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Air Force yanks nuclear ethics course

Biblical content puts presentation under fire

Aug. 4, 2011 - 04:08PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 4, 2011 - 04:08PM  |  
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The Air Force has pulled an ethics training course for new nuclear missile officers because it contains Christian-based themes that some airmen objected to.

The course was taught to about 150 students a year by a chaplain at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. For the past two decades, all missile officers have taken the ethics training as part of their orientation.

The Air Force halted the course July 27 — the same day Truthout.org http://www.truth-out.org/air-force-pulls-christian-themed-ethics-training-missile-officers/1311972789">published an article and posted training materials that contained images of a Christian saint and quotes from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Truthout.org received the training materials from the http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/">Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Air Force officials decided to stop the training and review it as soon as they were made aware of the content of the presentation, said Maj. Rosaire Bushey, an Air Force spokesman. The material contains "discussion points regarding ethical considerations and uses Old and New Testament examples," Bushey said in an email.

"It's being reviewed to determine the need for the training and if so, the most appropriate approach," Bushey said.

Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an advisory board member to Truthout.org, said 31 airmen had contacted the foundation about the training. The foundation had complained to top Air Force brass and was prepared to file a lawsuit if the training continued, he said.

Former Air Force Capt. Damon Bosetti, who told truth-out.org that he went through the training in 2006, said he and other airmen referred to the religious portions of the training as the "Jesus loves nukes" speech.

The training material includes a 43-slide PowerPoint presentation that draws upon examples from the Bible and discusses St. Augustine's qualifications for a just war and the Christian just-war theory. In the Old Testament, for example, "David is a warrior who is also a ‘man after God's own heart,'" and "Hebrews 11:32-34 uses as examples of true faith those OT believers who engaged in war in a righteous way," one slide says.

Another slide quotes German rocket scientist and former Nazi Party member Wernher von Braun after his surrender to Americans in June 1945: "We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured."

The PowerPoint also cites George Washington, Union Army Gen. Joshua Chamberlain and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson as examples of men with strong religious convictions who fought in wars.

While much of the presentation is aimed at preparing airmen for potential internal conflicts over their faith and job responsibilities that could involve killing others, one slide notes that fewer than 20 percent of soldiers in World War II shot at the enemy.

Another slide, toward the end of the presentation, shows the "Poised for Peace" missile wing patch with a reminder underneath: "The focus is not ‘making war,' but ‘keeping peace.'"

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