Air Force Should Settle Lawsuit Over Chaplain Proselytizing, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Air Force Must Stop Promoting Religion

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the U.S. Air Force to settle a lawsuit brought by an Albuquerque man who has exposed inappropriate religious proselytizing at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Mikey Weinstein filed suit last month to demand that the Air Force reject an informal policy that allows chaplains to evangelize service personnel who are not members of any faith community.

The policy language was written by the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, a private body that provides chaplains to the military. Air Force officials denied that the statement was ever official policy, but critics noted it was handed out at the chaplains’ school at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., giving it a de facto official status.

“The Air Force is wasting time and money defending itself against this lawsuit,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The easy and appropriate solution is for the Air Force to make it official policy that chaplains should not proselytize.

Continued Lynn, “Chaplains are employed to respond to the religious needs of service personnel stationed away from their home congregations. They have no business seeking converts on the taxpayer’s dime. The rights of all military personnel, both religious and nonreligious, must be respected.”

Earlier this year, Americans United prepared a detailed report listing examples of officially sanctioned promotion of evangelical Christianity at the Academy. In response, the Air Force sent a team to study the religious climate there. A set of guidelines governing religious activity in the Air Force was later drafted.

Lynn called these actions important first steps but said more is needed.

“If the Air Force really wants to show that it is serious about resolving its religious liberty problems, settling this lawsuit is the logical step to take,” Lynn said. “The Air Force can then develop consistent policies that make it clear that no religion will be favored over another.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.