The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has filed another lawsuit against the Department of Defense and Secretary Gates alleging that the DoD has violated Spc. Dustin Chalker’s constitutional rights not to be coerced into religious services. Here are a few excerpts from the lawsuit:
The legal issue raised herein is whether the plaintiff, a member of the United States Army, may be required to attend military functions and/or formations that include sectarian Christian prayers.
Plaintiff Chalker has sought relief from mandatory attendance at the subject functions/formations through his chain of command and the equal opportunity process. Neither have yielded satisfactory results.
No soldier should be forced to attend religious ceremonies and have to pretend to worship in order to make promotions. If the Army wants to have services, then those should be optional and held before or after the non-religious ceremony. Why does the Army have to combine the two? There is no non-religious reason for them to do so.
I’ve covered most of these church/state violations in this blog before, but there are so many egregious violations listed in the lawsuit. Here are some of the worst examples of the overt Christian proselytization that Spc Chalker has run into as detailed in the complaint:
Mandatory Attendance at U.S.A.F. Base Commander’s Sectarian Call. During March, 2008, a program approved by Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop was presented at a commander’s call at RAF Lakenheath, England. This commander’s call was a mandatory function for an estimated 1,000 service members. The Powerpoint version presentation was emailed to an estimated 4,000-5,000 service members.
The “Spiritual Fitness” part of the presentation, given by Air Force Chaplain Capt. Christian Biscotti, was titled “A New Approach to Suicide Prevention: Developing Purpose-Driven Airmen.” This presentation is just one example of the recent
shift (since 2005) to basing suicide prevention programs on Christian teachings, the most often used being Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”.
In some cases, including the Lakenheath presentation, creationism is also incorporated. One chart in the Lakenheath presentation, for example, presents “3 Levels of Purpose”. For Category I, the “Purpose” is “God Given”, the “Idealogy” is “Religious,” the “Motivation” is “The Love of God,” and the example of a person who had this ideology is George Washington. The Category II “Purpose” is “Man Given,” with “Philanthropy” as the ideology, “The Love of Man” as the motivation, with Karl Marx as the example. Category III is “Self Given” for purpose, “Humanism” for ideology, “The Love of Self” for motivation, and Charles Darwin as the example. The slide ends with Category I is the most beneficial, because if you love God (in a majority of world religions) , you’ll love man and yourself.”
Yeah, lets just assume all of the thousand members in attendance are evangelical Christians. I’m sure that about 25% of the audience are not even Christian at all. So much for respecting America’s religious plurality that is reflected in military life. Lt.Gen Bishop certainly does not show respect for the men and women who serve under him. He explicitly states that the non-religious service members are not as good as the evangelical Christian ones.
I wonder what would happen if he replaces the religious references with race references, explicitly saying that one race is better than another? I think that he would quickly be replaced and would have to retire in shame. Why is one form of bigotry permitted and the other is not? No form of bigotry should be allowed expression in any official presentation. Perhaps having a last name of Bishop is getting to the general’s head. He is confusing his position as a military leader with a religious leader. Christian supremacy is as bad a position as white supremacy.
Another slide titled “Contrasting Theories of Hope, Ultimate Theories Explaining Our Existence,” has two columns, the first titled “Chance,” and the second “Design,” comparing Charles Darwin, creationism, and religion are also part of a chart comparing the former Soviet Union to the United States, concluding that “Naturalism/Evolution/Atheism” leads to people being “in bondage” and having “no hope,” while theism leads to “People of Freedom” and “People of hope/destiny.” After several more slides like these, the presentation continues with a slide titled “Christian’s Message,” and a slide with an image of a man looking upwards with his hands outstretched and the caption “Please open up both of your hands to receive this powerful tool.”
Unbelievable, after denigrating about 20% of the audience (remember that the military has a larger atheist/agnostic population that in civilian life), he ends with overt proselytization. How would you feel to sit in that audience and be told that you are some sort of second class person? Then he ends his talk with the message that Christians are better people. What a load of utter bullshit. And evangelists wonder why the ratio of freethinkers is higher in the military. Have they ever given a thought to how they come across to non-Christians and other Christians?
As if this was bad enough, there is worse, especially for female military members. Look at some of the items used as training material in the Army’s Strong Bonds program:
“Every Woman’s Battle,” (a book of Christian sermons, and Bible verses to “Discover God’s plan for sexual and emotional fulfillment.“)
“Every Woman’s Battle Promise Book,” (a “daily devotional” of Bible verses to support the reader in a quest for “sexual integrity“)
“The Thrill of the Chaste,” by Dawn Eden. The author is described on the back cover as “Jewish-born” and throughout the book as a “former agnostic Jew.” The book describes in detail how she led a highly promiscuous and drug abusing lifestyle until she had a “born again experience” and “realized for the first time … that [Jesus] as truly God’s son.” The book is filled (almost every page) with Bible verses and with the author proselytizing Christianity. Chaplain Johnson recommended the book multiple times during the training.
Holy Shit! I don’t see any listings for men to keep chaste. Why the double standard? It looks like they want to push this fundamentalist Christian garbage of submissive, virginal female soldiers. What a load of sexist bullshit. Why the fixation on sex? And why is being a virgin defined as “purity”? And what do they mean by “virginity”? Does the “pure Christian woman” have to have an intact hymen? Does having a busted cherry make a woman a second-class female, a slut, or a whore? I guess this explains the increase in anal sex among girls who take the”purity pledge.”
They seem to hate sex. Perhaps since they aren’t getting any, they don’t want the rest of us to have sex as well. They also seem to imply that non-Christian women are drug abusing sluts. Any why are the materials that are for women focused only about sex? Aren’t women capable of being more than virgins, baby-making machines or whores?
It seems that these repressed prigs are continuing the obsession with other’s private sex lives by controlling women in the service. As a female veteran Air Force officer, I’m highly offended by such actions. As an atheist, I’m also highly offended by the overt statements that I’m some sort of second-class human. And this is only a small sampling from the lawsuit.
There is so much in this lawsuit, and this is only the start. So far, MRFF has only put together 2 lawsuits. They have almost 10,000 complaints about religious discrimination in the services. Even if only a fraction of “tormentees” are willing to step forward, I foresee lawsuits for many years, until the DoD is willing to make drastic changes in how they approach the issue of religion in the services. What MRFF needs to do next is start filing lawsuits from other Christians who also have been treated like shit by these literalist fundamentalist Christians. Way to go MRFF!