The Air Force has refused to punish a general for referring to God in a speech, despite agitations from a group interested in stripping the military of religion.
On May 7, Maj. Gen. Craig Olson stated at the congressionally supported National Day of Prayer Task Force that God guided and strengthened his career, and without God’s help, he wouldn’t have been able to fly aircraft or execute nuclear missions, Air Force Times reports.
“He put me in charge of failing programs worth billions of dollars,” Olson said. “I have no ability to do that, no training to do that. God did that. He sent me to Iraq to negotiate foreign military sales deals through an Arabic interpreter. I have no ability to do that. I was not trained to do that. God did all of that.”
He further stated that he is a “redeemed believer in Christ.” Such a profession was too much for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The group wrote a letter to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on May 13 demanding for Olson to be court-martialed immediately due to violations of Air Force rules. According to the group, Olson’s speech was “brazenly illicit” and constituted “fundamentalist Christian proselytizing,” effectively amounting to an endorsement of a particular belief.
The Air Force disagrees. According to a spokesman for the service, Lt. Col. Pete Hughes, Olson did not breach Instruction 1-1 dealing with the exercise of religion.
“His remarks were his own personal opinions and do not represent the views of the United States Air Force,” Hughes told Air Force Times.
That decision didn’t satisfy the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Commenting on the National Day of Prayer controversy, Rev. Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical Christian leader, said in a Facebook post that “this group would’ve tried to court martial George Washington when he prayed at Valley Forge! Come on — whose civil liberties are really being infringed on here? They want to bully Christians into silence.”
Olson is in charge of over 2,200 personnel at Hanscom Air Force Base, which is located in Massachusetts.