Religious Group's Ties to Pentagon Questioned A military watchdog group is asking the Pentagon whether senior uniformed officers had permission to appear in a video endorsing an evangelical Christian group, the Christian Embassy. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation says that a core of evangelicals are gaining influence at the Pentagon -- and disobeying military policies.
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Religious Group's Ties to Pentagon Questioned

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Religious Group's Ties to Pentagon Questioned

Religious Group's Ties to Pentagon Questioned

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Now the controversy surrounding a group called the Christian Embassy. It's an evangelical missionary group focused on government workers in Washington, D.C. and a recent promotional video for it features endorsements from several prominent military officers. That's prompted a protest from another group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

As NPR's Guy Raz reports, the Foundation sees a core of evangelicals gaining influence at the Pentagon.

GUY RAZ: The Pentagon's outer ring of corridors is called the E-ring and if you're an important functionary or military chief, you get an office in the Ering. If you're really important, you get an office in the Ering with a view of the Potomac, like the defense secretary.

Now if you're really, really important inside the important place that is the Ering, you get access to the Pentagon's executive dining room. And early every Wednesday morning, the executive dining room is turned into a breakfast prayer hall run by a private evangelical group called the Christian Embassy. It's a group that is lucky enough to have an office inside the Department of Defense.

Here's a recording of a recent prayer breakfast held in that dining room. The speaker is a prominent evangelical minister, James Kennedy.

JAMES KENNEDY: And I often thought that the only reason anybody would not accept the gift of eternal life and Christ was either they hadn't heard of it or they were insane.

RAZ: Insane is precisely how Mikey Weinstein would describe that prayer breakfast you just heard, not because it happened, but because it happened at taxpayer expense inside the Pentagon. So Mikey Weinstein and his group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is on a - well, a crusade.

MIKEY WEINSTEIN: To try to wake the American people up to understand that we apparently have a radicalized evangelical Christian Pentagon within the rest of the Pentagon.

RAZ: Mikey Weinstein is a lawyer and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. His dad was a career naval officer. His two sons are cadets at the Air Force Academy now, and one is off to Iraq in a month. He's preparing a possible class action lawsuit against the Pentagon for allowing what he calls -

WEINSTEIN: The creation of a theocracy of a particular fundamentalist perspective within our own military branches.

RAZ: And among the examples he cites is this promotional video for the Christian Embassy.

VINCE BROOKS: The Christian Embassy really gives us a tremendous opportunity here in the Pentagon as leaders that carry a lot of responsibility.

RAZ: Now the man speaking in this clip is Brigadier General Vince Brooks. Remember him? He was the main military briefer before and during the Iraq war. The video features seven other uniformed officers endorsing the Christian Embassy. Mikey Weinstein says by appearing in the video in uniform, these officers have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and should be court martialed.

WEINSTEIN: Everyone who appears in that heinous video is absolutely violating the core values of the U.S. Air Force.

RAZ: In 2004, Reverend Melinda Morton was a chaplain at the Air Force Academy. She complained about what she called the aggressive evangelizing on campus, and mysteriously she was soon reassigned to Okinawa. So she retired from active duty. Morton says at the academy, there was a hierarchy of officership.

MELINDA MORTON: There's regular officers and then there's Godly officers. Godly officers apparently spout this ideology and nonGodly officers don't.

RAZ: The Pentagon released a statement today insisting it does not endorse any religious viewpoint or organization, but the department also promised to review the video in question.

Guy Raz, NPR News, Washington.

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