By Chris Carroll
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — Spurred by protests, commanders at Little Rock Air Force Base have dumped a video marriage-enhancement course, saying the program by an Evangelical Christian group focused only on heterosexual marriage at a time when the military is moving to accept same-sex marriage as well.
The video series, “The Art of Marriage,” was scheduled for Feb. 7 at the Arkansas base’s annual Wingman Day. The Air Force Wingman Program and others similar to it, including the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program, are mandatory and designed to promote psychological and physical wellness and teach troops how to look for signs of suicide risk and other problems.
But the spiritual aspect of those wellness programs — which the services say is nondenominational — has drawn complaints from servicemembers who charge it allows commanders to promote specific religious viewpoints, particularly those of Evangelicals and conservative Christians.
The change was prompted by complaints from at least one airman to the chain of command, as well as an intervention by Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a crusader against what he characterizes as undue influence on the military by conservative Christian groups.
Weinstein dismissed the Air Force’s explanation, saying officials were trying to make a “tar baby” of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered troops.
“They’re saying, ‘Look, they made us do it,’” he said. “They really did this because it would have been illegal for them to force people to watch that video.”
A spokeswoman for the Arkansas base said cancellation was not because the program was produced by an Evangelical group, but because its target audience was too narrow.
“We wanted to make sure it was inclusive of all relationships, to include same-sex relationships,” said 2nd Lt. Amanda Porter.