A secular legal organization announced its outrage over the blessing of a Bible for the swearing-in of commanders of the newly created Space Force, calling it a “shocking and repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy.”
On Sunday, the Washington National Cathedral held a ceremony to bless a King James Bible that will be used to swear in all commanders of America’s newest military branch, the U.S. Space Command, if they so choose.
"Today @WNCathedral blessed the official Bible for the new @SpaceForceDoD, which will be used to swear in all commanders of America's newest military branch," the cathedral's official account tweeted Sunday.
The Rev. Carl Wright, the Episcopal Church's bishop suffragan for armed services and federal ministries, offered the blessing as Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, Air Force chief of chaplains, held the Bible donated by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, according to The Washington Post.
"May this Bible guard and guide all those who purpose that the final frontier be a place where God will triumph over evil, where love will triumph over hate, and where life will triumph over death," Wright said during the ceremony, according to CBS News.
A spokesperson for the cathedral later confirmed that the Bible was used for the swearing-in of Major General John William Raymond as the first Chief of Space Operations on Tuesday morning.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an activist legal group that says it's dedicated to preserving the separation of church and state in the military, took issue with the ceremony.
The group "condemns, in as full-throated a manner as is humanly possible, the shocking and repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy, dominance, triumphalism and exceptionalism," Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of MRFF, wrote in a statement Monday.
"The utilization of a Christian Bible to 'swear in' commanders of the new Space Force or any other [Department of Defense] branch at ANY level is completely violative of the bedrock separation of church and state mandate of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
He said Sunday's ceremony "tragically validates the villainy of unadulterated Christian privilege at DoD and its subordinate military branches."
The group said it is filing a formal complaint with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. It will also assist in filing Inspector General and Equal Employment Opportunity complaints with the Department of Defense "to stop this train-wreck disaster in its stinking tracks from ever even leaving the station."
In an op-ed piece published by The Christian Post, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, criticized “Weinstein’s faux outrage,” pointing out that the Washington National Cathedral belongs to the Episcopal Church and is home to “refined mainline Protestant liberalism and political correctness.”
He also noted that military commanders are sworn in on whatever book they choose, or no book at all, adding: “There is no compulsion, just as military chaplains of various religions can’t and don’t compel any service member to participate in any religious rites.”
“Secularist fanatics like Weinstein believe religion should be effectively banished from public life,” Tooley said. “But humans are intrinsically spiritual. Every nation and community will have spirituality, just as each person has soul and spirit. America affirms religious freedom. America does not restrict religion to closets and basements. Religion is not strictly private or personal. It is communal and public.”
The outrage surrounding the blessing is misplaced, Tooley argued, as it actually illustrates that “religious institutions and religious voices are protected by the Constitution, which is essential to liberty for all people.”
Last week, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service said it would stop selling Jesus-themed candy after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained that selling the treats at commissary and exchange stores is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.