The U.S. military’s newest branch has officially blessed a version of the King James Bible for its swearing in ceremonies, drawing criticisms from a group who said the ceremony constitutes a violation of the separation between church and state.
On Sunday, the Washington National Cathedral confirmed it had blessed a Bible for the Space Force to use. In response, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) issued a statement in criticism of the religious ceremony, describing it as a “repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy, dominance, triumphalism and exceptionalism.”
— Washington National Cathedral (@WNCathedral) January 12, 2020
According to NPR, the newly blessed Bible will be given to Gen. John Raymond, who has assumed command of the new military branch. Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, the Air Force chief of chaplains, participated in the blessing.
“MRFF noted with additional disgust and disdain the willing and all-too visible participation of a senior USAF officer, in formal uniform, during the travesty of this sectarian ceremony which tragically validates the villainy of unadulterated Christian privilege at DoD and its subordinate military branches,” said Mikey Weinstein, Founder and President of MRFF. “For the record, military commanders are NOT ever ‘sworn in’ to their positions let alone with the usage of a Christian bible or other book of faith. And especially not in 2020!!”
Weinstein went on to announce MRFF had received “a multitude” of complaints by both Military and civilian Defense Department, following the religious ceremony.
As a result of the complaints, the religious freedom group plans to lodge formal complaints with Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The MRFF also announced it would assist clients filing Inspector General (IG) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints.
Should efforts to appeal through the Defense Department fail, the group has vowed to bring their complaints before a federal court in Northern Virginia.
“The utilization of a Christian bible to ‘swear in’ commanders of the new Space Force or any other DoD 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 and also violates Clause 3, Article 6’s total prohibition of No Religious Test for any Federal Gov’t position. Additionally such blatantly scurrilous activity violates a slew of critical DoD directives, instructions and regulations.
MRFF has recently been involved in another dispute over the separation between church and state, when a Bible was included in a POW/MIA memorial display. The display was brought to a VA Medical Center by a private veterans group.
Air Force spokesperson Lynn Kirby said personnel may choose to be sworn in with our without a Bible and “will remain a personal choice for each individual swearing in.”
The Bible blessing ceremony also included blessings for President Donald Trump.
“Almighty God, who set the planets in their courses and the stars in space,” Rev. Carl Wright reportedly said during the ceremony. “Look with favor, we pray you, upon the commander in chief, the 45th president of this great nation, who looked to the heavens and dared to dream of a safer future for all mankind.”