October 11, 2005

Air Force retreats on chaplain code of ethics

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday
it has withdrawn ethics guidelines to its chaplains that
allowed them to "instruct and/or evangelize" members of the
military not affiliated with a particular religion.

Air Force Academy cadets have complained that evangelical
Christian leaders on campus used their positions to push their
religion and one Jewish graduate, who has a son enrolled at the
academy, filed suit in federal court last week to force the
chaplains to stop proselytizing.

The Air Force said a Code of Ethics statement issued by the
Air Force Chaplain Service in January stated: "I will not
actively proselytize from other religious bodies. However, I
retain the right to instruct and/or evangelize those who are
not affiliated."

The Air Force said these guidelines were "withdrawn for
further review" on August 10.

"It was pulled to be reviewed following the release of the
interim religious guidelines that were put out" on August 29,
said Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Stephens.

These guidelines warned against promoting any particular
religion in official communications or meetings, athletic
contests and ceremonies and cautioned against pushing "religion
over non-religion."

A team from Yale Divinity School said in April it had found
evangelical Christian proselytizing commonplace at the Air
Force academy, in Colorado Springs and described a chaplain
telling cadets they would "burn in the fires of hell" if they
were not born-again Christians.

"The U.S. Air Force is committed to defending the rights of
all of our men and women whatever their beliefs," said

The Air Force issued a report in June stating that the had
academy failed to accommodate minority religious beliefs, but
there was no overt discrimination at the college of about 4,000
cadets, which produces junior officers for the Air Force.

The report stated that some faculty and staff
inappropriately expressed strong religious views and Jewish
cadets on campus faced anti-Semitic comments.