Peaceful Religions



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Air Force Colonel Sends Crazy Right-wing Email

I was browsing MRFF’s latest newsletter for February. Its only the second week in February and already they have a full list of the craziness perpetrated by the right-wing Christians in the US military. This story just boggles my mind. It’s also mentioned in the Stars and Stripes.

An Air Force Colonel is under fire for distributing an e-mail to thousands of Air Force personnel from her official government account directing personnel under her command to visit a far-right, Catholic website where President Barack Obama was compared to Adolf Hitler and the Antichrist.

Col. Kimberly K. Toney’s Jan. 16 e-mail was sent to eight different Air Force installations in the United Kingdom and Norway and included the subject line: “Inspiration of the day – A Giant of a Man – Meet Nick Vujicic,” who was born without limbs.

“Every day, all around us, we meet people who make a difference in our lives,” Col. Toney’s e-mail says. “Please take a few minutes to enjoy the attached video and meet a truly inspirational individual who will provide you with an opportunity to think about life and how we handle challenges in our personal and professional day-to-day lives.

“Keep doing the GREAT things you do and don’t ever let the challenges get you down. Live, learn and enjoy! Thank you!”

Col. Toney’s e-mail would appear to be a harmless, motivational message from a Colonel to personnel under her command. But the electronic communication pointing Air Force personnel toward a five-minute video clip about 25 year-old Vujicic, whose incredible story of courage and hope is indeed inspirational, is also rife with religious undertones. His story, as showcased on the website 4marks.com, would seem to have little to do with the challenges he faces and more about turning one’s life over to Jesus Christ.

Why is Col. Toney sending out an exclusively Christian emails to a base with personnel of many varying beliefs? Does she think that the US Air Force only consists of right-wing born-again Christians?

In fact, at least one of the e-mail’s recipients also believed Col. Toney was endorsing religion with her mass e-mail. Master Sergeant Jeffrey L. Thompson filed a formal complaint against Col. Toney accusing her of illegal proselytizing that would “negatively impact the human relations climate of the wing by sending a message of exclusion to those who do not share that faith.”

MSgt. Thompson, who said he is a Roman Catholic, was told by an official with the Military Equal Opportunity office (MEO) that Col. Toney’s e-mail was not intended to come across as proselytizing.

In a letter Thompson wrote directly to Col. Toney, he said he was told by the MEO official “that because the wing chaplain programs belong to you, that you are able to publicize religious programs.”

“He made the point that the Air Force has legitimate concern in its members’ spirituality (not necessarily in a religious sense, but which can include faith),” MSgt Thompson’s letter to Col Toney says. The MEO official “made the point that after his own thorough review of [Department of Defense] guidance, [Air Force Instructions], and chaplain program guidance, he cannot see a direct MEO violation by the e-mail. He made the point that you were unaware that the video and website had a religious association; again if I understand him correctly it was a simple oversight. Despite those clarifications and the context, I still cannot set aside my own impression that, even if unintentional, the e-mail promoted and endorsed Christian faith, which creates an environment of exclusion of others that do not share that faith.

“Perhaps I am especially sensitive to this issue because I have been persistently pursued by fundamentalist Christians throughout my 23-year career to convert; from supervisors, to subordinates, to the once agenda-covert Military Marriage Seminar, and more recently strong anti-Muslim sentiment and characterization of our current operations in Southwest Asia as a mission from God by the then deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence Lt General [William] Boykin. For me, some of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place when the Air Force Academy scandal was uncovered in the media. Our top Air Force leaders were being “character-shaped” into a fundamentalist Christian mindset with the help of organizations the Campus Crusade for Christ and The Military Ministry who has run Military Marriage Seminars in order to proselytize.”

It seems that a clear pattern is emerging here. Fundamentalist Christians have been proselytizing and pushing their religion so much that moderate Christians are turned off by any attempt to push religion on others, even when it is their own religion. There was also some mention of the MEO office giving the name of the complainant to the Colonel. How unprofessional.

Neither Col. Toney nor an official from the MEO’s office returned messages left for Col. Toney at her base of operations in the UK and Norway. A Pentagon spokesman said he was unable to comment for “at least a week” and did not elaborate.

“How comforting it is to know that the MEO official sees no problem here,” Weinstein said. “Until the military is ready to treat unconstitutional religious predators with the same seriousness and severity which they finally impose on sexual predators, these transgressions will never stop.

I love how Mikey Weinstein compares these guys to sexual predators. HehHehHeh. It also looks like the Equal Opportunity office is doing nothing as usual.

Moreover, aside from the alleged proselytizing, MSgt. Thompson and many others of the 501st Combat Support Wing who received Toney’s e-mail were outraged by what they believed was the Air Force’s endorsement of a website openly hostile to the new Commander-in-Chief.

Apparently, personnel who surfed 4marks.com stumbled upon a series of presidential campaign articles and videos about Barack Obama on the site, one of which said the president is “a veritable forerunner of the Antichrist” who wants to “kill babies.” In another article, Obama is depicted as Hitler, wearing a Nazi uniform and holding a Nazi flag. Vice President Joseph Biden is called a “pseudo catholic,” an “American Judas,” and “pathetic.”

Looks like the 4marks.com website is an extreme right-wing Catholic website. In the past 10 years or so right-wing Catholics and Protestants have joined together politically,even though they still call each other names and consider the others not real Christians.

Update:

Here is the letter from MSgt Thompson after his personal information was leaked by the MEO office to Col. Toney.

The Power of Peer Pressure

Here is a letter from a Christian officer posted here at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. I am posting the entire letter here. The officer is afraid to speak up for his rights as a moderate Christian in the face of his superior officer’s pushy Evangelical Fundamentalist Christianity. He gives some background about the events:

To Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation:

My name is (name withheld) and I am a (officer rank withheld) in the U.S. Army currently stationed stateside at Fort (military installation name withheld). I, my spouse and my children are Methodists attending church regularly on both Wednesdays and Sundays. I will always remember today as the low-point of my long (number of years withheld) year career in the Army. I have only myself to blame. Today I firmly established myself as a shameful person. Mikey, I write about 3 things; Rick Warren, my cowardice and your bravery. Today, I watched President Obama’s inauguration on the television set up in our Brigade staff conference room. I attended as a member of (unit level designation withheld) staff along with over 40 other senior officers, senior enlisted and a few senior Army civilian staffers. There had been much talk here about Pres. Obama’s selection of the evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the ceremonies.

This reiterates the pattern the MRFF is seeing from the complaint letters they are receiving. The majority of complaints are coming from moderate Christians who are now discovering first hand for themselves the treatment that non-Christians routinely get. Their religious viewpoints are being discriminated against by conservative Christian officers in power.

Our current Commander is a very intolerant and “serious and committed born again Christian” as he always describes himself to all his subordinates. At every military assignment I’ve ever been to it’s always the same thing; if you are not a born again “serious” Christian you are branded as pretty much worthless. My current Commander is bad but not the worst I have seen. I have served 2 combat tours; one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I have seen those under my command killed and grievously wounded. I was wounded twice. I have been awarded many combat medals and decorations. I have also stood by silently while my combat superiors have openly and repeatedly proselytized me and my troops. I did nothing. I have stood by and watched them continuously proselytize the Iraqis and Afghans. I did nothing.

It looks like the other Christians are “not Christian enough” for these “serious and committed born again Christians”. This man has served under fire and watched his men get seriously wounded and killed, and himself wounded as well. And yet he cannot bring himself to protest these pushy and obnoxious Christians shoving their religion on everyone around them. He did nothing, being afraid for his career and family.

Today, after Pastor Warren ended his invocation by praying in the name of his personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Commander jumped to his feet clapping and yelled “God Bless him for having the courage to pray for all of the lost souls in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ!” [Click here to see video of Warren’s invocation]. About a third of those attending also clapped. I did not. That was until our Commander turned around to survey everyone’s reaction to his statement. When that happened, the officer next to me started to clap and the one to my left clapped too. I felt like I was in a spotlight as the Commander looked at me and the female officer in front of me who had also not clapped. Then she clapped. And then I clapped too. I tried not to but could not muster up the strength to be the only one in the room not clapping in support of our Commander and Warren. I know what I should have done but I just couldn’t. Despite the many fierce combat situations I have been in, including hand-to-hand, I just couldn’t. I hate myself for this failure. I hate myself for my cowardice. I hate myself.

This is the insidious power of coercive peer pressure. A good and strong man is reduced to conforming to the group against his will in order to enjoy the his place in the group. Is this what the Fundamentalists want? People forced to pretend they worship? How does this in any way honor the god they supposedly believe in?

I have heard and read about all of the death and other threats being made against you, your wife and children. I listened to the voice recording of the death threat that you released made against MRFF client Spc. Jeremy Hall. I heard about that church being burned down when you spoke in that town. All of you show bravery especially when the chips are down. I had my chance today and I showed fear and cowardice. I can’t stand what I did today. I have been a client of MRFF for over three years now but no one knows it other than my spouse. We are both afraid of anyone finding out. I have heard other Army personnel talk of being MRFF clients but they usually try to keep it very quiet. Everything you are fighting for, Mikey, is the right fight. I’m not guessing and not assuming; I have lived it. I am living it. I will continue to live it. Trying to complain up the chain of command is as useless as filing an IG complaint or other administrative action. No, it’s far worse than just useless. It can and will brand the complainer as a target for revenge.

Why is it that it’s the non-believers who file all the lawsuits? Are we so used to the bullying by Christians in power, we know how to either stand up for ourselves or stay hidden? Why don’t the Christians who are harassed by these bullies stand up for themselves? Are the moderate and liberal Christians so used to the their privilege that they have never been in such a situation before and don’t know how to handle it?

I have seen it happen and fear it could happen to me if I stood up to it. I have a family and am not that far from being able to retire in peace and quiet. MRFF is the only outlet for military people like me. I hope this e-mail message can help other people (there are so many of us) be willing to contact MRFF and allow you to fight on our behalf against the multitudes of “serious and committed born again Christians” who control all of our careers and lives. Your lawsuit is important to us all. Please don’t stop your fight and please don’t hate me for not fighting. I hate myself enough for everyone.

(name and rank withheld)
Fort (military installation withheld)
(unit designation withheld)

All I can hope for is the new administration tries to stop the dangerous power grab by the religious conservatives in the US military forces. But I’m disheartened by the choice President Obama has made of leaving in the current Secretary of Defense.