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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Religious coercion by chaplains at the U.S. Air Force Academy

Please also see the pages on Mikey Weinstein and Christocrats Build Power in the Military.

Below on this page:

February 7, 2008. Academy program features Islam-bashers. Click here.

February 13, 2007. Leader of fundamentalist Christian faculty group recorded disparaging investigation of religious coercion at Air Force Academy

October 27, 2006. Judge dismisses lawsuit to stop religious coercion at Air Force Academy. Click here

October 15, 2006. Players say Air Force Academy baseball coach imposed religion. Click here.

Continuing reaction to the February 2006 chaplains guidelines. |Jewish organizations divided over February guidelines |Religious right celebrates victory on February guidelines |Was White House aiding Christocrats? | News reports and commentary | Christian Century coverage |Republicans attack Jewish Democrats |Proof of intolerance at the academy |Christocrats defend religious coercion | 2005 reports | Senate promotes Gen. Weida who was involved in Air Force Academy religious problems | Players say Air Force Academy baseball coach imposed religion | Judge dismisses lawsuit to stop religious coercion | Law journal article

Mikey Weinstein Debates Christian Right Leader Jay Sekulow at Air Force Academy

April 24, 2007

April 24, 2007. Mikey Weinstein, who is leading a campaign to uproot religious intolerance from the U.S. military, and particularly from the U.S. Air Force Academy, his alma mater, tonight debates Jay Sekulow, who heads the American Center for Law and Justice. Pat Robertson founded Sekulow's organization, which litigates to destroy the constitutional boundaries between church and state. We are posting reports and comment as it becomes available. Tonight we've posted a link to an essay by Weinstein and the text of a virulent attack on him by a Colorado Springs rabbi who works with local religious right leaders. Please click here.

Does the military serve the Constitution, religion, both?

Andrea Jacobs, Intermountain Jewish News, February 24, 2006

In many ways, Joel Schwartzman and Theodore Stainman are mirror images of each other. They both served as US Air Force chaplains for over 23 and 22 years respectively.

They were both Jewish chaplains at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs: Stainman from 1973-1977, and Schwartzman from 1983-1986.

Now retired Air Force colonels, the rabbis have their own congregations: Schwartzman at B’nai Chaim in Morrison, and Stainman at Or Hadash in Fort Collins.

And both are deeply concerned over what’s happening at the USAir Force Academy (USAFA).

Allegations of evangelical proselytizing by senior officers and cadets at USAFA resulted in the establishment of new guidelines last August. Continue

Leader of fundamentalist Christian faculty group recorded disparaging investigation of religious coercion at Air Force Academy

by, February 13, 2007

The leader of a fundamentalist Christian faculty organization at the U.S. Air Force Academy brushed off the headline-grabbing investigation of religious coercion by the school's faculty, attributing the probe to complaints by one individual. In a presentation to a Campus Crusade for Christ faculty conference last June, Air Force Academy Professor James Pocock assured his audience that, absent an activist individual, an investigation of religious intolerance was unlikely at their schools.

Pocock then went on to detail how successfully the Christian Leadership Ministries (CLM), which he leads at the Academy, has organized the faculty and staff -- and how important it is to proselytize at the school. Continue.

Jews On First Interviews Mikey Weinstein
Alumnus suing Air Force Academy says Jews should wake up to Christocrat aggression

By, February 23, 2006

"I get demonized and canonized," said Mikey Weinstein, whose lawsuit against the Air Force brought attention to the burgeoning theocratic movement in the US military. While the case wends its way through the courts, Weinstein is barnstorming the country, warning of what he regards as aggressive moves by right-wing Protestant evangelicals to Christianize our government and culture. One religious right leader (he doesn't remember which) recently called him the most dangerous man in America. "They call me Satan's lawyer, and an arch secularizer. Secular is good, I keep telling them." Click to continue

Please note: You will find our main collection of materials on Mikey Weinstein and his lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force on the page by that name. (Click here)

Academy program features Islam bashers

Speakers at Academy Said to Make False Claims

Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times, February 7, 2008

The Air Force Academy was criticized by Muslim and religious freedom organizations for playing host on Wednesday to three speakers who critics say are evangelical Christians falsely claiming to be former Muslim terrorists.

The three men were invited as part of a weeklong conference on terrorism organized by cadets at the academy’s Colorado Springs campus under the auspices of the political science department.

The three will be paid a total of $13,000 for their appearance, some of it from private donors, said Maj. Brett Ashworth, a spokesman for the academy. Continue.

Academy officials say 3 ‘former terrorists’ won’t cover Christianity

Pam Zubeck, The Colorado Springs Gazette, February 6, 2008

Three “former terrorists” speaking today at the Air Force Academy will stick to their area of expertise — terrorism — and won’t be promoting Christianity, academy officials said Tuesday.

“No one is here to talk about religion,” academy spokesman Maj. Brett Ashworth said. “The purpose is to educate future officers and delegates from 50 colleges and universities on the ideology and methodology of terrorists in preparation for leadership positions in the war on terror.”

The “former terrorists” — Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zak Anani — will be paid a total of $13,000 for their appearance at the 50th annual Academy Assembly, a conference sponsored by the academy and Columbia University’s American Assembly. Most of the funding comes from private donations through the academy’s Association of Graduates. Continue.

Factious choice in public speakers

Pam Zubeck, The Colorado Springs Gazette, February 5, 2008

The Air Force Academy will host three “former terrorists” as speakers Wednesday to the cadet wing, despite warnings that at least one of them has fabricated portions of his past and protests that the purpose is to promote Christianity.

Critics say the speakers, who have converted to Christianity, were invited to profess evangelical beliefs, inappropriate in a government academic setting.

The academy didn’t return numerous phone calls late Monday.

Part of an annual political forum at the academy, the three speakers are Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zak Anani. Continue.

The War Against Tolerance

Chris Hedges, Truthdig, February 12, 2008

Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani are the three stooges of the Christian right. These self-described former Muslim terrorists are regularly trotted out at Christian colleges—a few days ago they were at the Air Force Academy—to spew racist filth about Islam on behalf of groups such as Focus on the Family. It is a clever tactic. Curly, Larry and Mo, who all say they are born-again Christians, engage in hate speech and assure us it comes from personal experience. They tell their audiences that the only way to deal with one-fifth of the world’s population is by converting or eradicating all Muslims. Their cant is broadcast regularly on Fox News, including the Bill O’Reilly and Neil Cavuto shows, as well as on numerous Christian radio and television programs. Shoebat, who has written a book called “Why We Want to Kill You,” promises in his lectures to explain the numerous similarities between radical Muslims and the Nazis, how “Muslim terrorists” invaded America 30 years ago and how “perseverance, recruitment and hate” have fueled attacks by Muslims. Continue.

Law journal article

Service Before Self?
Evangelicals Flying High At The U.S. Air Force Academy

by Heather Cook, Journal of Law and Education, January 2007

On October 6, 2005, Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, a second generation graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and father of a current cadet, sued the United States Air Force alleging numerous instances of evangelical Christian proselytizing and other Establishment Clause violations. While Weinstein alleges that the problem is systemic throughout the Air Force, most of the allegations underlying the lawsuit occurred at the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Not surprisingly, Colorado Springs is also home to a number of national evangelical Christian organizations including, National Association of Evangelicals, Focus on the Family, Compassion International, The Navigators, Youth with a Mission, Young Life and the International Bible Society, "earning the city the tongue-in-cheek nickname 'the Protestant Vatican'."

In response, evangelical groups have filed motions to intervene in the lawsuit in order to protect what they see as the Free Exercise rights of service members to "worship according to their conscience and lead others in authentic expressions of personal veneration to Almighty God." According to them, the Weinstein lawsuit is nothing more than "an assault on religious speech within the United States Air Force" that will have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected rights of service members.

Navigating the scope of the religion clauses of the First Amendment presents a complex problem, especially in the area of military colleges. First, students in colleges and universities fall outside the scope of the United States Supreme Court's Establishment Clause protections. Currently, the Court's jurisprudence only extends to violations occurring in primary and secondary schools. Additionally, the Court has refused to grant certiorari in a number of cases over the past ten years that would have provided an opportunity to clarify the state of the law with respect to the establishment and free exercise of religion in higher education. Continue.

Judge dismisses lawsuit to stop religious coercion

Case against Air Force Academy dismissed

By Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 27, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Friday threw out a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force that contended evangelical Christian values were being illegally pushed on Air Force Academy cadets.

An academy graduate said he would appeal the decision by senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker in Albuquerque, N.M. "Our fight is far from over," said honors graduate Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque.

The case was brought by Weinstein and other Air Force Academy graduates who contended a military chaplain violated their religious freedom rights by urging cadets to attend Christian services or face being burned "in the fires of hell." That incident reflected a broader policy, the group charged, of efforts to evangelize Air Force staff.

But Parker, in a 16-page decision, said the graduates could not claim their First Amendment rights were violated since they no longer attended the Academy. Moreover, the group failed to give specific examples of which cadets were harmed, or when. Continue.

Players say Air Force Academy baseball coach imposed religion

Down In The Count
Turmoil surrounds Air Force baseball as dissent, intolerance allegations continue

By Dan Wolken, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), October 15, 2006

The Air Force Academy baseball team has been a mess on the field, posting a 25-131 record in Mike Hutcheon’s three seasons as coach. In 2006, the team had a 1-23 record and was outscored 380-114 in Mountain West Conference games, prompting athletic director Hans Mueh to ask the conference if Air Force could drop out of the conference in baseball.

But the turmoil off the field has been every bit as bad, with a near mutiny in 2005. Some former players say winning became nearly impossible because of their antagonistic relationship with the coach, including what they describe as Hutcheon pushing his religious views or favoring players with similar outlooks. Continue.

Allard questions academy brass about allegations

By Jake Schaller, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), October 17, 2006

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., called Air Force superintendent Lieutenant General John F. Regni on Monday to ask about a report that baseball coach Mike Hutcheon might have pushed his religious views on players, said Steve Wymer, Allard's deputy press secretary.

Allard's call was in response to a story in the Sunday edition of The Gazette. The article quoted unnamed players who said Hutcheon pushed his religious views on players or favored players with similar outlooks. Continue.

Senate promotes Air Force Gen. Weida, who played role in Air Force Academy religious controversy

Controversial Air Force commander promoted

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 4, 2006

The U.S. Senate promoted a U.S. Air Force commander who promoted evangelical Christianity at the Air Force Academy.

Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida was brought in to reform the Colorado Springs, Colo., academy in 2003, after a sexual harassment scandal.

He soon was embroiled in charges of religious coercion after he told cadets their first duty was to God and encouraged them to observe the national day of prayer. Continue.

Group protests Weida’s promotion

Associated Press, Air Force Times, October 4, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has criticized the Senate’s confirmation of the promotion of Air Force Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida to major general, contending he has openly promoted evangelical Christianity during mandatory military activities.

“There is nothing wrong with Gen. Weida’s service, which was made obvious by the confirmation,” Capt. David Small, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday.

Weida was the No. 3 commander at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs when allegations surfaced that evangelical Christians there were bullying cadets who held other beliefs. The Air Force later cleared Weida of allegations of using his position to proselytize non-Christian cadets. Continue.

News reports and commentary

The Cancer From Within

by David Antoon, Truthdig, November 7, 2007.

David Antoon is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, a Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Several years ago his son Ryan won an appointment to the Academy, but, as Antoon describes in this article, when they went to cadet orientation, they encountered intense Christian fundamentalist proselytizing. Ryan Antoon reluctantly decided not to attend the Academy.

Antoon went on to learn more about the influence of right-wing evangelical Christians at the Academy and in the military. He also joined the board of directors of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In the conclusion of his article, he expresses his dismay at what he found:

The Christian supremacist fascism first reported at the Air Force Academy is endemic throughout the military. From the top down, there has been a complete repudiation of constitutional values and time-honored codes of ethics and honor codes in favor of religious ideology. And we now have a revolving door between Blackwater USA, which is Bush’s Praetorian Guard, and the U.S. military at every level. The citizen-soldier military dictated by our founding fathers has been replaced with professional and mercenary right-wing Christian crusaders in control of the world’s most powerful military. The risks to our democratic form of government cannot be overstated.

This evangelical Christian supremacist fascism within our military and government is a cancer. Officers, especially commanders, who violate the original code of ethics, must be rooted out of the military. The undermining of the Constitution, especially by senior military officers, must end.

As I look back at my 30 years as an active-duty officer, two combat tours in Vietnam, decorations including air medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross, I realize that not once was my service in support or defense of the Constitution. For the very first time, I am upholding my oath of office.

Click here to read the article..

Academy religious dispute featured in film

By Bryant Jordan, Air Force Times, June 7, 2006

The improper proselytizing at the Air Force Academy that has prompted an ongoing battle over what chaplains and others may or may not say in command or other public settings already is finding its place in history.

A film version of “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History,” a 2001 book about relations between the Jewish and Christian faiths, is now in post-production and slated for release at the end of summer, according to director/producer Oren Jacoby. Continue

Expert: Falsehoods fuel debate about the role of faith in the military

By Tom Roeder, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado), May 11, 2006

A perceived war on Christians in America is a myth driven by politics, a top official from the American Civil Liberties Union told cadets and professors at the Air Force Academy on Thursday. Continue

Ongoing reaction to the February guidelines for chaplains

Jewish Organizations in Dialogue with Air Force on Chaplain Guidelines
Four organizations submit recommendations for fostering religious tolerance

by, June 22, 2006

Four major Jewish organizations have responded to an Air Force invitation for input on the development of a training program to implement guidelines on religion. Their letter, sent June 13th, is the latest development in the struggle over religious coercion by right-wing Christian evangelicals at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. The Jewish leaders have limited power to shape change at the Air Force, but they are optimistic. Click here, please.

Jewish Groups Offer Recommendations on Religion to U.S. Air Force

News Release, American Jewish Committee, June 14, 2006

June 14, 2006 - New York - Leading national Jewish organizations have joined in submitting a series of recommendations to the U.S. Air Force to assist in implementing a training program for Air Force personnel pursuant to the recently issued Guidelines on the Free Exercise of Religion in the military.

In a letter sent to General Robert R. Allardice, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel, the Jewish groups commended the Air Force for the guidelines and the development of the training program. Both initiatives have substantially alleviated concerns that followed reports of religious proselytization and anti-Semitism at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The letter was sent in response to Gen. Allardice's written request to the Jewish groups to share their views concerning training methods to implement the Guidelines. Continue

Click here for the letter sent to Gen. Allardice (a PDF document).

Flying Low On Air Force Guidelines
Jewish groups are working to ensure new rules maximize religious freedom, but not everyone is happy about it.

James D. Besser, Jewish Week, June 23, 2006

Jewish leaders remain divided and uncertain over new Air Force policies on religious freedom and the chaplaincy. But for now, at least, mainstream leaders have decided to play along with the Pentagon and hope for the best.

Last week the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism wrote a joint letter to a top Air Force official with recommendations for implementing the recently issued Guidelines on the Free Exercise of Religion in the Military. Continue

'We can't afford to fight each other'
Rabbi reflects on year helping Air Force grapple with religious issues

Eric Fingerhut, Washington Jewish Week, June 28, 2006

Following several incidents of religious intolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff spent part of the past year helping to create religious guidelines for the service. But he believes it was his additional work creating a "values-based vision" for Air Force personnel that may be the key in preventing such problems from recurring.

As special assistant for values and vision to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force, the District resident said he was building a framework of respect and responsibility that goes beyond simply telling airmen and airwomen to be "good people." Continue

For an earlier report on Rabbi Resnicoff's role, please click here.

Jewish father tackles proselytizing in the Air Force after sons’ harassment

By Ron Kampeas, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 15, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 15 (JTA) — Betrayal. Contagion. Oceans of blood. That’s Mikey Weinstein, describing the threat he believes the United States faces from the Christian evangelists he says are permeating the military. At least, that’s the printable Weinstein. And he says to expect more of the same in-your-face approach as his Military Religious Freedom Foundation picks up steam and continues to pursue lawsuits against the U.S. military. Continue

Amendment mandating chaplains’ sensitivity fails

By Bryant Jordan, Air Force Times, May 5, 2006

A New York congressman’s push to require that military chaplains exhibit greater sensitivity toward various faiths was defeated Thursday.

Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee — with the exception of Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan — voted against the amendment, offered by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., to language inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2007.

The original language, added to the ’07 Defense Authorization Act by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., provides that "each chaplain shall have the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience, except as must be limited by military necessity, with any such limitation being imposed in the least restrictive manner feasible."

But Israel asked lawmakers to amend the language, adding "that chaplains shall demonstrate sensitivity, respect and tolerance for all faiths present on each occasion at which prayers are offered." Click here for the report

Air Force leaders meet Jewish groups

Jewish Telegraphic Aency, April 10, 2006

U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne met with Jewish leaders and defended the revised guidelines for chaplain as a balance between free exercise of religion and non-favoritism for any particular religion. Click here

Jewish War Veterans leader Meets with Secretary of the Air Force
NC Magidson Calls Religious Guidelines Inadequate

Jewish War Veterans of the U.S., News Release, April 7, 2006

National Commander David Magidson of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) met yesterday with Michael Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force, to discuss the “Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force.” Continue

Jewish organizations sharply disagree over new chaplain guidelines

On February 9, 2006 the Air Force issued new guidelines to address concerns over coercive proselytizing of cadets at the Air Force Academy. The new guidelines, the previous guidelines, and early reactions are directly below these items on Jewish organizations' reactions.

Jewish Groups Divided Over New Air Force Guidelines

By E.J. Kessler, Forward, February 17, 2006

"WASHINGTON — Two months after the head of the Anti-Defamation League called for a united Jewish front against evangelical attempts to "Christianize" America, the ADL found itself pitted against a raft of other communal organizations in a controversy over guidelines for religious speech in the U.S. Air Force." Click here for the report.

U.S. Air Force Commended for its Guidelines on Religious Exercise

Joint statement by the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, February 9, 2006

"We commend the Air Force for its issuance of interim guidelines governing the free exercise of religion by its personnel and its chaplains. These guidelines, the product of an extensive consultative process, go far in addressing the unfortunate situation which prevailed at the Air Force Academy not more than a year ago in which officers in command authority abused their positions to advance their own religious agendas." Click here for the joint statement.

ADL Says Air Force Guidelines on Religious Accommodation 'A Significant Step Backwards'

Anti-Defamation League news release

"New York, NY, February 9, 2006 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern that the U.S. Air Force Revised Interim Guidelines on Religion in the Military ("Guidelines") released today, while maintaining substantial religious accommodation protections, are a significant step backwards from the June 2005 draft guidelines with respect to religious coercion, proselytizing and harassment." Click here for the news release.

Jewish War Veterans Condemns Revised Interim Guidelines on Exercise of Religion in the Air Force

News release, February 27, 2006

"The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) denounces the recently issued 'Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force.' The revised guidelines do not live up to the promise of those previously issued in Aug. 2005, and, in essence, avoid a solution by reviving the status quo." Click here for the news release.

Group to monitor Air Force

Jewish Telegraphic Agency Breaking News, February 28, 2006

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs voted to monitor guidelines for religious tolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The umbrella organization for Jewish community relations councils and national organizations said Monday it would “closely track” the implementation of the Air Force’s interim guidelines to ensure that they safeguard against proselytizing and improper sectarian prayer.

“The critical question is whether people who serve in the military understand the principle reason for being in the military, which is to support and defend the Constitution,” said Rabbi Joel Schwartzman of Colorado, a retired Air Force Jewish chaplain. The JCPA also voted Monday at its annual meeting to support reform of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and to form a task force to address genocide in the Sudan.

Air Force Guidelines Split Jewish Groups
Revised rules seen as too vague as they back off protections of religious minorities.

By James D. Besser, The Jewish Week (New York), February 16, 2006

"Jewish church-state groups, disappointed by major changes to new draft Air Force guidelines on religious activity within service institutions, will now shift their focus to how the diluted guidelines will be implemented." Click here for the report.

Jewish groups see setback as Air Force issues religious guidelines

By Matthew E. Berger, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 13, 2006

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (JTA) — The Jewish community’s efforts to reform the Air Force Academy’s positions on religious tolerance and proselytizing were overmatched by the evangelical community, which fought any move to restrict religious discussion on campus, Jewish leaders are acknowledging...

"Some see the new guidelines as more permissive of religious discussion than were interim guidelines issued last August. Air Force officials admit that the guidelines were revised following an angry response from Christian groups and from 72 members of Congress who sent a letter to President Bush last month... Others, however, say the new guidelines do contribute toward ridding the military of religious intolerance." Click here for the report.

Rabbi who advised Air Force may have been blindsided
The JTA story (above) also reported that "Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, special adviser on values and vision to the secretary and the chief of staff of the Air Force, was a member of a team of a handful of people who authored the guidelines both in August and February. He declined to comment on the new guidelines."

Just before the guidelines were issued, Rabbi Resnicoff was quoted by the New York Jewish Week (in the report immediately below) saying that the then forthcoming guidelines were an improvement. That report was published just as the guidelines were issued.

Update: On June 28, Rabbi Resnicoff gave an extensive interview to the Washington Jewish Week, addressing some of the questions about his role. Click here.

‘Jesus’ Barred From Air Force Invocations
Revised religion rules at Colorado Springs academy beat back GOP pressure.

By Stewart Ain, The Jewish Week (New York), February 10, 2006

In a story prepared before the guidelines were issued, the New York based Jewish Week wrote: "Despite strong protests by leading Republican members of Congress, the U.S. Air Force was expected to issue revised religious guidelines this week that continue to bar Christian chaplains from praying in Jesus’ name during official government ceremonies and place restraints on Evangelical chaplains, The Jewish Week has learned.

"Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, special assistant for values and vision to the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force, helped draft the guidelines following complaints by Jews and others of proselytizing by Christian faculty members, officers and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo." Click here for the report.

Religious right scores significant gain in revised guidelines for chaplains

Air Force issues new interim guidelines that could foster more coercive atmosphere
Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force

On February 9th the U.S. Air Force issued Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force. The Air Force revised the guidelines after the religious right and its congressional allies hammered the Bush administration to block implementation of earlier guidelines that would restrain religious coercion by evangelical chaplains. Those guidelines had barred sectarian prayers in official settings.

The latest guidelines explicitly guarantee the chaplains the right to sectarian practices, stating: "We will respect the rights of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their religious faiths and they will not be required to participate in religious activities, including public prayer, inconsistent with their faith." That effectively hands the religious right the victory it sought: that the chaplains could "pray in Jesus' name." Click here to read the guidelines (in PDF format).

See also: an older, more inclusive, set of "Interim Guidelines Regarding Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force," by clicking here.

Many national newspapers published this short item by the Associated Press on February 10th.

The Air Force released new guidelines for religious expression, dropping a requirement for chaplains to respect others' rights to their own beliefs and no longer cautioning top officers about promoting their personal religious views. The revisions were welcomed by conservative Christians. But critics called the revisions a step backward and said they did nothing to protect the rights of most airmen. The original guidelines were created after accusations that evangelical Christians at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs were imposing their views on others. (AP)
Air Force Issues Troubling Guidelines On Religion, Says Americans United
Watchdog Group Criticizes Military Branch For Ignoring Rights of Minority Faiths and Nonbelievers

News Release, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, February 9, 2006

Americans United discovered the latest interim guidelines governing proselytizing at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Air Force has not publicized them. In its news release, Americans United said: "The guidelines, called 'Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise Of Religion In The Air Force,' significantly backtracks from the those the Air Force issued last year following an investigation into allegations of heavy-handed forms of proselytization at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo." Click here to read the news release..

Activist Mikey Weinstein Says Revised Air Force Guidelines on Religion 'Dead on Arrival' and Fail to Rectify Key Issues

News release, US Newswire, February 9, 2006

"These revisions are a terrible disappointment and colossal step backward. The Air Force has clearly demonstrated that it aims to pacify the Religious Right, even if this means turning a cold shoulder to the Constitutional law of the land." Click here for the news release.

Air Force Eases Rules on Religion
New Guidelines Reflect Evangelicals' Criticism, General Says

By Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, February 10, 2006

"The Air Force, under pressure from evangelical Christian groups and members of Congress, softened its guidelines on religious expression yesterday to emphasize that superior officers may discuss their faith with subordinates and that chaplains will not be required to offer nonsectarian prayers.

"'This does affirm every airman's right, even the commanders' right, to free exercise of religion, and that means sharing your faith,'" said Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, the Air Force's chief of chaplains.

" The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths. The original wording sought to tamp down religious fervor and to foster tolerance throughout the Air Force. It discouraged public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements." Click here to read the report.

New Air Force religious guidelines cheered by evangelical groups

By Tom Roeder, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), February 9, 2006

"New Air Force religion guidelines issued Thursday angered a group that had been happy with old rules issued last summer and pleased evangelicals who had been upset." Click here to read the report.

Air Force softens rules on religious expression

By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes, February 10, 2006

This report quotes Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rev. Billy Baugham, executive director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, saying that the new guidelines do not go far enough to affirm the "right" of Air Force chaplains to voice sectarian prayers. Click here for the report.

Sekulow: New Air Force Guidelines for Chaplains 'Appropriate and Constitutional'

By Jody Brown, Agape Press, February 10, 2006

"The Air Force has released new guidelines that 'respect the rights of chaplains to adhere to the tenets' of their religion. Some chaplains had complained that they were being prohibited from praying in Jesus' name. Associated Press reports that the revised guidelines state that chaplains will not be required to lead public prayer in a way that is 'inconsistent with their faiths.'

"The guidelines also omit a statement in the earlier version that chaplains 'should respect the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs.' The revision also allows 'voluntary discussions of religion' among all members of the Air Force as long as they're 'personal, not official' and do not appear to be coercive." Click here for the report.

Air Force religion guidelines garner both praise & criticism

By Erin Curry Roach, Baptist Press, Feb 10, 2006

"The Air Force’s latest effort to regulate the free exercise of religion within its ranks was met with mixed reaction as some conservatives praised new Air Force guidelines as a step in the right direction while others voiced concern that the guidelines still discourage the use of prayer in Jesus’ name in public settings." Click here for the report.

Prayer in Jesus’ name remains an issue in military chaplaincy

By Ken Walker, Baptist Press, February 10, 2006

"Efforts are ongoing in Washington to guarantee the right of evangelical chaplains in all branches of the military to pray in Jesus’ name in all facets of their work."

“'This is going to be a major thrust to see if we can get this fixed,' said Billy Baugham, director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, based in Greenville, S.C. Baugham also serves as director of Associated Gospel Churches, a chaplaincy-endorsing agency for independent churches.

"Prohibitions against praying in Jesus’ name have been a longstanding complaint lodged by several dozen current and former chaplains in their lawsuits against the Navy. The plaintiffs include 11 Southern Baptists." Click here for the report.

Bush administration appears to join forces impeding reform

White House to push military on Jesus prayer

By Julia Duin, The Washington Times, January 23, 2006

"The White House will pressure the Pentagon into being more explicit in saying that military chaplains can pray in the name of Jesus Christ, an evangelical Christian chaplains' group says.

"The administration struck a deal on Thursday with Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, said the Rev. Billy Baugham of the Greenville, S.C.-based International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers." Click here to read the report.

Christian Coalition Commends President Bush for Ensuring Military Chaplains May Pray in Name of Jesus

Michele Combs, Christian Coalition, January 23, 2006

"Christian Coalition of America commends President George W. Bush for ensuring that military chaplains will once again be able to pray at all times in the name of Jesus, a practice which has been stifled by a politically-correct military establishment for a number of years." Click here to read the statement.

Bush briefer ambiguous on president's position.

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, James S. Brady Briefing Room, The White House, January 24, 2006

Q Scott, a two-part. With regard to reports of the President meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld, considering the just concluded fast of an Episcopal Navy chaplain, why hasn't the President, as Commander-in-Chief, ordered the United States Navy to stop any action whatsoever against Christian chaplains who mention Christ, Jewish chaplains who mention God, and Muslim chaplains who mention Mohammed?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I agree with your characterization. I think you ought to look at what the Department has said about this very issue.

Q I have looked.

MR. McCLELLAN: And look at what I said about this just a couple -- I think two or three weeks ago. We strongly support the ability of our men and women in uniform to worship as they choose. And we support military chaplains; they provide a lot of important contributions to our men and women in uniform, and those are important contributions.

Government Wants Air Force Suits Dismissed

Washington Post (Associated Press), February 3, 2006

"The government claimed Mikey Weinstein and his co-plaintiffs haven't shown they would be harmed by the alleged proselytizing and said their allegations have no substance." Click here to read the report.

Dismissal of academy religion lawsuit sought

By Tim Korte, Associated Press, Air Force Times, January 19, 2006

Without fanfare, the federal government filed a motion last month in Albuquerque asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to change the Air Force Academy 's tolerance of religious coercion. The government is reportedly arguing that the Air Force is changing its policy -- and that the plaintiffs are no longer academy cadets. (They're graduates.) Click here for the report.

Chaplains To Be Allowed Jesus Prayer

UPI,, January 23, 2006

"The White House has agreed to pressure the Pentagon to put an end to discrimination against chaplains who pray in the name of Jesus Christ." Click here to read the report.

Christian Century coverage

Cadets for Christ
Evangelization at the Air Force Academy

By Amy Frykholm, The Christian Century, January 10, 2006

"The strategy of the academy and of the Department of Defense, revealed in an investigation led by Lieutenant General Roger Brady, himself an evangelical Christian, has been to respond to instances of alleged intolerance rather than to any systemic problem. Their reluctance is understandable. After all, previous attempts at reform have led to vigorous backlash from politicians and church leaders. And if the academy acknowledged that religious intolerance is systemic and involves abuse of power, then its leaders would also have to acknowledge their tenuous position in relationship to the First Amendment, which says that the government will not use its power to "establish religion." Click here to read the report.

Editor's Desk: God and country

By John M. Buchanan,The Christian Century, January 10, 2006

In his editorial John Buchanan compares the process underway at the Air Force Academy with his own recent experience at the Pentagon, where he saw literature proclaiming "Jesus Christ Is the Only Way" in a public area and heard a speaker welcome diners in Jesus' name. Click here to read the editorial.

Republicans defend proselytizing, attack Jewish Democrats

Congressional debate about overseeing reform at the Air Force Academy bares Republicans' religious agenda.

A key document in the evolving situation at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where 55 cadets complained of religious coercion, is the Congressional Record of the June 20, 2005 debate about oversight in the U.S. House of Representatives. In that debate, over a Democratic amendment to the military spending bill, Democrats advocated holding the Air Force accountable for rapidly reforming practices at the academy. Republicans accused the Democrats of hostility to religion and killed the amendment. Click here to read the Congressional Record transcript of the debate (a PDF file on the federal government's Thomas website).

GOP Congressman Calls Democrats Anti-Christian
Remarks in Floor Debate Stir Protest

By Mike Allen, Washington Post, June 21, 2005

The Washington Post's report on the debate about religious coercion at the Air Force Academy, in which Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-IN) complained that the Democrats were waging a "long war on Christianity in America..." Click here to read the report.

Jewish organizations get confirmation of intolerance

AJCongress Says Air Force Admits Religious Intolerance

The American Jewish Congress posted this on June 2, 2005

In what American Jewish Congress Executive Director Neil B. Goldstein characterizes as a potential “Religious Tailhook”, AJCongress today revealed that it has received confirmation from the United States Air Force that religious tensions and problem do exist at the Air Force Academy. Continue

Removal of Air Force Accountability Language in Defense Appropriations Bill Sends the Wrong Message

Statement, Anti-Defamation League, June 21, 2005

New York, New York, June 21, 2005….The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sharply criticized a vote in the House of Representatives to weaken language in the Department of Defense Appropriations bill concerning religious intolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The previous language, contained in an amendment sponsored by Rep. David Obey (D-WI), addressed reports of "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing" at the U.S. Air Force Academy and called on the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to address these concerns. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 198-210. The House then approved a weakened amendment which omitted any reference to proselytizing. Continue

Religious right campaigns to protect coercive behavior at Air Force Academy

ACLJ: More Than 200,000 Americans Urge President Bush to Protect Prayer by Military Chaplains

"WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 11, 2006--The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), specializing in constitutional law, said today its national petition campaign urging President Bush to protect the constitutional rights of military chaplains has now topped more than 200,000 names. The ACLJ petition campaign is in conjunction with efforts underway in Congress - spearheaded by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) - urging President Bush to enact an Executive Order that clears the way for chaplains to pray according to their faith." (The phrase "according to their faith" is code for praying in Jesus' name in official settings.) Click here for the news release.

Garrett defends criticism of U.S. Air Force Academy guidance on proselytizing

By Robert Wiener, New Jersey Jewish News, January 26, 2006

"Responding to a complaint from the New Jersey region of the Anti-Defamation League, United States Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ Dist. 5) has defended his decision to sign a congressional letter critical of guidelines meant to prevent proselytizing at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Garrett was the lone NJ legislator to sign an Oct. 23 letter from 69 Republican members of the House of Representatives and two Republican senators. The letter complained that a set of guidelines meant to prevent proselytizing at the academy violates the First Amendment rights of Air Force chaplains." Click here to read the report.

Congressman Renews Call to President to Lift Military Prayer Restrictions

By Francis Helguero, The Christian Post, January 7, 2006

"Recalling last month's presidential state visit to China, a North Carolina congressional representative renewed his call on President Bush to continue to 'lead and promote' religious freedom at home and internationally by focusing on allegations of illegal military restrictions on prayer." Go the article.

Congressmen Plead for Chaplains
Letter calls on the president to protect religious freedom through executive order.

Focus on the Family, December 15, 2005

"More than 70 members of Congress delivered a letter to President Bush on Wednesday that called on him to 'protect by executive order the constitutional right of military chaplains to pray according to their faith.'" Click here to read the report.

Air Force Rules Rile Republicans

By E.B. Solomont, The Forward, November 4, 2005

In this detailed report about the religious right's effort to protect coercive proselytizing at the Air Force Academy, the nation's leading Jewish weekly notes: "The fight is the latest ripple in a church-state crisis that has roiled the Air Force, revealing deep partisan divides and an increasingly strong allegiance between some Republican lawmakers and Christian conservative organizations." Click here to read the report

U.S. Senate Unanimously Sends Warning to U.S. Air Force as it Passes Senator James Inhofe's Amendment Ensuring By Law The Ability of Military Service Academies to Include Prayer in Activities

Christian Coalition Action Alert, November 11, 2005

In its weekly email the Christian Coalition encourages its followers to lobby President Bush for an Executive Order sought by congressional Republications that would overturn recent Air Force Academy guidelines restricting chaplains to non-denominational prayer and permitting them to "pray according to their faith," a euphemism for praying to captive audiences in the name of Jesus. The email says members of Congress have also complained to the Secretary of the Air Force about the guidelines.Click here to read the email excerpt.

Lawmakers Concerned Over Restrictions on Prayer

By Francis Helguero, The Christian Post, Oct. 29, 2005

Republican members of Congress and Christian fundamentalist activists are pushing back against efforts to end religious coercion and intimidation at the Air Force Academy with a petition to President George W. Bush to issue an executive order allowing academy chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus.

"It has come to our attention that in all branches of the military, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christian chaplains to use the name of Jesus when praying," states the petition, which has already drawn over 28,000 people who have signed using the Internet... "We believe this suppression of religious freedom is a pervasive problem that must be dealt with and eliminated immediately."

Please click here to read the report.

Pentagon discriminates against Christians, lawmakers say

By Roxane Tiron, October 20, 2005

Almost immediately after the Air Force Academy tightened up on evangelizing (see below), right-wing fundamentalists in Congress launched a shrill campaign to resist reform with a letter to President Bush. The signers requested an executive order "protecting" the chaplains. They contended that the new policy of nonsectarian prayers "is merely a euphemism declaring that prayers will be acceptable so long as they censor Christian beliefs." Click here to read the report

Navy said hunger-striking chaplain never disciplined
"Protesting chaplain prays in front of White House"

By Kelly Kennedy, Navy Times, January 10, 2006

The Navy Times reports that the Navy never held up the contract or disciplined Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Gordon Klingenschmitt for praying in Jesus' name in uniform. Religious right publications and the Washington Times copiously covered Klingenschmitt's protest fast and his subsequent declaration of "victory." This report recounts events and correspondence that build a case that chaplain created a media issue to protest the policy against sectarian prayers in public settings. Click here for the report.

"Christian Coalition Activists Need to Urge President Bush to Issue Executive Order To Stop Discrimination Against Christian Chaplains"

Christian Coalition President Roberta Combs, Washington Weekly Review, Friday, January 13, 2006

In a communique more heated and less comprehensible than its rant of January 7th (see below), the Christian Coalition celebrates the facing-saving end to Captain Klingenschmitt's hunger strike to pray in Jesus' name and then goes on to mention Kosher military meals and resumes expressing shock at government policy against sectarian prayers. Click to see for yourself.

Christian Coalition characterizes Air Force's restraint of evangelizing as "political correctness"

Christian Coalition, Washington Weekly Review, January 7, 2006

"Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt -- a U.S. Air Force Academy Graduate, Who is in the 18th Day of a Water-only Fast Continues to Fight a Politically-Correct Navy Establishment Which Has Ordered Him and All Other Chaplains to Not Pray in the Name of Jesus and to not use Certain Verses from the Gospel of John -- Urges President Bush to issue Executive Order/Christian Coalition Activists Need to Urge President Bush to Issue Executive Order." Click here to go to the article.

Former Army Chaplain Calls for Executive Order to End USAF's Religious Persecution

By Chad Groening, Agape Press, January 6, 2006

"An Evangelical leader and retired military chaplain says the United States Air Force is engaged in religious persecution against evangelical Christianity with its new policy forbidding chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus." Click here to read article.

Testing the Faith: Clergy to protest at White House
Will ask Bush to reverse policy limiting chaplains' prayers, December 20, 2005

"According to a statement from the National Clergy Council, Christian leaders from various denominations will hold a news conference outside Lafayette Park just north of the White House to protest what the group calls an 'escalating crisis' over chaplain prayer policies." Click here to read the report.

Military chaplain fired for praying in Jesus' name

By Julia Duin, December 21, 2005

WASHINGTON -- To pray -- or not to pray -- in Jesus' name is the question plaguing an increasing number of U.S. military chaplains, one of whom began a multiday hunger strike outside the White House yesterday. Click here to read the report.

Base tree-lighting event pulls no punches on Christmas references

By Gene Rector, The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), December 8, 2005

This report on a "decidedly Christian ceremony" at Robins Air Force Base is largely devoted to quoting military spokesmen saying that guidelines issued in the wake of protests of proselytizing at the Air Force Academy did not prevent the public prayer to Jesus featured at the event. The report also mentions that the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed to stop religious coercion at the Air Force Academy is Jewish. Click here to read the report.

Christian Conservatives Ask Bush to Protect 'Muzzled' Chaplains

By Adele M. Banks, Religion News Service, via BeliefNet, November 17, 2005

The International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers told Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne that proposed actions could "be perceived as hostility to religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids." Click here to read the article.

Air Force policy changes and other background

Maxwell code sparks religion suit

By Mike Linn, Montgomery Advertiser, November 3, 2005

This report is interesting because it shows that the Air Force Academy's policy regarding chaplains prevails as well for at least one Air Force base, in this case Maxwell-Gunter, near Montgomery, Alabama. Click here to read the report

Air Force retracts evangelizing policy
Jewish air force vet presses ahead with lawsuit

By Ted Siefer, The Jewish Advocate, October 25, 2005

Plaintiff Mikey Weinstein said he would not drop the lawsuit against the Academy until there is an order or a verdict because he didn't trust the Air Force to keep to the new guidelines. Asked by the paper "if he was concerned that his lawsuit against the Air Force could open another front in the culture war, Weinstein said: 'I hope it does. Right now all the biggest issues - stem cell research, abortion, the environment - are all derived from the mother-ship issue of church-state [separation].'" Click here to read the report

Air Force Withdraws Paper for Chaplains
Document Permitted Proselytizing

By Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, October 11, 2005

The Air Force, facing a lawsuit over alleged proselytizing, has withdrawn a document that permitted chaplains to evangelize military personnel who were not affiliated with any faith, Pentagon officials said yesterday. Click here to read the report.

Study: Air Force May Further Limit Religious Expression

By Steve Jordahl, Focus on the Family, October 13, 2005

"A policy allowing Chaplains to evangelize has been pulled for review.

"The policy is part of a code of ethics that states: 'I will not actively proselytize from other religious bodies. However, I retain the right to instruct and/or evangelize those who are not affiliated.'" Click here to read the report

Former Air Force Grad Offers a Settlement in a Lawsuit Brought Against Air Academy

By Josh Montez, Focus on the Family, October 21, 2005

This Focus on the Family item disparages both Mikey Weinstein's lawsuit over religious coercion at the Air Force Academy and his offer to settle. Click here to read the item.

Air Force Sued Over Religious Intolerance

By Tim Korte, Washington Post, October 6, 2005

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A Jewish father of two Air Force Academy cadets sued the Air Force on Thursday, claiming senior officers and cadets illegally imposed Christianity on others at the school. Click here to read the report.

Air Force Chaplain Says She Was Removed for Being Critical

By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, May 15, 2005

A chaplain at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs who has accused her superiors of using their positions to promote evangelical Christianity among the cadets says she was fired from an administrative job because of her outspokenness and was given orders to ship out to Japan.Click here to read the report.

Evangelicals Are a Growing Force in the Military Chaplain Corps

By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, July 12, 2005

"...It was the opening ceremony of a four-day Spiritual Fitness Conference at a Hilton hotel here last month organized and paid for by the Air Force for many of its United States-based chaplains and their families, at a cost of $300,000. The chaplains, who pledge when they enter the military to minister to everyone, Methodist, Mormon or Muslim, attended workshops on "The Purpose Driven Life," the best seller by the megachurch pastor Rick Warren, and on how to improve their worship services. In the hotel hallways, vendors from Focus on the Family and other evangelical organizations promoted materials for the chaplains to use in their work. Click here to read the report.

Air Force releases interim religion guidelines

Elizabeth Hunter, The Lutheran (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) November 2005

"Melinda Morton, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America chaplain who served at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., resigned, telling The Lutheran that school officials had engaged in a 'departure from the Constitution.' Morton said Gen. Charles Baldwin, head of Air Force chaplains, 'indicated his intention and desire to restructure the Air Force chaplaincy along unconstitutional lines ... to have chaplains operate primarily out of denominational priorities and engage in proselytization. But everyone in the military is expected to appropriately accommodate the tenets of their faith with their position.'"Click here to read more.

Chaplain is dismissed from U.S. Air Force Academy, July 2005

"Chaplain MeLinda Morton, an ELCA pastor, was dismissed May 4 from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and reassigned to a chaplaincy position in Okinawa, Japan. She was told in December she could expect to continue at the academy for at least another year. Then in March she was told she would be transferred at the end of July.

"Morton, 48, believes she was dismissed for not complying with requests from Michael Whittington, the academy’s chief chaplain, that she deny details of what happened at a worship service last summer for new cadets." Click here for the report.

Air Force Taps Rabbi To Aid on Academy Religious Flap

By E.J. Kessler, Forward, July 1, 2005

"The Air Force has named a Conservative rabbi to a newly created advisory position to help it deal with what it has acknowledged as problems of religious coercion and intolerance at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs..." Click here to read the report

Air Force Academy makeup poses challenges to change

Pam Zubeck, The Gazette, June 26, 2005

The high perentage of Protestants at the Air Force Academy and its location, in Colarado Springs near major national right-wing evangelical organizations, will make it difficult to change its culture of religious coercion. This article looks at the different makeup and situation at each of the other military academies and at the religious hothouse in which the Air Force Academy is located. Click here to read the report

See also: "Non-Christian Air Force Cadets Cite Harassment," By David Kelly, The Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2005, and "Year-Old Report Warned of 'Evangelical Tone' at AFA ," By Pam Zubeck, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), April 20 2005, available from TruthOut. (Click here.)