Fire burning at Fort Carson
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President Barack Obama responds to questions during a prime time news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday April 29, 2009. The news conference marks his 100th day in office. Photo by (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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Maria Anne Hirschmann seems like a sweet 82-year-old woman.

True, she repeatedly says that President Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler hold similar ideas, and that Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist.

The evangelical Christian also says Muslims will do whatever it takes, including violence, to spread Islam, and that if the U.S. military did not invade Iraq, terrorism would be rampant in America.

But given her kind, grandmotherly disposition, it's hard get angry with her.

It's much easier to get riled at the Air Force Academy for booking Hirschmann as a keynote speaker for a February symposium for cadets -- in spite of long-time allegations that the academy favors evangelical Christians and discriminates against nonevangelicals and people of other faiths.

The academy never specified why she was invited, though Hirschmann thinks it was for her love of America and American troops. She had planned to talk about freedom, not religion, she said.

But it doesn't matter; she never got a chance to speak. Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth, an academy spokesman, said Hirschmann's appearance was canceled when the vetting process discovered that her "views were not compatible" with those of the academy. "It had nothing to do with her religious views," he said.

Hirschmann, however, says she was canceled because of an outcry from First Amendment advocacy groups and threats from "a lawyer who said if you let that woman speak, we will sue the academy."

Hirschmann said she was asked in December to speak at the academy's "2009 National Character and Leadership Symposium." The academy bought her round-trip plane tickets from her home in Hawaii, Hirschmann said, but canceled her in mid-January.

It's possible that the academy vetted her during the intervening weeks, but Hirschmann doesn't buy it. "I have been speaking for 30 years for the U.S. military," Hirschmann said. "They knew my message of freedom. They could have asked for a tape or CD to hear my talks, but they never did."

And she does create controversy. Consider what she told me:

"Islam is a religion that believes it has a calling to make the world Muslim and do it violently and nonviolently - whatever way to spread Islam will be done," Hirschmann said.

Some have accused the U.S. military of turning the war on terror into a holy war between evangelical Christianity and Islam. Hirschmann is OK with that, too.

"If the U.S. military does what God tells them, he will bless America," she said.

Regardless of why the academy canceled Hirschmann's appearance, the fact that she was invited in the first place shows the academy still doesn't get it, said Arshad Yousufi, the spokesman for the local Islamic community.

Exposing cadets to "one-sided, unbalanced views," he said, leaves them unprepared for "dangerous global situations, where correct understanding of friends and foes is of strategic importance."

To read more of my interview with Hirschmann, go to my blog, The Pulpit.


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