September 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

High-ranking Army and Air Force personnel violated military regulations when they participated in a promotional video for a private evangelical organization, according to a report by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General.

A Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 6 it would be up to the Army and Air Force whether to discipline the military brass involved, but said no action is expected against top civilian employees.

The 47-page report, which was released on July 27, found that four Air Force officers and three Army officers were wrong to take part in a fund-raising video for the Arlington, Va.-based Christian Embassy. (The Christian Embassy was founded by the late Bill Bright, who also launched Campus Crusade for Christ.)

The inspector general’s report tagged Air Force Maj. Gens. Peter U. Sutton and Jack J. Catton Jr., and Army Brig. Gens. Vincent K. Brooks and Robert L. Caslen Jr. for violating ethical guidelines that forbid officers from using their official capacities to promote private organizations, The Washington Post reported.

“The overall circumstances of the interviews emphasized the speakers’ military status and affiliation and implied they were acting within the scope of their official positions as [Department of Defense] spokespersons,” the report stated.

One officer told the inspector general’s office that he believed the Christian Embassy, which hosts a weekly prayer breakfast at the Pentagon, had become a “quasi-federal entity.”

The dispute over the video surfaced last December against a backdrop of complaints that military officials frequently turn a blind eye to improper proselytizing and show preferential treatment toward evangelicals.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based watchdog group founded by retired Air Force attorney Michael Weinstein, asked the Department of Defense to investigate the video last December.

Weinstein told The Post that Congress should conduct oversight hearings of the military officers’ actions with the Embassy. Weinstein said the report “confirms the intentional dismantling of the constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state by some of the highest ranking officials in the Bush administration and the U.S. military.”