Senator Wants To Know Why Air Force Has Problems with Bible Verses

A Texas lawmaker is asking for a detailed report from the Air Force over revelations that a “Just War Theory” class was suspended because it included passages from the Bible.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley expressing his concern over the suspension of the class taught at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“Suspending a course like this because of references to religious texts misrepresents the First Amendment,” Cornyn wrote in a letter provided to Fox News Radio. “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.”

The course had been taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base for more than 20 years and used scripture from both the Old and New Testaments to show missile launch officers that it can be moral to go to war.

But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said the course violated the Constitutional Separation of Church and State. The organization was created to “directly battle the far-right militant radical evangelical fundamentalists” in the military.

The MRFF filed a complaint last month on behalf of 31 missile launch officers – both instructors and students, Protestants and Catholics. The group threatened to file a class-action lawsuit had the Air Force not suspended the course.

But Cornyn said he believes the Air Force has a right to teach the course.

“Our military services, like our nation, are comprised of people representing all faiths,” Cornyn wrote. “However, that fact does not preclude military chaplains from teaching a course on just war theory – a theory that has been a part of moral philosophy and the law of war for centuries – merely because it has historically been predicated on religious texts.”

David Smith, the spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, said the main purpose of the class was to help missile launch officers understand that “what they are embarking on is very difficult and you have to have a certain amount of ethics about what you are doing to do that job.”

“In an effort to serve all faiths we try to introduce none in our briefings and our lectures,” Smith told Fox News Radio. “Once we heard there were concerns we looked at the course and said we could do better.”

Smith said the inclusion of the Bible verses was an “inappropriate approach” in a “pluralistic society.”

“The use of Bible passage and other elements was just inappropriate,” he said.

The Air Force denied that political correctness had anything to do with the suspension of the class.

 “The military is made up of people from all walks of life, all faiths,” Smith said. “It’s most appropriate to let folks practice their faith on their own and not try to introduce something else to them.”

Cornyn cautioned the Secretary of the Air Force to “ensure that a correct interpretation of the First Amendment is applied in resolving this situation” and asked for a detailed report.

 Senator Cornyn’s entire letter is posted below:

The Honorable Michael B. Donley

Department of the Air Force

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330

 

Dear Secretary Donley:

I write to express my concern regarding recent reports that the Department of the Air Force has suspended a course entitled “Christian Just War Theory.”  It is my understanding that this course, taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base, was suspended and is currently under review by Air Force officials after complaints were made that the curriculum referenced passages from the Bible.

As you may know, the reports indicate that a spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command has said that the main purpose of the course was to enable missile launch officers to understand that “what they are embarking on is very difficult and you have to have a certain amount of ethics about what you are doing to do that job.”  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 a part of moral philosophy and the law of war for centuries – merely because it has historically been predicated on religious texts.

Moreover, suspending a course like this because of references to religious texts misinterprets the First Amendment.  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.  The First Amendment is intended to guarantee an individual’s right to the free exercise of religion according to his or her conscience.  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.

With these concerns in mind, I strongly urge you to ensure that a correct interpretation of the First Amendment is applied in resolving this situation.  Moreover, I ask that you provide me with a detailed report on any actions taken by Air Force officials in response to these complaints. 

I appreciate your attention to this request.  Thank you for your service to the men and women of the United States Air Force and our nation.

 




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