Republican Lawmakers Are Wrong to Say U.S. Air Force is ‘Hostile’ to Religion

According to that great bastion of honest and impartial reporting, FOX News has revealed that 66 Republicans have signed a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta alleging that the U.S. Air Force is “hostile” to religion.

The letter cites several incidents which they claims shows that the Air Force is taking separation of church and state “too far” — how you can take such a concept too far is a little beyond me…

The letter accuses the Air Force of bowing to pressure from “outside groups” (I guess they’re talking about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.) The letter was drafted by Diane Black (Tennessee), Randy Forbes (Virginia), and Todd Akin (Missouri).

Leon Panetta (via ABC)

So what are these incidents? What heinous crimes against basic decency are being brought to Leon Panetta’s attention?

  • A decision to remove a Latin reference to “God” from a logo/motto for the Rapid Capabilities Office
  • A decision to stop requiring staff to check for Bibles in Air Force Inn rooms
  • The removal of a document from a distance-learning course for Squadron Officer School that suggested chapel attendance is a sign of strong leadership
  • The suspension of an ethics course because the material included Bible passages

First of all, “god” may have been removed from the motto, but it wasn’t exactly improved. The original Latin phrase was “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.” It was then changed to say, “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money.” Leaving aside the obvious complaints about the idea of miracles, the updated phrase still seems more than a little crass and insensitive — especially during a recession.

The second point is a welcome step but one that doesn’t go far enough. While the command to check for Bibles in hotel rooms has been removed from the checklist, it is not mandatory to remove any Bibles that are found, nor is it against the rules to place one there. It has merely changed from mandatory to optional. No doubt there are still Air Force officers who do still place Bibles in the rooms.

Third, and I think the most offensive of the points raised, is the notion that to make yourself an example as a strong leader, you must attend church. The wording of the phrase which is removed from the document is a little more barbed than that, but it is suggestive:

If you attend chapel regularly, both officers and Airmen are likely to follow this example. If you are morally lax in your personal life, a general moral indifference within the command can be expected.

To me this just seems like a re-wording of the utterly obnoxious idea that a person without faith has no morality, and cannot even live a decent life let alone effectively lead in a combat situation. Of course the phrasing is sufficiently confusing as to allow its inclusion in the first place, but one hopes the training manual will be better for its expulsion. It was a challenge by The Military Religious Freedom Foundation in March that led to its removal. They successfully argued that the line “creates the inescapable impression that regular church attendance is a requirement for commissioned Air Force officers in order to demonstrate positive morals to subordinates.”

Finally the suspension of an ethics course. This was a blatant breach of the separation of church and state. The course was titled “Christian Just War Theory” and had been taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base for over 20 years. The course used Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments to show missile launch officers that it can be moral to go to war.

Following a complaint by The Military Religious Freedom Foundation on behalf of 31 plaintiffs, the course was suspended pending a review. I do not object to an ethics course being in existence. Clearly there is a need to discuss ethical issues if you’re training people to make decisions which could cost people their lives, but the removal of religious-based ethics is an absolute must.

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.

@markdturner

  • CoboWowbo

    A commenter in the linked article stated the follow comment perfectly:
    “The GOP and organized religion can go f**k themselves.  How’s that for hostile?”

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    Isn’t it cute how they say “religion” when they really mean “evangelical Christianity”? It shows how blind to their own privilege they are.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

    Imagine how offended they would be if they heard about a class called “Islamic Just War Theory.”

  • Alex

    Typical majority douchebag privilege.

  • http://www.christianfighterpilot.com/blog JD

    Given the weakness of your responses, it seems you have little insight into the US military. 

    Your rebuttals aren’t exactly well thought out.  You admit the Latin word for “god” was removed, but take issue only with the economic tone of the “joke.”  Removing something from such a checklist, as in the hotel Bibles, will have the effect of removing them, because that’s how checklists work.

    The comment about chapel attendance was taken woefully out of context, and it (the correspondence course) was due to be removed anyway to match the residence course, where it had already been removed, so it was moot.

    Your characterization of the Vandenberg nuke course is ludicrous.  The class was the last one given before the students had to sign their papers saying they’d push the big red button if the President said so.  It addressed a wide variety of possible objections to nuclear weapons, including non-religious ones.  It didn’t cross your mind that nuclear launch officers might want to consider their religious values before they signed such a statement?  Genius.

    This has all been discussed before.
    http://christianfighterpilot.com/blog/2012/06/25/congressmen-call-air-force-hostile-to-religion-again/

    • phantomreader42

       You are a lying sociopath and a traitor.  Nothing you say is worth anything.  You do not serve this country, you never have, you serve only your grotesquely bloated ego, which you call “jesus”. 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        Wow phantom. Really? I’m pretty sure that you’ve never met JD before have you? So how can you make those claims without knowing the details of what JD believes? 

        It looks like the “reason” being taught in atheist circles has fallen on deaf ears with you eh?

        • phantomreader42

           Well, momma j, you’ve damn fucking sure never met ME before, and yet you feel qualified to babble nonsense about me.  Funny how you can’t be bothered to live by the standards you fraudulently demand others follow…

          Actually, I’ve encountered JD’s asshattery online before.  He’s well-known for being a lying sack of shit, pissing on his oath of office to promote his sick death cult, and abusing the Uniform Code of Military Justice to bully atheist soldiers and deny them the opportunity to defend themselves, all while violating that same code himself and claiming the invisible man in the sky gives him (and ONLY him) the right to do so.  JD’s a real piece of shit, and the fact that you leap to his defense shows that you are also a piece of shit. 

    • rlrose328

      I’m sorry, JD… their religious values mean nothing to me, the country, the President, or the people who will be killed should have have to launch a nuclear attack.  I don’t care if they are torn.  They signed up to do a job and that is the job they should do, bar religious beliefs or political beliefs.  They shouldn’t have joined the military or gone into a branch that required nuking if the had any clue their religious beliefs might be challenged.

      Signed, a former military brat liberal who had a helluva Dad in the AF… as conservative as he was, he was proud that he fought for my right to tell you you’re full of BS.

      • minnie

        Numbers 31:17-18Now therefore, KILL every male among the little ones, and Kill every woman who is not a virgin. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves. Christianity should not be in the military since their god told soldiers to rape little girls in war time.

  • phantomreader42

    Not bending over backwards to give special privileges to your cult is NOT persecution.  The more whiny, dishonest, stupid christians insist it is, the more they make it obvious that christianity is a cult only for lazy, cowardly, arrogant assholes. 

  • rlrose328

    Nice to know that they are offended when nonreligious military have a hard time just having their nonreligious status put on their dogtags.  To be told you are a poor leader merely because you don’t believe in THEIR supreme leader is just plain wrong.  Religion is a much bigger threat to the military than gays ever were or ever will be.

  • Erp

    “Just War” is a legitimate philosophical stance; however, I gather the class in question did not teach anything  like the “just war” philosophical idea (Christian or otherwise). 

    The following as some info on “just war” (and a few other stances)
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war/

  • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

    I certainly don’t see the military as being anti-Christian in any way whatsoever. Quite the opposite in fact. But, I do have this to say: If that is changing, and religious evangelicals and others of like stripes are feeling the pinch, then good! I bloody well hope it keeps going that way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    Was the class a mandatory class that everyone had to take or was it an elective? 

    I know my dad had problems as do a lot of others who are religious about this topic. While I don’t think a class speaking to this issue should be mandatory, I think, seeing that a large percentage of the population claim to be religious, that the class should still be offered as an elective. If not, I think there could be a larger amount of passive soldiers or people who leave war zones with a lot of guilty thoughts, leading to even more post-war depression. This could very easily turn out to be a large, negative unintended consequence of this decision. Something to think about.

    • Erp

      I believe it was optional; however, it was from the descriptions a bad class even from most Christians’ standpoint because it wasn’t teaching ‘just war theory’ (apparently all or almost all of the complainers where Christians) but rather a hodgepodge of religious justifications for war.    

    • phantomreader42

      So, momma J, what you’re saying is that we should promote your cult’s dogma to a captive audience at taxpayer expense because it encourages people to kill without remorse.  Are you really stupid enough to need to have the problems with that pointed out to you? 

      If we can’t come up with a justification for war without invoking the invisible man in the sky (who supposedly was against war, unless it was convenient for recruiting more cultists or slaughtering infidels), then maybe we shouldn’t be sending soldiers there in the first place!  If people are leaving war zones with mental problems, maybe we should actually TREAT their depression instead of begging a zombie on a stick to magic it away!  

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    It is well and good for our military to be constantly reminded that they are spending their fellow citizens’ money.  The “miracles” part is black humor.  RapCap members will tell you in great detail about what they have to go through to accomplish those “miracles.”   
    “the phrase seems more than a little crass and insensitive”  - gosh, we wouldn’t want a unit that makes it technologically feasible to deliver near-instantaneous flaming death to seem crass and insensitive.  Not so long ago we were saying “nuke ‘em till they glow, shoot ‘em in the dark.”
        Anyway, my response to the god-botherers I encountered in the military was that there was no way they could mangle the gospels to demonstrate that Jesus ever condoned war, so they had to choose- their career or their religion.


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