DENVER (AP) — A religious watchdog group says a cross and motto on the emblem of an Army hospital in Colorado violate the constitutional requirement for separation of church and state and should be removed.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation asked the Army this week to change the emblem of Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs.
The emblem says “Pro deo et humanitate” or “For God and humanity.”
Fort Carson commanders will review the complaint, Lt. Col. Steve Wollman said.
He said the emblem had been approved by the Army Institute of Heraldry and has been in use since 1969.
Wollman said references to doctors serving God and humanity date to the time of Hippocrates, a pre-Christianity Greek physician.
Wollman said the cross, which has a pointed base, is both an emblem of mercy and a symbol dating to the Middle Ages, when pilgrims carried a cross with a spiked base to mark the site of a camp.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said that’s a reference to the Crusades and could embolden U.S. enemies who want to portray the war on terror as a Christian war on Islam.
“This continues to add more fodder to the argument that we are Crusaders,” Weinstein said. “It’s exactly what fundamentalist Muslims want.”
Weinstein’s foundation, based in Albuquerque, N.M., last week persuaded the Army to withdraw an invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at the Pentagon on May 6, the National Day of Prayer.
Weinstein cited comments Graham made in 2001 describing Islam as evil. The Army said it withdrew the invitation because Graham’s remarks were “not appropriate.”
Graham is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., asked the House Armed Services Committee this week to hold hearings on what he called “a growing movement in the military to censor certain biblical teachings.”
Weinstein said he lodged the complaint about the cross on behalf of 43 people at Fort Carson. He said 29 of them are Protestants or Catholics. One is a civilian and the others are enlisted personnel or junior officers.
He said they took their concerns to him for fear of reprisals if they complained to military commanders. Weinstein said none wanted to be identified.