08 February 2006

Who’s the National Association of Evangelicals going to save, if not the environment? When it’s not busy finding excuses not to join the centrist evangelical coalition that’s taking on global warming, the NAE is directing its salvation energies closer to home: today filing court documents to officially join the defense of the Air Force, on behalf of its beleaguered evangelical chaplains. The Air Force, which is being sued by Jewish Academy graduate Mikey Weinstein over religious intolerance directed at his son and other non-evangelical cadets, won’t commenton the intervention, but Kyle Fisk, an NAE spokesman, said he believed his group is “‘doing the Air Force a service.'” The plaintiff, Weinstein, agrees, but to different effect, telling The Colorado Springs Gazette, “‘I am thunder-struck that a branch of government would collaborate with fundamentalist Christians to convert members of the armed forces to evangelical Christianity.'” The NAE’s interest in the case isn’t new — the Air Force Academy is located in the same town as NAE president Ted Haggard’s New Life Church, and Haggard engaged in an email joust with Weinstein last December over the lawsuit — but it is fairly new for a religious organization to go beyond taking sides in church-state cases through amicus briefs, and actually try to intervene in the lawsuit itself. While legal observers wonder whether the Air Force, which is trying to dispose of the case quietly, isn’t resisting such unrequested “help,” the NAE argues that, as representatives of the religion of the chaplains whose behavior is at question in the case, they have “‘a right to be heard'” in court.