Group Sues Pentagon Over Officers in Religious Show

June 26, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Associated Press

A foundation that has sued the military alleging widespread violations of religious freedom is asking the Pentagon to block a Christian cable TV broadcast featuring officers in uniform.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has raised objections to 20 minutes of the two-hour broadcast of "Carman's Red, White and Blue Spectacular," saying the program may violate a prohibition against uniformed officers endorsing a particular religion.

Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, said the military's involvement in the program "maliciously defiles and lays waste" to regulations. He wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Monday seeking a full investigation.

The program is scheduled to air July 4 and 5 on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. It was produced in 2003 and re-aired in 2005.

A spokeswoman for Gates said Wednesday that the letter hadn't yet been received.

"When it is, we will forward it to the appropriate command for review," spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.

Included in the program is a segment where Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp appears in uniform and is introduced as the then-president of the Officers Christian Fellowship.

The interview was filmed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he was commander of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center.

In his letter, Weinstein also claims that footage was shot of soldiers training at Fort Leonard Wood with Van Antwerp's permission.

Weinstein said the video is a tacit endorsement by the U.S. military of Christianity and the Christian singer and evangelist Carman. He also said it's fodder for those in Iraq and Afghanistan who perceive U.S. military action as part of a crusade to spread Christianity and Western ideologies.