A Texas senator wants the U.S. Air Force to provide a detailed report on why they suspended a course that included passages from the Bible. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley asking why a "Just War Theory" class taught at Vandenberg Air Force Base was removed from the curriculum on Aug. 3.
“Suspending a course like this because of references to religious texts misrepresents the First Amendment,” Cornyn wrote in a letter.
“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,” he said.
Air Force officials are currently reviewing the course to determine whether they should revise course material or indefinitely suspend the class.
The course was taught by chaplains for more than 20 years and used text from both the Old and New Testaments to help missile launch officers understand “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,” said David Smith, the spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said the course violates separation of church and state. The MRFF filed a complaint on behalf of 31 missile launch officers, and afterwards the Air Force suspended the class.
“In an effort to serve all faiths we try to introduce none in our briefings and our lectures,” Smith told reporters. “Once we heard there were concerns we looked at the course and said we could do better.”
Smith said that use of Bible verses was an “inappropriate approach” in a “pluralistic society.”
The MRFF is satisfied with the military’s decision, as the group threatened to file a class-action lawsuit if the Air Force did not suspend the class.
“We’re very pleased that the Air Force did it,” said Mikey Weinstein, the president of MRFF. “Had they not done that, we would have filed an immediate class action lawsuit in federal court to force their hand.”
The foundation was particularly concerned about a passage of scripture taught in the course. The passage is from the book of Revelations in the New Testament, chapter 19, verse 11, and describes Jesus as a mighty warrior.
The American Center for Law and Justice said there is no constitutional violation and calls the MRFF’s complaint “another attempt to cleanse American history of its religious realities,” said David French, senior counsel at the center.
“It’s about cleansing religion from the public square and building a completely secular society and military,” said French.
However, the Air Force and Weinstein denied that political correctness led to the suspension.