Friday, September 1, 2006
Air Force Grad Fights 'Crusaders' Emblem
By Tim Korte
The Associated Press
An Air Force Academy graduate from Albuquerque wants Cannon Air Force Base to end the 523rd Fighter Squadron's use of "Crusaders" as the unit's nickname.
Mikey Weinstein, who has sued the Air Force over allegations that Air Force Academy cadets were unconstitutionally subjected to Christian evangelization, also objects to the 523rd's unit emblem, which features a cross, a sword and an armored helmet.
"The airmen of 523rd Fighter Squadron ... not only have invoked the term 'Crusaders' to describe their unit, they use blatantly sectarian religious symbolism on the patches they affix to their uniforms and the official logo of their unit," he wrote in a story for the Sept. 4 issues of the Air Force Times, Army Times and Navy Times.
Weinstein, president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the Cannon squadron's symbols should be eliminated.
"I'm not asking them. I'm demanding they change it," he said Thursday in a telephone interview.
Staff Sgt. Craig Seals, a spokesman for the base at Clovis, said he knew of no plans to change the Crusaders nickname or the 523rd unit emblem.
Weinstein, who is Jewish, said it is a "sick irony" that Air Force personnel can wear religious emblems when the United States is fighting fundamentalist Islamics who "exploit religion as a means to cause mass devastation and death."
"It is the job of our military to end this fundamentalism, remove the terrorists and bring safety, democracy and freedom to these areas not to spread Christianity or represent America as a Christian nation," he wrote.
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