Separation of Church and… Space?
The decision to use an “official Bible” to swear in all future leaders of the freshly minted Space Force, a new branch of the military officially signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2019, is drawing serious criticism.
The Bible blessing was performed by three men, Rev. Randolph Hollerith, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Rev. Carl Wright, the Episcopal Church’s bishop suffragan for the armed forces, and Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, the Air Force chief of chaplains. The idea of an “official Bible” that all future Space Force commanders will swear on incensed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an advocacy group that fights for religious freedom in the U.S. military.
In a statement, MRFF President Mikey Weinstein said, “the Military Religious Freedom Foundation 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."
The Gravity of the Situation
The holy blessing sought to intwine the cosmos and Jesus Christ for the new military department entrusted with monitoring the final frontier. “Accept this Bible which we dedicate here today for the United States Space Force, that all may so diligently search your holy word and find it in the wisdom that leads to peace and salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen,” said Rev. Hollerith as he blessed the Bible.
The blessing also included a bit of adulation for President Trump, who received some mockery in the press when he first announced the Space Force in 2018. "Almighty God, who set the planets in their courses and the stars in space, 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."
Set Phasers to ‘Disagree’
But as the Washington National Cathedral tweeted proudly about the blessing, MRFF sent a formal complaint letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Sunday's ceremony "tragically validates the villainy of unadulterated Christian privilege at DoD and its subordinate military branches…. 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."
The social media response was equally harsh.
"Gross," tweeted out United Church of Christ Pastor Seth Wispelwey of Tucson, Arizona. "Um. We don't swear our military oaths on a Bible, or any text for that matter," wrote a self-described veteran. "Stand at attention, right hand up. That's it."
However, downplaying MRFF's stated goals of ensuring religious freedom for all members of the Armed Forces, Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute told Fox News he finds Mikey Weinstein’s lack of faith disturbing. “The tradition of using a Bible for swearing-in dates back to the very founding of our nation, with presidents and members of Congress doing so since George Washington," he explained. "It is in every sense part of our historic heritage and is perfectly legal."
Weinstein's "constitutional arguments are almost worse than the Star Wars prequels," he quipped.
2020: A Space Controversy
While an Air Force spokesperson later clarified that "there is no official religious or other sacred text, nor is there any requirement for a member to use any sacred or religious text, during swearing-in ceremonies," that's done little to quell the fury of the MRFF, who demanded Defense Secretary Mark Esper "stop this train-wreck disaster in its stinking tracks from ever even leaving the station."
As we look to the next generation of our military defense and exploration, considering the role of faith and God is more important than ever. Just how entwined do we want the military, the cosmos, and God to be?
What do you think? Is this Bible blessing really a phantom menace, a ploy to needlessly insert Christianity into the military and government? Or does God have a legitimate role to play in blessing our interstellar adventures?