US Army religious fundamentalism


This video from the USA is called Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

From The Partisan blog in the USA:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

US Military Supporting Christian Extremist Events

Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, US Army forts in the state of Virginia, have been putting on a series of “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts” for the past several years. These concerts have an evangelical Christian message and promote religion in the military of a supposedly secular state.

On May 13 of this year, around 80 soldiers at Fort Eustis were punished for refusing to attend one of these fanatical Christian concerts. This one in particular featured the all-girl rock group BarlowGirl as the headliner. The band describes itself as having, “an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.”

The father of the girls in the band, the Barlow sisters, was quite happy that his daughters could perform for the military. “We really believe that to be a Christian in today’s world, you have to be a warrior, and we feel very blessed and privileged that God has given us the tool to deliver His message and arm His army,” he said.

Some of the soldiers who were punished for refusing to attend the event filed a complaint with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Here is an excerpt from the MRFF account:

“The week prior to the event the [unit name and NCO’s name withheld] informed us of a Christian rock event that was about to take place on Thursday the 13th.

“On Thursday 13th at 1730 we were informed that instead of being dismissed for the day, the entire company (about 250 soldiers) would march as a whole to the event. Not only that, but to make sure that everyone is present we were prohibited from going back to the barracks (to eliminate the off chance that some might “hide” in their rooms and not come back down).

We were marched as a whole to chow and were instructed to reform outside the dining facility. A number of soldiers were disappointed and restless. Several of us were of different faith or belief. A couple were particularly offended (being of Muslim faith) and started considering to disobey the order.

From the dining facility we were marched back to the company area. There was a rumor circulating that we may be given a choice later on to fall out or attend. Though it was only a rumor it was also a small hope enough to allow us to follow along a little longer before choosing to become disobedient. We were marched back to the company area. To our dismay there was still no sign of us having a choice.

We started marching to the theater. At that point two Muslim soldiers fell out of formation on their own. Student leadership tried to convince them to fall back in and that a choice will be presented to us once we reach the theater.

At the theater we were instructed to split in two groups; those that want to attend versus those that don’t. At that point what crossed my mind is the fact that being given an option so late in the game implies that the leadership is attempting to make a point about its intention. The “body language” was suggesting that “we marched you here as a group to give you a clue that we really want you to attend (we tilt the table and expect you to roll in our direction), now we give you the choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us.” A number of soldiers seemed to notice these clues and sullenly volunteered for the concert in fear of possible consequences.

Those of us that chose not to attend (about 80, or a little less that half) were marched back to the company area. At that point the NCO issued us a punishment. We were to be on lock-down in the company (not released from duty), could not go anywhere on post (no PX, no library, etc). We were to go to strictly to the barracks and contact maintenance. If we were caught sitting in our rooms, in our beds, or having/handling electronics (cell phones, laptops, games) and doing anything other than maintenance, we would further have our weekend passes revoked and continue barracks maintenance for the entirety of the weekend. At that point the implied message was clear in my mind “we gave you a choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us. Since you chose to disappoint us you will now have your freedoms suspended and contact chores while the rest of your buddies are enjoying a concert.”

At that evening, nine of us chose to pursue an EO complaint. I was surprised to find out that a couple of the most offended soldiers were actually Christian themselves (Catholic).”

The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert series was Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers‘ idea. Chambers held the first concert at Fort Lee within a month of becoming the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command in 2008. He had been doing this at Fort Eustis for sometime before this, and his work is being continued by its new commanding general. The concerts are also promoted to those on Langley Air Force Base.

According to Chambers, his idea was to have a religiously diverse selection of performers, but clearly he was telling lies because only radical, fundamentalist Christians have performed in his events. Another problem is that only the chaplains’ offices are allowed to hold religious events, the command officers are not.

These religious fundamentalist bands are very expensive, causing taxpayers of all religions to shell out anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per band. The MRFF looked into other military “spiritual fitness” events, and it was found that $3.5 million went down the drain for one Christian extremist event.

Instances of Christian bigotry happen in the American military on a regular basis. What is happening in Virginia is just another example of this. With all of this in mind, as well as the recently exposed war crimes (thanks to WikiLeaks), one must wonder if the American military is really any better than the Mujaheddin they are fighting. Perhaps the US Christian crusaders should climb back into the caves with their Taliban brothers.

At least two of the soldiers who allege they were punished for not attending an evangelical Christian concert in May say that the Army’s equal opportunity program is fundamentally broken and have lost faith that the separation of church and state within the military is adhered to by command: here.

The revelation that US soldiers were punished for refusing to attend a religious rock concert on their base is the latest evidence that Christian fundamentalism is supplanting the Constitution in the American military: here.

U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Still Carrying Guns With Secret Bible Codes: here.

Coercive Religion Misplaced in US Armed Forces. Mike Farrell, Truthout: “Raised in the Catholic Church, I was a pretty confused kid. Father O’Reilly, one of the priests at St. Peter’s, the church our family attended most of the time, spoke with such a pronounced brogue that I couldn’t follow him. But I didn’t understand the Mass either, so I smiled and pretended he made sense, just accepted him on faith along with the rest of it”: here.

New evidence has surfaced that the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) may have endorsed on-campus proselytizing by fundamentalist and evangelical organizations, particularly the Cadets for Christ ministry: here.

Critic Claims Victory After Religion Memo Goes to Air Force Academy Cadets. Tom Roeder, The Kansas City Star: “Air Force Academy critic Mikey Weinstein claimed victory Wednesday after learning that a memo on religious tolerance was distributed to the school’s 4,000 cadets a day after he unveiled a billboard featuring the 200-word treatise from the service’s top general…. The academy has been under scrutiny since 2004 over allegations of religious intolerance”: here.

Air Force Academy Taps “Member of Lord’s Army” to Speak at National Prayer Luncheon. Mike Ludwig, Truthout: “During the first two weeks of February, military bases and schools across the country will join dozens of other organizations is holding annual ‘prayer breakfasts’ and luncheons in coordination with the controversial National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. While military chaplains are expected to provide non-denominational options to those in uniform, critics charge that prayer breakfasts sometimes favor conservative and evangelical brands of Christianity that are intolerant of other faiths and perspectives”: here.

Valerie Tarico, Away Point: “When American soldiers come forward with tales of divisive evangelism run amuck in the military – for example, proselytizing by commanding officers, coerced attendance at revival meetings, distribution of Bibles to Afghanis or Jesus coins to Iraqis – one problem they face is that people find the stories too outrageous to be credible. A combat soldier being forced to pick hairs out of a latrine because he wouldn’t pray? Another being told he’s responsible if any of his buddies die? An Iraqi child post-IED given a tract that shows dead Iraqis going to hell and Americans (aka Christians) going to heaven? Some folks have accused the Military Religious Freedom Foundation of making this stuff up. Military officials insist that each event was the isolated actions of individual soldiers and lacked official sanction. One recent scandal left little room for such framing”: here.

William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: “Talk to Mikey Weinstein for even a few minutes, and you get the definite sense that the man must have gills. It is the only explanation for how he can say so much, so quickly, without pausing to take a breath. This should come as no surprise, as Mr. Weinstein has a great deal to say on a topic that affects us all, and threatens the constitutional fabric of the nation: a frontal assault by elements within the active military on the separation of church and state, and a crusade by those elements to transform the Armed Services into a fundamentalist Christian entity”: here.

Up until a few years ago, right-wingers who needed to believe in something larger than themselves chose Jesus. But with the evangelicals fading from the Republican coalition, and Obama’s social programs making the whole “compassionate conservative” thing suspect, it look like Jesus is out and Ayn Rand is in: here.

The White House has been forced to play up President Barack Obama’s Christian credentials following a poll suggesting a fifth of the population think he’s Muslim: here.

Far from Ground Zero, other plans for mosques run into vehement opposition: here. And here.

How are the anti-mosque wingnuts funded? By lobbyists and Potbelly’s Sandwiches.

California Mosque Targeted With Anti-Muslim Sign: ‘No Temple For The God Of Terrorism At Ground Zero’: here.

White Supremacists Find Common Cause with Pam Geller’s Anti-Islam Campaign: here.

The last time Hatewatch caught up with Craig Cobb, the veteran neo-Nazi and creator of the white nationalist website Podblanc, he was about to be kicked out of his adopted home country of Estonia. That happened. Now, it turns out that Estonia’s loss is Montana’s pain: here.

Colleague of NYC taxi driver stabbed in anti-Muslim attack describes what happened: here.

Another brazen anti-Muslim incident in NYC — man caught urinating on prayer rugs in mosque: here.

Producer Of New Commercial Smearing Muslims For Political Gain Also Produced The Willie Horton Ad: here.

Soldier, Dad, Whistleblower: Atheist in a Foxhole Takes on Evangelistic Military Hierarchy. Valerie Tarico, Away Point: “Justin Griffith is a twenty-eight year old active duty soldier, a sergeant at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He is also a new dad. Griffith likes what he does. He describes the military as a place that has structure, discipline, and opportunities. From his point of view, he has a full life, and a good one. And yet it was Griffith, as much anyone, who blew open the U.S. Army’s Spiritual Fitness program this winter. Why? Why make waves in a job you love among people you respect? Why risk the pariah status that is so often the lot of whistleblowers? Griffith agreed to let me ask him those questions”: here.

Top Air Force Official Issues Religious Neutrality Policy in Wake of Truthout’s “Jesus Loves Nukes” Expose. Jason Leopold, Truthout: “A top US Air Force official took significant steps Tuesday to ensure the Air Force is not seen as being pious by issuing policy guidelines to Air Force personnel that calls on ‘leaders at all levels’ to take immediate steps to maintain ‘government neutrality regarding religion'”: here.

Mikey Weinstein, Truthout: “A drama has played out within the ranks of the United States Air Force (USAF) … the vast cover-up of an unlawful epidemic whereby many thousands … within the ranks of the USAF have been subject to serial religious abuse and molestation. The national security repercussions of this ongoing crisis are all too dire, and as was the case at Penn State, the responsibility for this scandal ultimately lies with the most senior leadership”: here.

Longtime critics of Christian conservatives’ influence in military culture are demanding the Pentagon back away from involvement in a National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill next month, saying it’s a thinly veiled rally for far-right fundamentalists: here.

Why Did Army Abruptly Fire Ft. Campbell’s Jewish Leader After Two Decades? By Aiden Pink, May 19, 2018.

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11 thoughts on “US Army religious fundamentalism

  1. Troops: Refusing to attend Christian concert got us into trouble

    By The Associated Press

    Saturday, August 21st, 2010 — 1:28 pm

    The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.

    Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen told The Associated Press he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation. At the Pentagon, Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said the military shouldn’t impose religious views on soldiers.

    “If something like that were to have happened, it would be contrary to Army policy,” Collins said.

    Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps.

    “My whole issue was I don’t need to be preached at,” Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. “That’s not what I signed up for.”

    Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.”

    Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.

    “Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment.”

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation first reported on the Christian concert. The foundation said it was approached by soldiers who were punished for not attending or offended by the religious theme of the event.

    The group’s president, Mikey Weinstein, claims Christian-themed events are “ubiquitous” throughout the military, and he credited the soldiers for stepping forward.

    “Whenever we see this egregious, unconstitutional religious tyranny our job is to fight it,” he said.

    Smith said he and the other soldiers were told not to use their cell phones or personal computers and ordered to clean up the barracks.

    About 20 of the men, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs, he said.

    Smith said he went up the chain of command and traced the concert edict to a captain, who said he simply wanted to “show support for those kind of events that bring soldiers together.”

    While not accepting blame, the officer apologized to the soldiers who refused to attend the concert and said it was not his intent to proselytize, he said.

    “But once you get in there, you realize it’s evangelization,” Smith said.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

    Troops: Skipping Christian concert got us punished

    APNewsBreak: Army probes claim that soldiers were punished for skipping a Christian concert

    STEVE SZKOTAK
    AP News

    Aug 20, 2010 21:53 EDT

    The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.

    Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen told The Associated Press he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation. At the Pentagon, Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said the military shouldn’t impose religious views on soldiers.

    “If something like that were to have happened, it would be contrary to Army policy,” Collins said.

    Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps.

    “My whole issue was I don’t need to be preached at,” Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. “That’s not what I signed up for.”

    Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.”

    Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.

    “Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment.”

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation first reported on the Christian concert. The foundation said it was approached by soldiers who were punished for not attending or offended by the religious theme of the event.

    The group’s president, Mikey Weinstein, claims Christian-themed events are “ubiquitous” throughout the military, and he credited the soldiers for stepping forward.

    “Whenever we see this egregious, unconstitutional religious tyranny our job is to fight it,” he said.

    Smith said he and the other soldiers were told not to use their cell phones or personal computers and ordered to clean up the barracks.

    About 20 of the men, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs, he said.

    Smith said he went up the chain of command and traced the concert edict to a captain, who said he simply wanted to “show support for those kind of events that bring soldiers together.”

    While not accepting blame, the officer apologized to the soldiers who refused to attend the concert and said it was not his intent to proselytize, he said.

    “But once you get in there, you realize it’s evangelization,” Smith said.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

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  2. Dear Friend,

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    This year, a very different message is going to be spread from the very ground on which King once stood. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin will hold a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

    The racist, raging and hate-filled tenor of Beck, Palin and the Tea Party movement is in direct contrast to the noble vision of Dr. King. We cannot sit idly by and let King’s vision and legacy be hijacked for political purposes.

    Dr. King once declared that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

    We will not be silent on this matter. Honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s struggle for a just and equal America.

    Sign our pledge and leave a comment to commit to stand with his vision, and against Beck’s hate, on August 28th.

    Joining us in this effort are our friends at Alternet, Credo, Celebrate the Dream, Campaign for America’s Future, Media Matters for America, True Majority, PowerPAC and Progress Now.

    Let’s stand together as a collective voice against those who wish to hijack history.

    Yours,
    Robert Greenwald and the Brave New Foundation team

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  3. Last month, I told you how, based on an exclusive Truthout report, the United States Air Force suspended a two-decade-old ethics training course that used passages from the Bible to teach nuclear missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons.

    But our impact didn’t stop there. Last week, in the wake of Truthout’s reporting on this “Jesus loves nukes” scandal, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz took the unusual step of ensuring that Air Force commanders adhere to the Constitution – as well as the branch’s own regulations – by issuing policy guidelines that call on “leaders at all levels” to take immediate steps to maintain “government neutrality regarding religion.”

    For more than five years, Truthout’s extensive coverage of the military’s promotion of a certain brand of religion has helped raise awareness about a serious Constitutional issue that has largely been ignored by the mainstream media. That our reporting can be credited as having influenced Air Force policy is just one example of the groundbreaking journalism we have been practicing since Truthout’s birth ten years ago.

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