Army and Air Force Deny Formal Links To Christian Event

May 25, 2007

Author: Alan Cooperman

Source: The Washington Post

After complaints by a government watchdog group, the Air Force and the Army partially distanced themselves yesterday from a three-day evangelical Christian event this weekend at a Georgia theme park.

The Memorial Day weekend "Salute to the Troops" celebration at Stone Mountain Park is sponsored by Task Force Patriot USA, a private group that says its purpose is "sharing the fullness of life in Jesus Christ with all U.S. military, military veterans and families," and whose Web site says "Christ is our Commander-in-Chief."

In recent days, both the Task Force Patriot USA Web site and the newspaper of Robins Air Force Base, Ga., described the celebration as "an official U.S. Air Force 60th Anniversary event." Along with speeches by evangelical ministers, church services and distribution of Bibles, the published schedule promised "hourly flyovers" by Air Force jets, performances by military bands, color guard presentations, a parachute demonstration by the Army's elite Silver Wings jump team from Fort Benning, Ga., and exhibitions of Air Force equipment.

The promotional materials also said that an active-duty B-2 pilot, Air Force Maj. Brian "Jethro" Neal, would give Christian "testimony" during an outdoor worship service punctuated by a special flyover of B-2 "stealth" bombers.