the month of December and Christmas isn't the only holiday. I know this doesn't have anything to do with the subject but simply wanted to say there is a reason why so many wish others Happy Holidays.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Buddy R

      Gee, dude, I'm not Catholic but I do know that the Catholic church teahes gay se_x is sin, se_x outside marriage is sin, and pedophilia is sin. So yeah, don't blame the Catholic church for what some gay "priest" did. It is obvious the gay man became a priest to get close to children. Pedophiles often do try to get jobs working around children.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Frogist

      @JW: Not that I necessarily want to start this discussion in August! LOL! But I say 'Merry Christmas' too. At least to those I know celebrate Christmas. Mostly it's 'Happy Holidays' because I generally can't tell what religion you are just by looking at you.

      August 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Faith

    US Air Force need to read the Bible to be rescued from the American secular naive-ness. It's cute but makes none win the war.

    August 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Some foriegn Jesus freak trying to drag America into the war of the idiots!

      August 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Faith

      Atheists are such simpletons they know nothing about America's significance in history.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Sophia

      "Atheists are such simpletons they know nothing about America's significance in history."

      The world is your mirror, the good you find in others, is in you too. The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.

      August 10, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Faith

      Sophia, I'm trying to help American atheists. Sometimes, all you need is being told objective facts plainly. Too many people on welfare.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • eidel

      I live in a republic, not a church

      August 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Dan

      Faith, war should be an objective mission, not a subjective one. When you bring religion into the picture, you create subjecttivity to whatever it is you're trying to accomplish in the first place. For example, we are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to provide social justice to their citizens. We're not trying to convert them. War driven by religion breeds extremism. Isn't that what we're fighting against? We are a free and democratic society. Just as there is no religion in school, there should be none in all other areas of public service, including our military.

      August 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • KatzKids

      So I guess you look at the two wars we're engaged in as "holy wars?" And support the military using rifle sights with biblical verses on them designed to kill? What about all the mainline Christians who follow Jesus's "love thy neighbor," "judge not," "Do unto others as you would have them do to you?" Doesn't welfare for the less fortunate fall under that admonition?

      Dominionists are NOT Christian. They hide behind the name, as you do, to preach hatred, fear & discrimination against all who don't accept your version of "righteousness." Look to yourself, your faith is false.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  14. Reality

    Many OT, NT and koran thu-mpers are actually thu-mping the rules and codes of the ancients like King Hammurabi and the Egyptians who wrote the Book of the Dead and who did NOT need revelations from angels or mountain voices to develop needed rules of conduct for us h-o-minids.

    "Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
    I have not reviled the God.
    I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
    I have not done what the God abominates . . .
    I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
    I have not caused anyone's suffering . . .
    I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
    I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
    I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
    I have not taken milk from a child's mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage...
    I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
    I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
    I have not kept cattle away from the God's property.
    I have not blocked the God at his processions."

    "The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

    Then there is this:

    "The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery." – The New Torah for Modern Minds

    August 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Buddy R

      Anti-theist always love to lie. Unfortunately for you, archeological evidence has indeed been found on Siani. Oooops. Atheists caught lying again!!!


      August 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Reality

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States are not atheists.

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

      August 11, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  15. Keith

    Using a work of mostly fiction that endorses genocide as an ethical guide for use of a weapon capable of genocide, Hmmm, yeah, that's not stupid!

    August 10, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Buddy R

      Errrrr....it is atheism that endorses genocide, not Christianity. Christianity teaches one to love , do good to, and pray for even one's enemies. Atheists have very different ethics. Consider Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, ect.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Buddy R: No doubt you've heard this before since you troll here often. But atheism only has one endorsement – the lack of belief in gods. Whatever moral questions one has must be answered by appealing to some other source. Therefore genocide is not endorsed by atheism.
      Also you wouldn't much thinkit fair if I thought every Christian's morality was the same as Anders Behring Breivik or Tim McVeigh, would you?

      August 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  16. Michael

    They don't need to balance religion throughout a training course, JUST DON'T REFERENCE ANY OF THEM, HOLY HELL HOW HARD IS THAT FOR THE AIR FORCE.

    August 10, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  17. William Demuth

    The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."
    "And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed."

    "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."

    "And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise." (Revelation 8:7-12 KJV)

    Do we REALLY want wackos who believe in this PUKE controlling weapons of mass destruction?

    August 10, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Michael

      They can believe whatever, is it insane? Yes. Just don't put it in the training.

      August 10, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  18. CW

    @ William Demuth A

    nd letting your group control them...now that is truly scary.

    Hmmmm let's see

    Let the military be guided with people that have "their own self guided beliefs and morals"


    Let the military be guided with people that have "their beliefs and morals shaped by God and the Bible"

    Seems very easy to me choose that the second choice is the only choice.

    August 10, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • SeanNJ

      And I'm very very happy that you don't get to make that decision.

      August 10, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • William Demuth


      You sir are indoctrinated.

      Giving nukes to people who believe nuclear war is inevitable is like giving a gun to a suicidal man.

      It is immoral, unethical, cruel and psycotic.

      Evangelical Christians are CULT members, with a LONG history of both mass murder AND mass suicide who have a fixation on an imminent battle between Bronze Age Super Heros that exists only in their imaginaion.

      I am quite sure you would see the risk in letting an extremist Muslim get near nuclear weapons.

      That means the only difference between us is you believe one God is a lie, and I believe they BOTH are.

      August 10, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Monty

      I'm with you there. Also it says that chaplains were teaching it. Also most ethics do fall under religious beliefs so taking religion out of ethics and morals would fall apart because how can you teach good ethics or good morals without having the religion in it because then morals could be anything

      August 10, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • William Demuth


      I have Labradors. They understand morality better than you., and they do NOT need Bronze Age Super Heros to understand it.

      Church dogma as a moral compass?

      I believe the term back in the 60's and 70's describing your belief was "Using a yardstick for lunatics"

      August 10, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • CW

      @ SeanNJ

      You say:

      And I'm very very happy that you don't get to make that decision.
      I say:

      Extremely glad you left-wingers and non believers aren't the only say as well.

      @ William Demuth,

      You say:

      You sir are indoctrinated.

      Giving nukes to people who believe nuclear war is inevitable is like giving a gun to a suicidal man.

      It is immoral, unethical, cruel and psycotic.

      Evangelical Christians are CULT members, with a LONG history of both mass murder AND mass suicide who have a fixation on an imminent battle between Bronze Age Super Heros that exists only in their imaginaion.

      I am quite sure you would see the risk in letting an extremist Muslim get near nuclear weapons.

      That means the only difference between us is you believe one God is a lie, and I believe they BOTH are.


      I say:

      indoctrinated?....let me rephrase...no I'm saved by the blood of Christ

      Second point:...yes its written that the world will come to an end....not you...nor anyone can stop that. try as you will but what the Lord has written has always came true and by the way if you have read its the "antichrist" that does this. Also your comment of it being immoral...man what an ox.ymor.on.

      Third point: Once again wrong again. Christians aren't a cult...we're a family of believers that gives way to a higher power. Saying that is like saying that Atheist's are a cult that are bent on worldly chaos. Truth be told there are a lot of atheists who are just good people who are afraid of the truth.

      Fourth point: I don't worry about that....When our Lord is ready for us to come home I'm ready. You never know the faith of the Antichrist could be muslim.

      Fifth point: You have a choice....Its your life...God won't force you.

      August 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • William Demuth


      I say again, your faith is forced on many everyday.

      As we speak some preacher is no doubt forcing the body of Christ into an Altar boys rear end.

      You and your cult be damned.

      August 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  19. SeanNJ

    Anyone want to wager that of the 7 commandments in the training course, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" wasn't one of them?

    August 10, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • William Demuth

      I wonder which one of the TWO lists they used.

      Thet aren't even consistent from one Bible book to the next.

      August 10, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Faith

      It means not to murder. You may kill enemy combatants and heinous criminals, alright. Don't be naive, Americans.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  20. William Demuth

    Another example!

    Christians want control of the military.

    About as terrifying an idea as ANYTHING one could concieve of.

    August 10, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Faith

      Christians should take control of USA like before and ship all atheists to North Korea.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Southern Christians tried, and we slaughtered them and freed their slaves

      Soon your turn will come. If we free your mind, or slaughter you shall be your call. Choose wisely.

      August 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Faith

      William, but Abraham Lincoln was Christian. Every American was "Christian" at that time and Canada was Christian. Do Americans read "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? William, what nation are you talking about? We're talking about USA. USA should deport all atheists to somewhere else.

      August 11, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • Faith

      Freeing slaves is exclusively Judeo-Christian idea, no one else's. In Britain, USA, everywhere Christians freed the oppressed. Atheists only want reduction of human population, nothing else. Atheists value nothing.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • Faith

      I don't really care if stupid atheists live in USA or not. Their opinions on Christians are so absurd I'm talking on their level so they'll discover how stupid they are. But, why are American atheists living in a Christian country when they can immigrate to atheistic countries? All nations where atheists rule are a pure living hell for all human beings. Americans are naive because USA was never invaded by villains.

      August 11, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • Tess

      William don't waste your time arguing with Faith, she obviously doesn't have many brain cells in her head and is very, very ignorant. Without Christianity she would not be able to make a logical decision on her own. She needs her religion to tell her what to do because she really can't do that on her own, too dim-witted. She isn't even smart enough to do her homework on Atheism before opening up her ignorant mouth on a public forum. I feel sorry for her; imagine beings so unintelligent you must depend on religious beliefs instead of forming your own.....

      August 12, 2011 at 3:18 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.