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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Miltary Evangelism

I found this article rather surprising. I did not think that evangelism would be this open within the military. One would think that there enough people concerned enough to separate religion and the state to mount more of a counter-offensive to this sort of activity. I am sure many religious groups themselves are against this type of activity.

Military Evangelism Deeper, Wider Than First Thought
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report Friday 21 December 2007

For US Army soldiers entering basic training at Fort Jackson Army base
in Columbia, South Carolina, accepting Jesus Christ as their personal
savior appears to be as much a part of the nine-week regimen as the
vigorous physical and mental exercises the troops must endure. That's
the message directed at Fort Jackson soldiers, some of whom appear in
photographs in government issued fatigues, holding rifles in one hand,
and Bibles in their other hand.
Frank Bussey, director of Military Ministry at Fort Jackson, has
been telling soldiers at Fort Jackson that "government authorities,
police and the military = God's Ministers,"
Bussey's teachings from the "God's Basic Training" Bible study
guide he authored says US troops have "two primary responsibilities": "to
praise those who do right" and "to punish those who do evil - "God's
servant, an angel of wrath." Bussey's teachings directed at Fort Jackson
soldiers were housed on the Military Ministry at Fort Jackson web site.
Late Wednesday, the web site was taken down without explanation. Bussey
did not return calls for comment. The web site text, however, can
still be viewed in an archived format.
The Christian right has been successful in spreading its
fundamentalist agenda at US military installations around the world for decades.
But the movement's meteoric rise in the US military came in large part
after 9/11 and immediately after the US invaded Iraq in March of 2003.
At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious
freedom in Muslim nations, soldiers on the battlefield have told disturbing
stories of being force-fed fundamentalist Christianity by highly
controversial, apocalyptic "End Times" evangelists, who have infiltrated US
military installations throughout the world with the blessing of
high-level officials at the Pentagon. Proselytizing among military personnel
has been conducted openly, in violation of the basic tenets of the
United States Constitution.
Perhaps no other fundamentalist Christian group is more influential
than Military Ministry, a national organization and a subsidiary of
the controversial fundamentalist Christian organization Campus Crusade
for Christ. Military Ministry's national web site boasts it has
successfully "targeted" basic training installations, or "gateways," and has
successfully converted thousands of soldiers to evangelical Christianity.
Military Ministry says its staffers are responsible for "working
with Chaplains and Military personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to
Christ, build them in their faith and send them out into the world as
Government paid missionaries" - which appears to be a clear-cut violation
of federal law governing the separation of church and state.
"Young recruits are under great pressure as they enter the military
at their initial training gateways," the group has stated on its web
site. "The demands of drill instructors push recruits and new cadets to
the edge. This is why they are most open to the 'good news.' We target
specific locations, like Lackland AFB [Air Force base] and Fort
Jackson, where large numbers of military members transition early in their
career. These sites are excellent locations to pursue our strategic
goals."
Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the government
watchdog organization the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, whose group
has been closely tracking Military Ministry's activities at Fort
Jackson and other military bases around the country, said in an interview
that using "the machinery of the state" to promote any form of religion is
"not only unconstitutional and un-American but it also creates a
national security threat of the first order."
A six-month investigation by MRFF has found Military Ministry's
staff has successfully targeted US soldiers entering basic training at
Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston, with the approval of the
Army base's top commanders.
"I've said it before and I will say it again," Weinstein said. "We
are in the process of creating a fundamentalist Christian Taliban and
somebody has to do something to stop it now."
Weinstein points out that on Fort Jackson's Military Ministry web
site, the basic training battalion commander, Lt. Col. David Snodgrass,
and the battalion's chaplain, Maj. Scott Bullock, who appear in uniform
in a photograph with Bussey, is a clear-cut violation of Military
rules. MRFF contacted Bussey via email on Wednesday to request information
about the "similar programs" he claimed Fort Jackson has for soldiers
of other faiths. Bussey, responding to MRFF via email, did not provide
an answer to the watchdog group's question, but, instead, he fired back
a query of his own asking MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda to
direct him to the place in the Constitution where it states there is a
"separation of church and state."
Clause 3, Article VI of the Constitution forbids a religion test
for any position in the federal government, and the Establishment Clause
of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights says Congress shall make
no law regarding an establishment of religion.
A spokesperson for the Fort Jackson Army base did not return calls
for comment. Earlier this week, after MRFF exposed the potential
constitutional violations between Military Ministry and the Fort Jackson Army
base, Bussey added language to Military Ministry at Fort Jackson web
site in the form of a "notice to MRFF and ACLU types" in bold red
letters that says the Bible study classes are strictly voluntary, not command
directed in any way, allows soldiers to exercise for themselves the
right of freedom of religion ... and similar programs exist on Fort
Jackson for Soldiers of all faiths."
In July, the Pentagon's inspector general (IG) responded to a
complaint filed a year earlier by MRFF that accused Pentagon officials of
violating the federal law governing the separation of church and state.
The IG did not address the church/state issue, but he issued a 45-page
report admonishing several high-level Pentagon officials for
participating, while in uniform and on active duty, in a promotional video
sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ's Christian Embassy group. The IG
report quoted one high-ranking military official as saying he believed his
participation in the video was acceptable because Campus Crusade for
Christ had become so embedded in the Pentagon's day-to-day operations that
he viewed the organization as a "quasi federal entity."
The IG report recommended the military officials who appeared in
the video be disciplined, but the Pentagon would not say whether it has
in fact punished the military officers who appeared in the video.
MRFF uncovered another recent Campus Crusade for Christ promotional
video filmed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs that would
appear to violate the same military rules detailed in the IG report.
Cadets and academy officials appear in uniform discussing how Campus
Crusade for Christ helped strengthen their bonds with Jesus.
Scot Blom, the Campus Crusade for Christ director assigned to work
at the Air Force Academy, says in the video the organization "has
always been very intentional about going after the leaders or the future
leaders" and that's why Campus Crusade for Christ picked the Air Force
Academy to spread its fundamentalist Christian message. Every week,
according to the video, cadets are encouraged to participate in a Bible study
class called "cru" short for "crusade."
"Our purpose for Campus Crusade for Christ at the Air Force Academy
is to make Jesus Christ the issue at the Air Force Academy and around
the world," Blom says in the video. "They're government paid
missionaries when they leave here."
Weinstein said the recent promotional video for Campus Crusade for
Christ, and the photograph of US soldiers holding Bibles in one hand
and rifles in the other posted on the Fort Jackson Military Ministry web
site, gives the impression the Pentagon endorses the fundamentalist
Christian organization and underscores that the occupation of Iraq and the
war in Afghanistan appears to be more of a modern-day fundamentalist
Christian crusade. That message, Weinstein said, could lead to more
"jihads" against the United States.
Indeed. Weinstein, a former White House counsel during the Reagan
administration, former general counsel to Texas billionaire and two-time
presidential candidate H. Ross Perot and a former Air Force Judge
Advocate General, said he had an "unexpected" telephone conversation with
several senior Bush administration intelligence officials this week who
encouraged him "to continue to fight for the separation of church and
state in the US military" because, these senior administration
intelligence officials told Weinstein, US troops are being put in harms way.
Weinstein said the senior administration intelligence officials
told him they too have been tracking Islamic web sites where people have
been discussing on message boards the fundamental Christianity issues
Weinstein has raised within the US military. The intelligence officials
told Weinstein they are concerned the fundamentalist Christian agenda
surfacing in the military could lead to attacks against US soldiers.
Weinstein said he could not identify the senior Bush intelligence
administration officials he spoke with because they contacted him with the
understanding they would not be named.
Fundamental Christianity's Influence on the Bush Administration
While Weinstein has worked tirelessly the past four years exposing
the Christian Right's power grab within the military, he says the White
House continues to thumb its nose at the constitutional provision
mandating the separation of church and state.
Indeed. This week a US District Court judge ruled the White House
must disclose its visitor logs showing White House visits by nine
fundamentalist Christian leaders.
The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by the
government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington (CREW), and could very well show how much influence fundamental
Christian leaders such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Family
Research Council president Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and Moral Majority
co-founder Jerry Falwell have had on the Bush's administration.
"We think that these conservative Christian leaders have had a very
big impact," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. "The
White House doesn't want to talk about how much influence these leaders
have, and we want to talk about how much they do have."
Bush has been vocal about his fundamentalist Christian beliefs and
how God has helped him during his presidency. A couple of weeks ago,
the White House sent out Christmas cards signed by President Bush and his
wife Laura that contained a Biblical passage from the Old Testament:
"You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest
heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas
and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the
multitudes of heaven worship you." The inclusion of the Biblical passage
caught the attention of longtime broadcaster Barbara Walters, who was a
recipient of the presidential Christmas card.
Walters said she doesn't recall receiving "religious" holiday cards
from past presidents and she wondered how non-Christians would receive
such an overtly religious greeting.
"Usually in the past when I have received a Christmas card, it's
been 'Happy Holidays' and so on," said Walters. "Don't you think it's a
little interesting that the president of all the people is sending out a
religious Christmas card? Does this also go to agnostics, and
atheists, and Muslims?"
The Biblical passage inside the Christmas card did not amount to a
constitutional violation because it was paid for by the Republican
National Committee, but Weinstein said it's intolerable, nonetheless,
because military officials believe they have the approval of the White House
to allow fundamentalist Christian organizations and their leaders to
proselytize in the military.
Recently, Bush nominated Brig. Gen. Cecil R. Richardson, the deputy
Air Force Chief of Chaplains, to replace the outgoing Air Force Chief
of Chaplains, and is in line to be promoted to Major General.
Richardson was quoted in a front-page, July 12, 2005, New York Times story
saying the Air Force reserves the right "to evangelize the unchurched." The
distinction, Richardson said at the time, "is that proselytizing is
trying to convert someone in an aggressive way, while evangelizing is more
gently sharing the gospel."
Weinstein filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force in October
2005 after Richardson's comments were published alleging "severe,
systemic and pervasive" religious discrimination within the Air Force.
Weinstein is a 1977 graduate of the Academy. His sons and a daughter in law
are also academy graduates. Weinstein's book, "With God On Our Side:
One Man's War Against An Evangelical Coup in America's Military," details
the virulent anti-Semitism he was subjected to while he attended the
academy and the religious intolerance that has permeated throughout the
halls over the past several years.
The federal lawsuit Weinstein filed was dismissed, but the Air
Force agreed to withdraw a document that authorized chaplains to evangelize
members of the military. Still, Weinstein said MRFF would lobby
senators to oppose Richardson's nomination because of his past statements
Richardson has refused to retract.
"The Military Religious Freedom Foundation will do everything in
our power to convince the United States Senate to reject the nomination
of Brig. Gen. Cecil R. Richardson to become the chief of Air Force
chaplains and his promotion to the rank of major general," Weinstein said in
an interview. "We view Richardson as the prototypical poster child of
the type of constitutional rapist we are trying to eradicate from
existence within the US military."
In September, MRFF filed a lawsuit in federal court against
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and US Army Maj. Freddy Welborn, on behalf
of an Army soldier stationed in Iraq. The complaint filed in US District
Court in Kansas City alleges that Jeremy Hall's an Army specialist
currently on active duty in Combat Operations Base Speicher, Iraq, First
Amendment rights were violated when Welborn threatened to retaliate
against Hall and block his reenlistment in the Army because of Hall's
atheist beliefs.
"When You Join the Military, Then You Are Also in the Ministry"
The executive director of Military Ministry, retired US Army Major
General Bob Dees, wrote in the organization's October 2005 "Life and
Leadership" newsletter, "We must pursue our particular means for
transforming the nation - through the military. And the military may well be
the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure.
Militaries exercise, generally speaking, the most intensive and purposeful
indoctrination program of citizens...."
Moreover, Military Ministry's parent organization, Campus Crusade
for Christ, has been re-distributing to military chaplains a DVD
produced a decade ago where Tommy Nelson, a pastor at the Denton Bible Church
in Denton, Texas, tells an audience of Texas A&M cadets and military
officers when they join the military "then you are also in the ministry."

"I, a number of years ago, was speaking at the University of North
Texas - it happens to be my alma mater, up in Denton, Texas - and I was
speaking to an ROTC group up there, and when I stepped in I said,
"It's good to be speaking to all you men and women who are in the
ministry," and they all kind of looked at me, and I think they wondered if maybe
I had found the wrong room, or if they were in the wrong room, and I
assured them that I was speaking to men and women in the ministry, these
that were going to be future officers," Nelson says in the DVD.

1 comment:

kerby goff said...

Hi Ken,
Just for the record, as a staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ, I'd like to clear up a couple things. Campus Crusade for Christ neither endorses nor condones the use of any sort of coercion or violence to promote or defend Christianity or any goal or value of the the organization itself. While many in the organization are not pacifists, there are some that are, in standing with a long history of Christian tradition. It is unfortunate at times that language can have meanings in too many directions, so when we say things like "targeting" and "strategic goals", they in no way connote their common political, business, or warfare meanings. We tend to use some business-speak that unfortunately does not translate well outside of those who use it frequently within the organization.
Also, Campus Crusade for Christ upholds a version of the idea of separation of church and state, in that we abide by the authority of the land and do not make political decisions, promote expressly political positions, or advocate any one political party or candidate. Any work that is done by Campus Crusade for Christ members with those associated with the military or the government is not in an effort to undermine the authority of the executive, congressional, judicial, or military branch of the government. It is simply to share what Christians have always called the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord, he lived, died, and rose again to defeat evil and restore mankind to a real relationship with God and to itself and its institutions to their original intent to uphold justice and promote peace. Everyone is influenced by someone, and I can think of no better person to be influenced by than Jesus. So, that's what we try to help happen. I hope this helps clear up a little of the confusion as to what we're about. Thanks.