MRFF Files Another Lawsuit

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, Every Day,” (365 Christian readings and sermons about “sexual purity”)

“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!

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Selling Theocracy with a Smile

Sam Harris has a new editorial in this week’s edition of Newsweek. He says almost exactly what I’ve been thinking about the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican VP.

If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.

Exactly, and this is why the media won’t dig further into her background. Here is a VP who has a political past about as unamerican as can be. She has flirted with secessionism, book banning and trying to silence subordinates in her administrations. She comes across as an everyday hockey mom. Gosh darn it, she couldn’t be all that bad now could she?

On the surface, she seems all very wholesome and good, and perhaps she means well. Perhaps she is one of the Christians who are good people, but who let themselves be used by manipulative religious leaders. On the other hand, looking at how she has climbed the political ladder, perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps she is the one manipulating the religious leaders of her congregations for political gain.

I grew up in the deep South and I’m very familiar with this type of woman. They treat their friends very well, but never get on their bad side. They will do anything it takes to get what they desire, and heaven help those who get in their way. The sugar on the outside conceals a very ruthless core. I can’t know her mind, and can only speculate on her motives by her actions.

Update:

TheZoo has a very good summary of Sarah Palin’s scary church connections. It’s a long read with a lot of video documentation. I recommend this to anyone who is curious about Palin’s background.

By the time you finish this entire post, you will be horrified and terrified that Sarah Palin could ever possibly ascend to the role of Vice President of the U.S. (and very possibly President of the U.S.).

‘Nuff said.

Sarah Palin’s Witch Finder General?

If Sarah Palin is elected as VP, I wonder if she would appoint Rev. Muthee as her Witch Finder General.

Update:

Here is the actual video of of Rev. Muthee’s blessing on Sarah Palin (about 5 minutes into the video). He actually blesses her to keep her safe from “the scary witches”. The people in this church seem completely unable to determine what is real and what is make believe. The video resided on the Wasilla Assembly of God Church’s website until John McCain picked Palin as his running mate. Then it disappeared until now.

Oh, and here’s an eyewitness report to the Rev. Muthee’s latest appearance at the Wasilla AoG. Max Blumenthal writes for The Nation and promises more videos. Oh, goody. This is great. I suppose it was natural for the reality-challenged VP nominee to propose banning books like Harry Potter. They seem to be unable to grasp the concept of “fiction”.

But they hardly needed encouragement. On the first night of services, Muthee implored his audience to wage “spiritual warfare” against “the enemy.” As I filmed, a nervous church staffer approached from behind and told me to put my camera away. I acceded to his demand, but as Muthee urged the church to crush “the python spirit” of the unbeliever enemies by stomping on their necks, I pulled out a smaller camera and filmed from a more discreet position. Now, church members were in deep prayer, speaking in tongues and raising their hands. Muthee exclaimed, “We come against the spirit of witchcraft! We come against the python spirits!” Then, a local pastor took the mic from Muthee and added, “We stomp on the heads of the enemy!”

Some scary shit here. And people were worried about Rev. Wright? Rev. Muthee makes Rev. Wright look like Mr. Rogers.

By Armageddon’s Early Light

JewsOnFirst has a very scary update on John Hagee and his latest preaching. The page has a video about John Hagee’s end-times preaching, as well as other links to videos that JewsOnFirst have made earlier. It appears that Hagee is preaching the same crap that Hal Lindsey did in the 70’s and 80’s. They preach that the US will fight Iran and Russia and this will start the Apocalypse. This is the same crap that drove me away from Christianity when I was a teen. When these guys preach this shit, you can see them practically drool at the thought of billions of deaths. Just do a search on “Hal Lindsey Iran Russia” and check out the craziness.

Chip Berlet at Talk2Action has a good summary of the beliefs of these types of churches and their history and how the evangelistic born-agains became involved in politics.

Now we have a VP candidate, Sarah Palin, who attends churches where these ideas are taught, and is on video saying these types of things. Especially scary, is the eagerness she shows for going to war with Russia. Check out the video below.

Dogemporer over at Talk2Action has some very interesting links showing how these churches are regarding the nomination of Sarah Palin as VP. They regard her as a new Deborah to lead the US into the final war of Armageddon.

I also reported the other day on how J. Lee Grady–a Joel’s Army promoter who is editor of the site “Fire In My Bones” and who has hailed fellow Joel’s Army promoter Todd Bentley as a modern-day prophet–literally compared Sarah Palin to the Biblical prophetess Deborah.

This is a prime example of how many of the promoters of “Joel’s Army” theology tend to drop code-words and overt “scripture twisting” as dog-whistles to their parishoners–and the “Deborah dogwhistle” is a particularly nasty one indeed, as we’ll get into.

For those unaware, Megiddo is of course the traditional site upon which the Final Battle will be fought–Armageddon. At least some groups do directly equate the two.

Check out this link. Looks like the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are salivating at the prospect of the “End of Days”.

THE DEBORAH ANOINTING

King David prophesied in Ps. 68:11-12, “The Lord gives the word (command); the women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host; Kings of armies flee, they flee; and she who remains at home will divide the spoil!” The book of Judges declares Deborah as the 5th and last judge of Israel who resided under a tree, where she spent her days and nights alone with God, and received the strategic war plan to defeat Israel’s enemies while being outnumbered. As a wife, judge, prophetess and strong military leader, Deborah saved her nation from bondage and tyranny, and sang of being a mother in Israel and dividing the spoil of her conquered enemy, Sisera (Judges 5). Her commander of the troops, Barak, and the scribe of Issachar (who knew and read the times of Israel) refused to engage in war without her. Why? Because of the anointings that rested upon her. The DEBORAH ANOINTING will be released upon women’s ministries and housewives, birthing new ministries releasing higher seats of power, authority and the prophetic. High-ranking commanders of God’s Army will not engage in battle without them. The vast majority of front liners and trench diggers are women, and the scars of battle are evident. However, this anointing will birth a new song in the hearts of many women who proclaim the Word of the Lord.

Some creepy shit documented here. Someone by the id of Ixion wants John McCain to die.

May the LORD cause McCain/Palin to win the White House in 2008, and then smite the godless McCain in favor of Palin. Amen.

It looks like some right-wing preachers are praying that the McCain/Palin ticket win, but that John McCain should die so that Palin would be president. What craziness. This desperately needs to be covered by the news, but it seems so crazy. The American public is very unaware of how politically connected these churches are. The Republican party has leashed themselves to this tiger, and are now powerless to stop it.

To me at least, it seems that Palin is aware of all of this going on. Look at the Freudian slip she makes in the video below.

Palin/McCain administration? What universe is Sarah Palin living in? If I were John McCain, I would hire a food taster and never be alone with this woman. And if I were John McCain, I would start wearing a bulletproof vest after winning the election. These reality-challenged people comprise 15% of the American public, there would be no shortage of volunteers ready to “do their duty for Christ.”

This woman should never be allowed in a position of command over any nuclear forces. I dearly hope the McCain/Palin ticket looses the election, otherwise we’ll have our Christian Taliban strapping on their nuclear suicide vests in a desperate attempt to bring about Armageddon.

Spc. Jeremy Hall Receives Death Threat

MRFF has a recording that Spc. Jeremy Hall has received over his cell phone. Jeremy Hall is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit who is suing the Department of Defense for religious discrimination after he had a promotion denied explicitly because of his atheism. This message was left on his cellphone.

The Army post in Kansas said it is investigating a message left on Spc. Jeremy Hall’s cell phone. Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, based in Albuquerque, N.M., have a lawsuit pending in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., with the Defense Department and Secretary Robert Gates among the defendants. Foundation President Mikey Weinstein provided a transcript of the message left for Hall early Saturday. The message is laced with obscenities and a racial slur commonly directed at African-Americans, though Hall is white. In it, the caller promises to slit Hall’s throat and drink his blood. The caller also promises to sexually assault Hall’s wife and mother.

Hall serves in a military police company at Fort Riley, and Weinstein said it’s “highly probable” the caller was a fellow soldier. Weinstein said he notified Hall’s company commander and battalion commander’s office and wants the caller found – and court-martialed.

“We have the phone number this death threat came from and the actual voice recording,” Weinstein said. “Even Inspector Clouseau would be able to nab this felon. How hard can this really be?”

MRFF also has updates to the lawsuit and church-state violations by various military officers and units here. I also have previously detailed Jeremy Hall’s story here, here, and here.

Does the Army Officially Declare Atheists Scapegoats for Mission Failure?

Keith Olbermann on MSNBC gives a good smack down on Gen. Petraeus’s remarks in the book Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel by Chaplain McCoy. Here are the some choice bits from the book highlighted by Chris Rodda in her article:

“Belief in God is a foundational factor. Once you do away with God as a given truth, all other things are immediately affected by that. For instance, once God does not exist you suddenly have no reference to greatness outside of yourself, and no ‘revelation’ outside of yourself. The greatest thing in life suddenly becomes something or someone else, like yourself perhaps. …”

Chaplain McCoy insinuates that those who are not Christians are somehow not moral or second class citizens.

“Only my good naturedness can help me contribute to the betterment of my unit or team. When I realize that sin is an agent, I can more quickly identify my own tendency to corrupt a group and bring havoc to what needs cohesion and team confidence. My sin can also make my agenda more important than my unit’s agenda and thus lead to unit failure.”

And finally, blaming the person who is not accepting Chaplain’s theology for problems that the unit may encounter:

“I’ve seen individuals from all economic levels and situations fail to get situated philosophically and religiously, ending up wandering in institutions like our military. Just when you need that inner source of clarity and direction, it fails to surface, and when you could have made a difference for your team, you fail.”

You know, I thought that conservative Christians taught personal responsibility. I guess not. This author almost sounds like a white supremacist, just replace non-theist with non-white.

It seems Christian supremacy is endemic to the nation’s Generals. Here’s yet another quote from, this time from a Maj. Gen.Richardson:

“Say a Christian chaplain is visited by a troubled airman who isn’t interested in hearing about religion. Do you trust your chaplains to advise that airman without steering him toward Jesus?,” Maj. Gen. Richardson began, “Well, you know, sometimes Jesus is what they need. They’re asking for it. …”

What the fuck? If this asshole wants to be a preacher, then he should resign his commission and start up his own church. This is absolutely disgraceful. What really amuses me is that the military has a much higher percentage of atheists than the general population. I think that all of this Christian supremacist talk is driving members away from Christianity.

When I was in the Air Force, we made fun of service members who wore their religion on their sleeves. Officers such as these generals were held in contempt, even if no one said it out loud. Once a senior officer I worked for, a evangelical Christian, actually apologized to some of us junior officers when another senior officer started with this crap. I think he was embarrassed for the overtly religious officer. It seems that the times have changed and these guys have no checks on their behavior.

Chris Rodda’s followup article shows these officers scattering when their activities are exposed to the light of day. I use this phrase each time I cover this type of story on this blog, because of the same pattern. Bigotry and proselytizing is first discovered on official US government documents, websites, videos, etc. Then the senior staff denies knowledge, regardless of their official endorsements of the material. Then a subordinate steps up to take the blame. Then the materials are quietly removed and they pretend it never happened. The same pattern occurs over and over.

As a result of the exposure by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) of endorsements by Gen. Petraeus and Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling on the cover of Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel — a book promoting Christianity and denigrating non-theists — it appears that these endorsements are going to be removed from the book, and that the book’s author, Army chaplain Lt. Col. William McCoy, is going to take the fall for the constitutionally impermissible conduct of the two generals.

It’s yet another instance of inappropriate proselytizing by the senior staff. And each time its exposed, these “fine, upstanding Christians” lie and blame their subordinates. It’s pretty sad, when two generals of the US Armed Forces are too cowardly to admit that they inappropriately endorsed this book as an official endorsement of the Pentagon and senior staff.

Here is a bald faced lie from Chaplain McCoy:

“I am the author of ‘Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel.’ During its second printing, I requested recommendations from respected military leaders for whom I worked. I received comments from General Petraeus and General Hertling. In the process of securing their comments for recommending the book I believe there was a basic misunderstanding on my part that the comments were publishable. This was my mistake. Their comments were intended for me personally rather than for the general public.

I guess he expects everyone to believe that he interviewed these generals for no reason at all? You know, I thought Christians were supposed to follow the ten commandments. Isn’t there one about not telling the truth?

Patraeus spokesman Col. Steven Boylan eventually responded to Military.com, sticking to Chaplain McCoy’s claim that Petraeus didn’t know that his endorsement was on the book or being used to advertise the book. Col. Boylan’s flimsy excuse for Gen. Petraeus not being aware of the book’s regular advertisements in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Times was, “We don’t get the stateside papers in Baghdad.” Col. Boylan is going to have to come up with something better than that because MRFF has confirmed that these “stateside” military newspapers are distributed to U.S. military installations worldwide — including all U.S. military bases in Iraq.

In addition to the “correction” on his blog and his statement, Chaplain McCoy quickly made changes to his Under Orders website, removing from it the endorsements of Petraeus, Hertling, and Col. Leinwand, as well as the official U.S. Army logo, which had appeared on the site as a link to the GoArmy.com page about a career in the Army Chaplain Corps — a page that starts with an exclusively Christian video consisting of a series of images of Christian chaplains, crucifixes, and soldiers with Bibles, ending with an image of a group of chaplains running with a Christian flag. Of course, even though the link to this official U.S. Army website has been removed from Chaplain McCoy’s website, this crap is still on the official U.S. Army website he was linking to.

Chris has a lot more in the article as well as a link to a video and audio. Check it out. These officers are cowards who hide behind their skirts of their subordinates. A new low.

Alaska National Guard and Army Units Seem to be for Christians Only

Here is a very disturbing article by Chris Rhodda at Talk2Action. It looks like army units in Alaska provide only Christian counseling services for service members.

First on the list was the website of the U.S. Army, Alaska (USARAK) Command Chaplain’s Office “Ministry Team,” which serves Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely, Fort Richardson, and their tenant units, which include the Alaska National Guard, whose headquarters is located at Fort Richardson. The USARAK Command Chaplain’s Office is blatantly and exclusively Christian, not even providing information for soldiers of other religions. Even the worst of the other military installations that provide no non-Christian services or programs at least provide contact numbers or listings of off-base houses of worship for non-Christians to find services of their faith.

Wow, this is really blatant. Talk about a limited worldview, they seem to think that all service members are some sort of evangelical Christians.

In March 2007, Fort Wainwright hosted an Army “Strong Bonds” retreat, contracting an organization called Unlimited Potential, Inc. to provide “social services.” Unlimited Potential, Inc. is an evangelical baseball ministry with a military ministry whose mission is: “To assist commanders and chaplains in providing religious support to military service members and their families by sharing the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ through the medium of baseball…” and “to use our God-given abilities in baseball to reach those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to also encourage and challenge those who do.

I should back up here and explain exactly what Strong Bonds, a program currently being investigated by MRFF, actually is. Plain and simple, it’s an evangelistic Christian program operating under the guise of a pre-deployment and post-deployment family wellness and marriage training program. A few years ago, Strong Bonds replaced a decade old, proven program called Building Strong and Ready Families (BSRF), which was a collaboration between the Army Nurse Corps and the chaplains. Strong Bonds cut out the Nurse Corps, creating a program run entirely by chaplains, eliminating the important physical and mental health aspects provided by public health nurses, and turning the whole thing into a program of Christian religious retreats — paid for with your tax dollars. A lot of tax dollars.

And that what it’s all about, power and money. We see what Sarah Palin’s Christian America is all about. Pentecostal Evangelical Republicans will be the only ones worthy of rights and all others will be second class citizens.