Professor from Right-Wing Evangelical University Touts Benefits of Domestic Drones to National Sheriff's Conference

July 1, 2013

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John Marselus, associate dean of Flight Operations for the School of Aeronautics at the Evangelical Christian college, Liberty University, spoke to sheriffs from across the U.S. about the benefits of using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)–a.k.a. drones–during the National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in Charlotte, N.C. on June 22. A gaggle of industry professionals, including Marselus, was invited to speak at the conference after giving a similar presentation on April 18 at the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association Convention in Portsmouth, Va.,

Liberty University is the world’s largest evangelical Christian university, and as David Swanson’s investigative reporting for the Huntington News website and in Sojourners magazine disclosed, is among the foremost national training grounds for “pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits.”

Marselus developed and teaches several UAS courses, and according to Liberty University News Service (LUNS), is “working to forge partnerships with industry, government, and other innovators as the school works to remain on the cutting edge of aeronautics development in the U.S.”

As LUNS reports, Congress instructed the Federal Aviation Administration to integrate UAS into U.S. domestic airspace by Sept. 2015.

Marselus told LUNS:

“The reason we got into Unmanned Aircraft Systems is because the School of Aeronautics wants to prepare Champions for Christ in all areas of aviation. Unmanned Aircraft Systems are part of the future of aviation. We want believers prepared and ready to serve the Lord in that area, too.”

At the conference, in front of the locally elected law enforcement officials in attendence, Marselus and his colleagues spouted off the “many ways” drones can benefit the U.S.–“from law enforcement to agriculture (crop spraying), science, and search and rescue–as more cost-effective, safer methods, and as more precise means to meet the many missions in aviation,” LUNS writes.

As Glenn Greenwald points out in a Guardian article published in March, both the number of drones and types of drones used by US domestic law enforcement agencies is increasing quickly. The ACLU and other civil liberty groups are responding by devoting increasing efforts to publicizing the unique dangers of drones, and agitating for statutory limits.

Greenwald writes:

“These efforts are being impeded by those who mock the idea that domestic drones pose unique dangers (often the same people who mock concern over their usage on foreign soil). This dismissive posture is grounded not only in soft authoritarianism,” Greenwald writes, “… but also ignorance over current drone capabilities, the ways drones are now being developed and marketed for domestic use, and the activities of the increasingly powerful domestic drone lobby.”

But not to worry, says Marselus, the drones are totally safe–it’s not like they’re taking off and killing people of their own accord.

“These aircraft are not really ‘unmanned;’ humans are still involved, they are just not inside the aircraft,”Marselus told the nation’s sheriffs, LUNS reports. “I am very thankful for our law enforcement professionals, they risk their lives for us every day. I see that UASs can enhance their operations greatly and put them at less risk as they protect and serve us.”

April M. Short is a Bay Area journalist focusing on social justice reporting.

Republished with permission from:: AlterNet