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. doctore0

    The bible and the koran = Tribal tools for war; Nothing more, nothing less

    August 10, 2011 at 6:29 am |
  2. Martin T

    I was "indocrinated" into the military back during the 1970's, if you think that they are crazy religious today, you should have been around back then.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • William Demuth

      I was my freind, and they were sick beyond words.

      Crazy as the day was long

      August 10, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  3. Faith

    US Air Force needs to read the Bible. It'll do good to their brains.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • Commenter

      You need to take some anti-psychotic medication - it'll do good to your brain.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  4. Faith

    Filthy secularists are destroying the well-structured Christian nation America.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • Michael

      We are NOT a "Christian nation". The founding fathers may have been of the Christian faith, but we were not founded as a Christian nation.

      August 10, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • Martin T

      Faith, you are simply an idiot, plain and simple.

      August 10, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • Brain Logic

      "Faith", as in "the belief in something precisely because there is no evidence to prove it."

      August 10, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  5. Faith

    Americans should provide Afghans literacy and the Bibles. I don't think Muslims can really come to respect any hedonistic secular Americans. It's abhorrence to them.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • Brain Logic

      Faith, the fact is, they do, and the critical fact is, it's illegal. See "General Order 1A."

      August 10, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  6. Faith

    Secular Americans are stupid to pinpoint a few spots that sound non-christian while the whole structure is a Christian cathedral. One only needs to go back to the honest study on the entire US history and read the historic American writings to find out how thoroughly Christian the America has been, instead of quoting a few lines like Mormons do.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Brain Logic

      @Faith, be sure to read Jefferson's bible. Surely, you've heard of Thomas Jefferson, yes? He took your bible and removed all references to God and the supernatural. The original copy is archived in Washington, D.C. Do me a favor, though: Don't believe me. Look it up, and prove it to yourself. Also, look to the Commonwealth of Virginia's governmental website quoting Thomas Jefferson's first writings to separate church and state. Virginia was the state in question, one of the original 13 colonies. Then, look to Massachusetts, another colony, with a different Christian sect, whose Christianity led to the burning of "witches." In fact, each colony was a separate Protestant clone, intending to take over the whole of the "new world" and beat down the other clones. Were it not for a common enemy, the British, there would be no United in the United States. There would only be war between separate nation states, each claiming to hold the only true perspective on your dear Jesus Christ. That's the true history. Please, research it and learn for yourself what the truth really is. In fact, I dare you to have the courage to open your eyes.

      August 10, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  7. Faith

    Americans stole all the vocabs and ideals from the Christian Bible and from the Christian Britain. It's everywhere in the American do-cu-ments and anthems and the American history itself. Without Christianity and the Bible and the Christian British heritages, USA did not and cannot exist. Anti-christian Americans must leave the nation.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Commenter

      1) Take care of your own country first.

      2) The US opted out of Christian tyranny 235 years ago.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Faith

      @My countries survived because of Christianity just as USA and many others did. Christians fled unbiblical tyranny and created USA. USA is worthless if it is not Christian. Please get dissappeared with your blasphemies.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • Michael

      I think you need to pull your Christian head out of your nether regions and realize that not only have Christians made contributions to this great nation but so have those of every other religion. I served this country's military for 17 years and my son currently serves in the UNITED STATES Marines. I will be DAMNED if I am leaving!

      August 10, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • Ron

      Faith appears to be a Troll. Remember...don't feed the Troll.

      August 10, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  8. Jonathan

    "The United States of America is in no sense founded on the Christian religion" Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11, signed by John Adams(one of America's founding father's) in 1797. Sorry Christians, even one of the founding fathers shot down your idea of America being founded on Christianity over 200 years ago. Don't forget, our founding fathers mentioned separation of Church and State in the Establishment Clause. So why are they putting religion(which says to turn the other check and THOU SHALT NOT KILL) into something funded by the government when they Establishment Clause says that's a "no-no"?

    August 10, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  9. Faith

    America cannot escape from Christianity because every good thing she has is from the Bible. America has no intelligence apart from the Judeo-Christian values. Secular Americans should get kicked out of the nation. They are the illegals in USA.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Jonathan

      Look up Treaty with Tripoli and read Article 11.
      "Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      That's what it reads. This is signed by John Adams, who, if you do another quick Google search, is one of America's founding fathers. You may want to learn some American History, then you won't look so ignorant. Maybe people that don't know America's history should be illegals(idiots like you, Faith).

      August 10, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • Faith

      Jonathan, are you stupid? Read all American historic writings except your favorite fews – they are all Christian, nothing but Christian, the whole Christian. You guys have no brains apart from the Christian heritage.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • Martin T

      Faith, what rock, I mean, Nation, are you from? Or should I ask what planet are you from?

      August 10, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • Brain Logic

      @Faith, please don't go sucking the Jews into your nonsense. Christian extremists want to claim some connection with God's chosen people, at the same time as they accuse the Jews of killing Christ. Stand on your own two wobbly feet, and fall, as you must, but do it alone!

      August 10, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  10. Bradley

    Everyone should be outraged by these reports: Christians and non-Christians. This "ethics" training in these reports is offensive and academically misguided at best, but is more likely manipulative and deceptive in its use of Christianity, the Bible and and Just War Theory.

    Naming Jesus as a "mighty warrior" to justify military action is absurd, and they simply ignore a majority of Just War Theory in order to make it applicable to nuclear war.

    Unfortunately, we've actually come to expect these kinds of uses of the Bible from certain evangelical Christian groups and right-wing politicians. To have it used in military training is simply disgusting and frightening.

    Note that it was a group of protestants and Catholics that actually brought these presentations to the attention of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and ultimately truthout.org. Thanks to these three groups for shedding light on this "training."

    You can actually download the ppt slideshow from the nuclear ethics training at truthout.org.

    August 10, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Brain Logic

      Well said, and well done!

      August 10, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Frogist

      I second that, Brain Logic. Well said indeed, Bradley! And thanks for the info.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  11. wondering

    ==============@ REALLITY: ===========I know that you may not care, or believe this, and that's OK with me, you may choose to believe as you wish I'm not going argue with you and call you a bunch of silly names or condem you, and hope you will do me the same favor. But I believe that when God wrote the decalogue in stone, it wasn't because the ppl didn't know what was right and wrong, but because, (especialy the first 4) that these laws were unchangeable. (Hense: written in stone)

    August 10, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • even more wondering

      Then why didn't god write it in bronze? It would have lasted a lot longer.

      And if the first four are so special, why didn't he call that out. And if he really wanted to be clear about things, why doesn't everyone agree on what the actual ten commandments are (different denominations have different lists). And what about the other 600+ commandments that god gave out?

      August 10, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Martin T

      Actually, Wondering, the ten commandments aren't laws at all, they are for the most part, nothing more than religious BS that if read carefully, you will find that they don't offer anything to society at all. The couple that may be seen as "laws" are just common sense things that have been in the basis of man's laws for much longer than the bible.

      August 10, 2011 at 5:03 am |
    • Frogist

      @wondering: I think that's a fair argument to make. And fairly rebutted by "even more wondering". I will add that if God agreed with the Book of the Dead, why didn't God simply make reference to it instead of writing another set of rules again adding to the confusion. Just sticking with the one would have been much simpler, ne?

      August 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  12. 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."

    August 9, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • Peace

      Interesting ... In fact that the law are provided to hold peace between human and God, human and others. It is a golden rule. For peace and joyful love. Jerusalem = YHWH king of peace.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Martin T

      Well Said. I would like to add that nearly EVERYTHING in the Christian religion was "borrowed" from other religions.

      August 10, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  13. Ron

    I'm not surprised because Evangels have been wanting to take over everything for decades now.
    This whole situation is simply disgusting. If any other religions texts were being taught, conservative, evangels would be screaming, and up in arms. Personally, I consider the evangel Christian sect to be a religious terrorist group. This particular sect of Christianity is pro theocracy and anti-Democracy.

    August 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  14. merri

    If it was ANY other religions' texts they would be bouncing off the walls howling mad! I am a USAF veteran Sgt, E-3, 1974-79, and I am freakin' outraged. This stuff contravened everything I was taught in when I was in about the separation of forces – separation of church and state, entirely.

    August 9, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  15. Bo

    By the way! I forgot to mention that the words "Golden Rule" are not found in the Bible, only the principle.

    August 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  16. Bo

    Most of the texts mention are basicly ethics, but useing these passages from the Bible isn't necessary, there are pleny of other sroces that can be used. If I were in a class like this I wouldn't want the Quran used so why should I expect the Bible to be used.

    August 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  17. Reality

    Hmmm, Mikey W is the president of the non-profit Military Religious Freedom Foundation and therefore must file an IRS Form 990. This report then becomes part of the public record. Said foundation must report donations, salaries, expenses etc. on this form. And Mikey W's salary for 2008 was ? And the donations were?????

    As per Form 990, Mikey W's salary for 2008 was $252,485. Total donations made to his foundation for 2008 were $545,434. Non-profit??? Hmmmm????????

    from: guidestar.org

    And the US taxpayers paid for his law degree while he was in the Air Force. We should send him a bill !!!

    August 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Bradley

      Not sure why this is relevant. You've caught the wrong story. Mikey W. with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is who originally took the story to truthout.org. He is just as outraged as you are with these reports.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Reality

      Is Mickey W's "outrage" worth $252,485/yr?

      August 10, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • Brain Logic

      As I understand it, MRFF was founded in 2005, and Mikey's family lived off their savings, the first several years, nearly going bankrupt in the process. 2008 allowed him to catch up and, at the same time, pick up steam by hiring some help. You quote 2008 tax info. What was in the 2010 data?

      August 10, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Reality

      Being a lawyer, Mickey was not hurting for money. And he probably is getting an Air Force pension plus VA benefits.

      His "non-profit" Form 990 for 2010 has not been filed or has not been downloaded to the guidestar.org site as of yet.

      For 2009, Mickey W's paid himself $296,232/yr out of the donations to his group of $501,855. No wonder so many go into the "non-profit" business!!!

      August 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  18. Geekalot

    They need to cut all the overtly religious content. Period. Stick to the golden rule. You can't really go wrong with it. And some version of it can be found in every religious movement.

    Of course, for the military this might mean blow others up as you would have them blow you up 😉
    (that was snark for all you block-headed literalists out there!)

    August 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Al


      Who Would Jesus Bomb?

      I've seen the t-shirt

      August 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  19. John Richardson

    This is a true scandal.

    August 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Keith

      Really, I think a true scandal is packing a helicopter with so many SEALs. Then the President doesn't even have flags lowered to half-staff. Probably shot down with a shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile smuggled out of Libya. Being a hypocrite and allowing a slaughter in Syria. Now that's a true scandal.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • John Richardson

      How often are flags lowered to half staff when soldiers die in war? The flag would have been at half staff since 2002 if this practice were anything like the norm. Perhaps not a bad idea. But claiming scandal in just this one case???

      How many SEALs were in the helicopters in the Bin Laden raid? Was that a scandal?

      There may or may not be a military response to the Syrian outrages that will actually do more harm than good and it is just barely conceivable that involving the US in a fourth war in a fourth Muslim land would not be fiscal and strategic suicide. Hanging back for now is not a scandal.

      No, you're just a tiresomely rabid anti-Obama-ite.

      Now, back to the real scandal ...

      August 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Keith

      There sure wasn't 21 on one chopper in the UBL raid. Who ever gave the order to put that many on one slow-moving chopper with no manueverability should hang. I thought your guy was supposed to end these wars, not start an illegal one in Libya or Yemen, Pakistan. This man is a farce. Guess the "one" gets a free pass from the media on this, though.

      August 9, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Brain Logic

      @Keith, use the logic your brain is trying to exhibit (given the benefit of the doubt): The OBL raid was secret, so that no one in the Pakistani government and darn few in the American government knew anything until it was over. This chopper crash killed a handful of Afghani soldiers. Therefore, the Afghanistan government was in on the raid. Therefore, a leak in intelligence could well have allowed our brave Seal Team 6 to be taken down while helpless in the air. There is where the media should be investigating and informing the populace.

      August 10, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  20. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    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.
    W T F!!!!!!!!

    August 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • gerald

      So was St. Augustine not a person? We can't have pictures of Christians in the government? Really? If you see the phrase "shall not" or "committ adultery" you contort your face and cry foul? Christian opinions and justifications can't be stated or they have to limit their speach to what you want to hear and the arguements that you want them to use? Really? America?

      August 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      If you don't see the issue then perhaps you need to take off your blinders.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      If they had a booklet full of Quran quotes, the cross humpers would be up in arms.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Anti, stop blaming the mumbo jumbo Catholic teachings on Jesus' teachings in the Bible. Saint Augustine is a man made saint by the Catholic church. Worshipping any man made saint violated the 1st and 2nd commandment of God's (see Exodus 20:3 and Exodus 20:4-6).

      Folks need to pick up their Bibles and READ Jesus letter to all of us (only found in the Bible).


      August 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • JF

      "If they had a booklet full of Quran quotes, the cross thumpers would be up in arms."

      You are correct sir.

      August 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Brain Logic

      @Heaven Sent, sounds like you are condemning a man, that is, St. Augustine, merely because a competing church gave him special honor - after his death, when he couldn't contest it. Is that what you consider fair?

      August 10, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Folks need to pick up their Bibles and READ Jesus letter to all of us (only found in the Bible).


      It is writings of ancient man and has no bearing or authority. If you want to subject yourself to writings of men and put faith in those men that is your choice. But to the real world people your book has no bearing.

      August 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
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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.