An Astronaut Holding the Holy Bible
The United States Space Force was officially signed into law in December 2019.

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?

37 comments

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Don’t you just love how the moderators of this blog choose the topics? They must really enjoy our responses, and of course, must have a good sense of humor :)

    For me, it’s a little disappointing that they don’t have a swearing in ceremony on the book “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan.

    1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

      Star Ship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein. My understanding, is that it's Christian to make Affirmation; "Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no." Muslims would swear on Taqqiyya, and Jews shoud swear on Von Karman.

    2. Brien's Avatar Brien

      Lionheart, I just cannot stop laughing about this. So many jokes, so little time. I am so waiting for the next Marvel movie on this lolololol. And then, I read people are so offended, as if this were something that is going to affect society, lololol. I finally stopped laughing over the spaghetti religion and sure enough ULC does not disappoint, lookout now...here comes SSSPAAAAAAAACCCEE FOOOOOOORCE. Are they jews? Are they christians? Mormon? Muslim? No one knows for sure. SSSPAAAAAAACCCEE FOOOOOOOORCE! ROFLMAO

  1. Rev. D.H. Zielinski's Avatar Rev. D.H. Zielinski

    My fellow ministers, "Swearing" on a Bible, Quran, Torah, or any other Holy book only means anything to anyone if the person swearing on that book BELIEVES in the faith that the oath that they are swearing to means something. How many times have we seen people "swear" that what they are saying is the whole truth on a bible when they are in fact telling a lie and do not actually stand by what they are swearing to?

    1. Stephanie A Willey's Avatar Stephanie A Willey

      Excellent point Rev D.H.Zielinski. If I were joining the Space Force, or any of our American armed forces I think my choice would be to put my hand on the Constitution of the United States of America and swear my pledge. It just seems to make much better sense to me.

    2. Barry Weisenbach's Avatar Barry Weisenbach

      I totally agree with your statement. You will be venturing Out in the name of your country , not your religion.

    3. Thunder's Avatar Thunder

      I think you folks have missed the point. This is a symbolic act, and in so saying one must rightly question what the meaning of that symbolism is intended to communicate. It's patently beyond question that this is an attempt to portray xtianity as having a legitimate privileged position within the US military leadership. Moreover, this is in keeping with a long tradition of using military religious zealotry to discriminate and persecute people of other faiths. Haitians know this very well, as do traditional First Nations people and many many others. In short, it's an insult to every other faith group (especially minority faiths which have suffered from xtian persecution) for this blessing to ever have taken place.

      As for those who cite the funding fathers, it's worth bearing in mind that George Washington swore on a Masonic bible, which in spite of being a xtian text, speaks more to his affiliation with Freemasonry (a notoriously multi-faith organization). In any case, it's always been completely optional.

      1. Thunder's Avatar Thunder

        PS. Matthew 5:37, James 5:12, et al.

      2. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

        All too often we still hear from people 'quoting' statements of the 'founding father', and skewing those statements to leave people with the impression that the blend of church and state is what was being promoted. That is about as close as one can get to truth as is anything we hear from Trump. Andrew Seidel explains in very clear language, in his book The Founding Myth - Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American. How ignorance has outpaced reason on this issue. I agree with most other contributors, this is an insult to not only Americans but to people of all faiths, wherever they live. Christians I believe will be the most beguiled due to the bible being exploited for political gain by the nations leading representative. The man knows no shame.

      3. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

        Yes, and the "Founding Fathers" are only relevant to descendants of Europeans who came here. They are not my founding fathers either.

    4. Michael Dench's Avatar Michael Dench

      I completely agree with you. However the point that this is in flagrant defiance of the First Amendment, is a valid one. Those who devoutly believe in their deity (or deities) of choice will make their oaths with that in mind, regardless of what is mandated.

      As I said about a previous issue, perhaps we as ministers would be better off ignoring all such storms in a teacup and focussing our intent on helping to free others from the tyranny of organised religion.

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    Ummmm.....oh c'mon now, are you people seriously arguing over this? You did read the part about space force right? Tell you what, it was actually the space force bible which has a similar cover but the inside is a DC comic book, ROFLMAO! Now what really should bake your noodle is that we have a president who decided that we NEED A SPACE FORCE. You are getting this right? In other words marvel and dc comics now have a political office thanks to our very worldly president. I just do not know what is funnier, space force or a bunch of grown ass people arguing about a make believe ceremony 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  1. Reverend Hannah Grace's Avatar Reverend Hannah Grace

    So there are no people of Jewish or Mormon faith (or any other for that matter) expected to join the Space Force? If so, how would they feel about this? sounds like a pretty stupid idea to me unless they want to change the name to Christian Space Force.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    What's a "self-described veteran"? Whether he is or isn't a military veteran, his description of how an oath of enlistment/commission is performed. The only text is the oath, itself, and no one puts their hand on it.

    Been a long time since I gave this any thought, but maybe touching a text would be appropriate - the oath is to defend the constitution, so a copy of said document should be used.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Maybe he's a veteran who describes himself as one, or maybe he saw one or more war movies, and visualized himself being there, fighting as a soldier. He might even have some really cool military stuff he bought from a surplus store, which has significantly contributed to his delusion.

  1. Tom's Avatar Tom

    Respectfully...no United States ceremony, whether civilian or military, should feature a bible or any other "religious" text...Peace...Tom B

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      sorry but the US Supreme Court has said you are wrong in the newdow cases.

  1. Jim's Avatar Jim

    Taken out of context as usual. IF someone does not want to swear the oath on a bible they do not have to. For the record the 1st amendment says nothing about separation of church and state. The MRFF is out of line with the comments made.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I thought I heard or read that a person could take such an oath on a book of whatever religion he/she was a member of. They should have had more than just Christian ministers at that ceremony, to better represent the diverse religious and spiritual beliefs of the citizens of this nation, or none at all, since there's really not a need for such a thing anyway. It is only a tradition, conceived out of ignorance, by a bunch of fools who are long since dead and buried. I think the majority of Americans are much more sensible now, than people who lived hundreds of years ago, and our traditions should be changed to reflect that.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I thought I heard or read that a person could take such an oath on a book of whatever religion he/she was a member of. They should have had more than just Christian ministers at that ceremony, to better represent the diverse religious and spiritual beliefs of the citizens of this nation, or none at all, since there's really not a need for such a thing anyway. It is only a tradition, conceived out of ignorance, by a bunch of fools who are long since dead and buried. I think the majority of Americans are much more sensible now, than people who lived hundreds of years ago, and our traditions should be changed to reflect that.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Mikey Weinstein and the rest of his little group need to stop with the tantrums. There IS NO SUCH THING as Separation of Church and State in the Constitution and never has been. The very first mention of this myth was in a letter from Jefferson to his Baptist Detractors in 1802. The Constitution was already law of the land for 15 years at that point (was ratified in 1787) and to change anything in it you would need a constitutional amendment, not a letter. Since then there has been no attempt to use a constitutional amendment as is required. And the US Supreme Court in Article 3 of the Constitution, does not have the ability and never has had the ability to "interpret" anything as if this were the case then each successive Court that had a different makeup, could then "interpret" the past decisions as wrong and say the Constitution says what THEY say it does instead of what it actually states. In fact the inability to "interpret" is upheld in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which clearly states that unless a branch of the Government is SPECIFICALLY given an authority or power, and clearly stated in the Constitution; then they do NOT have that authority and never have had that authority. Its far past the time when the DOJ needs to nail this group for being a waste of the courts time and filing false claims.

    1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

      If there is no such thing as Separation of Church and State, please explain this part of the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" In context with the topic of this post, the government has elevated one specific religious text to a higher status than any other. Also, requiring a member of any non-Christian religion to swear on a Christian Bible might encroach on that person's ability to freely exercise their own religion.

      1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

        so why swear on anything, book, piece of fruit, vial of american soil, a cup of coffee...?? Let's drop the ceremony as it really is a meaningless threat. The courts already remind people of perjury before they testify. Some have said it is a tradition.... well so was slavery.

  1. Shawn Allen Hank's Avatar Shawn Allen Hank

    Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Mr. Daniel Gray is right. Separation of church and state was popularized by the founding father of Secular Humanism, the late Dr. Paul Kurtz.

    If we are going to discuss the first amendment, then let us copy and paste each word of it shall we? The first amendment is alluding to people have the right to practice their religious beliefs and government is to be impartial to respect / support it. Government cannot pass legislation prohibiting religious practice. If anything the freedom of religion, speech and press demonstrates a limiting power of Government.

    If one of the three is overturned by an amendment, then all three will be overturned. In other words, freedom of religion is eliminated, them the freedom of speech and press will eventually be eliminated. The big picture is if the first amendment is eliminated, then rest assured The Bill of Rights will be eliminated.

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    So, is this 'fake news' , an early April Fools joke, or simply more thoughts from a delusional President? ....and he scoffs at the rantings of North Korea's President. These two have sooo much in common.

  1. Dorothy E. Cogswell's Avatar Dorothy E. Cogswell

    "God created the heavens and earth" to live freely in and peacefully wonder at and explore. Not to blow each other up.

    1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      Well put, in simple terms. Me thinks that Trump would never consider being second in command, so control 'space' and show the world who's boss!

      1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

        I thought you meant God about "Trump would never consider being second in command". LOL

        But wait, "and show the world who's boss!" Hmmmm....

        1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

          I don't usually use the word boss to describe a 'leader' because well, they aren't. Leaders have skills which are absent in bosses.Trump see's himself as 'the' boss of all earthlings, and will rule as though there will be no accountability, to anyone. Karma is quite active in Washington these days.

  1. Wallice Jusino de la Vega's Avatar Wallice Jusino de la Vega

    As a Vietnam Era veteran, I continue seeing this slippery slope towards (formally-officially) declaring the U.S. a "christian nation"... which could put us closer to a "holy war" with other nations who use their religious identication as their most important nomenclature.

  1. Beth Owen Powell's Avatar Beth Owen Powell

    Well, when I requested a certain religious holiday off, I was told that worship was for Sunday(mine was Friday evening) and wasn’t a problem except at sea or duty status. At the time of refusal my CO wrote the denial explaining from Navy Regulations that the Navy was primarily a Christian organization and other observances would be determined by the chain of command, as appropriate. So, this question of separation of Church and State is not germane. We are addressing the military not the national government.

    The separation of church and state means no State-run or taxes collected for a particular church , as does in the UK or Germany to name two countries. It also means that persons can be forced to belong to or not belong to a certain church.

    This is not the forum to throw political mud. The Space Force is a reality and the President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief because he is the President. He holds the highest position in the chain-of-command. He was sworn in on a Bible, as are all presidents. He wants someone who heads such a galactic force to be reminded by a book that he or she are insignificant in size and our Force in scale to the Universe. Both religions from throughout the world and atheist philosophers agree on that. Here let’s concentrate on our sameness rather than our differences.

  1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

    All this from a practicing agnostic atheist pandering for the adulation and votes of self-professed Christians.

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    I am a Cold War Veteran.

    The allusion depicted here is that any traditional practicing Jew or Muslim seeking to join the US Space Force would be obligated to take an oath constituting a negation of their own beliefs by stating "through Jesus Christ, Our Lord....".

    Although MRRF tends to take these things over the top, but trying to "Christianize" the Armed Forces isn't the right move, either. Go back and research our treaty with the Barbary Pirates, in which it was mostly clearly stated that "in no way is the United States of America a nation founded upon the Christian Religion."

    Generally speaking, there is certainly nothing wrong with individuals observing their religious practices according to the dictates of their conscience (this assumes those practices don't require the persecution or killing of those outside their particular faith tradition), but the actions described here constitute essentially an official endorsement of Christianity by the Space Force.

    Were they instead to have said, "With the support of the Republican Party, we go forward to conquer space", they could have been criminally charged with using their official position for political endorsement. So why should they get a pass for endorsing a religious ideology in their official capacity if they're prohibited from endorsing a political ideology? The fact is, they deserve no such pass.

    Mikey Weinstein and his MRRF have essentially the right idea, but just a really bad approach.

  1. Reverend Will's Avatar Reverend Will

    Trump did not really create it All he did was separate The Air Force Space Command (1982–2019) into it's own branch.

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    There has been enough said about the self promotion of Xtian Goals and discrimination leading to Religious Wars.. This Part Really Get's me: "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."

    The Arrogance of That Man...More Than Just Your Average Sinner: Greed and deception Tax Fraud Charitible organization Fraud, Money laundering: Into the Billions of$$ Missogynist of Global Proportions... Sexual Pervert including Exploitation of women ie.. Trafficking in foreign Wives Plural.. Murderer of Innocents. as well as selective targeting of Leaders which will Lead to Greater Killing of innocents... Petition The Lord With Prayer?? YOU CAN NOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      I know what you mean, Biden is real creepy isn’t he, but don’t worry I doubt he will become President.

      🦁❤️

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    Kind of hard having a new military branch when there is no money for it ever being budget.

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