Air Force Class suspended because of Bible verses
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a letter addressed to Michael Donley, secretary of the Air Force, asked why the course, “Christian Just War Theory,” was suspended on Aug. 3 from the curriculum at a course at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The mandatory training module had been taught for 20 years by chaplains and focused on St. Augustine’s “Just War Theory”. The ethics course is taught to Air Force officers before they are given authorization to launch nuclear weapons.
The course also included references to both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and explained how in some situations, going to war can be a moral decision.
Cornyn, in his letter which was published by Fox News, said, “Suspending a course like this because of references to religious texts misrepresents the First Amendment.”
The Texas Senator’s letter stated, “Although our Founding Fathers rightly included language in the Constitution that precludes the Federal government from establishing an official religion, this language does not, as some have argued, protect them from exposure to religious references.”
Freedom of conscience
“The First Amendment is intended to guarantee an individual’s right to the free exercise of religion according to his or her conscience,” Cornyn wrote in his letter. “The Air Force personnel who have taken this course for the past 20 years have been free to determine, according to their own consciences, whether they accept or reject the premises of just war theory.”
The course was suspended after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation issued a complaint, saying that it violates the Constitutional clause on the separation of church and state.
The MRFF complaint was filed last month under the names of 31 officers, among them Catholic and Protestant students and instructors. It stressed that if the course was not suspended, a class-action lawsuit would be filed.
David Smith, of the Air Education Training Command of the Air Force told Fox News, “In an effort to serve all faiths we try to introduce none in our briefings and our lectures. Once we heard there were concerns we looked at the course and said we could do better. The use of Bible passage and other elements was just inappropriate.”
However, Cornyn disagreed with Smith saying in his letter, “Our military services, like our nation, are comprised of people representing all faiths. However, that fact does not preclude military chaplains from teaching a course on just war theory – a theory that has been part of moral philosophy and the law of war for centuries – merely because it has historically been predicated on religious texts.”
Satisfied with military decision
MRFF president Mikey Weinstein told The Christian Post that he is satisfied with what the military did. “We’re very pleased that the Air Force did it. Had they not done that, we would have filed an immediate class action lawsuit in federal court to force their hand.”
The MRFF particularly was upset by a Bible verse in the course from the New Testament book of Revelations, chapter 19, verse 11 which says, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.”
David French, of The American Center for Law and Justice told The Christian Post the course did not violate the Constitution, and the MRFF complaint is “another attempt to cleanse American history of its religious realities.”
French told The Christian Post, “It’s about cleansing religion from the public square and building a completely secular society and military.”