For God and Country

James Parco LtCol, USAF Ret, has written a position paper, God and Country: Religious Fundamentalism in the U.S. Military, for the Center for Inquiry. This paper is an excellent summary of problems caused by overzealous Christian fundamentalist adherents in the US military. Here is the rather depressing summary at the end of the paper:

 The inappropriate behavior of fundamentalist Christian military leaders will not likely change on its own. Ample rules and regulations remain in place to appropriately separate the religious beliefs of military leaders from their official duties and responsibilities. Most lacking, however, is the social and political will to enforce the existing rules and hold military commanders accountable for breaches of conduct.

The cases outlined in this paper raise the fundamental question captured by the classic Latin dictum, quis custodiet ipsos custodes – who will guard the guards themselves? Based on the evidence presented herein, the status quo remains resilient. Military institutions have shown significant reticence to discipline any of their own who use the power of their official positions to run rampant through the senior ranks of the military simply because it is allowed to do so. After all, every system is perfectly designed to yield the behaviors observed.

The answer to this dictum is that the American people, both elected officials and ordinary citizens, are tasked with guarding the guards. As the previous pages make clear, there is a serious problem with religious endorsement in the U.S. Armed Forces which needs to be immediately addressed and changed. It is up to those with social and political power to demand this action. If this problem persists, members of the military will continue to face hostility and indoctrination, and the U.S. government will continue to experience public relations problems in future military missions. If it is addressed, the U.S. military could become a neutral and safe space for members of all religious backgrounds, and none at all, and the image of the America, as seen through its military forces abroad, could change from one of Christianity to one of a diverse people united for liberty and justice for all.

 Until some group with the political power to challenge the entrenched Christian fundamentalists in the military takes action, there will be not change. This problem will persist until either mainline Christians in the US Military get tired of being treated like non-Christians or the non-Christians become more numerous in the military. And this report also does not cover other troubling developments like the links between the more extreme Christian fundamentalists and religious and racial supremacists in and outside of the military.

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Chaplains Gone Wild

The last two days has seen a couple of interesting emails arrive in my email account for this blog. They concern a couple of military chaplains who have completely sold out to either rampant commercialism or a possible attempt to run for office. One of these chaplains, however has had problems with this for a long time. The other has succumbed to greed. I will cover the greedy chaplain now. The other chaplain will be in a separate post.

According to Justin Griffith at Rock Beyond Belief, Chaplain MAJ Doug Hedrick runs an organisation called Centurion’s Watch. This organisation runs some sort of Christian marriage seminars for the military. He of course charges for this. Here is an excerpt from the linked support page (quite a bit pushy with the requests for donations), while it lasts:

Please Help By Giving What You Can We are asking you to please sponsor or help sponsor one or more couples by making a tax deductible donation. The cost is $200 per couple and includes room, meals, materials for the seminar and breakout sessions, and entertainment such as ballroom dancing. Many couples cannot afford the full rate, but have expressed that they are able to pay $59-$69. We would love to have you become a monthly partner. There are several monthly support levels to choose from:

  • $16.36 (Founders Club- sponsors 1 couple per year)
  • $50 (Regiment Club- sponsors 3 couples per year)
  • $100 (Century Club- sponsors 6 couples per year)
  • $200 (Legion Club- sponsors 12 couples per year)

Or, please select one of our three other monthly levels ($300, $400, or $500 to allow military couples the opportunity to attend this life changing seminar, and also help Centurion’s Watch grow and offer more services to military couples and families.

What make this into a serious affair rather than a small case of probable conflict of interest for Chaplain Hedrick, is the involvement of Maj. Gen. Umbarger. Maj Gen Umbarger pushes Centurion’s Watch while in uniform. Dustin’s post lists all of the DoD regulations he is violating by doing this.

Maj. Gen. Umbarger is the Adjutant General of Indiana. He leads all of the state’s Army and Air National Guard and Guard Reserve units. Commanders have to be careful not to give the appearance of selective treatment. I’m surprised that this wasn’t vetted and then squashed.

With all of the pressure to participate in Centurion’s Watch seminars being pushed by Maj. Gen. Umbarger, what are lower ranking officers and enlisted members of the Guard supposed to do? This sure gives the impression that promotions are being tied to participation. What of the money that Chaplain Maj. Hedrick is making on these seminars? Is the general getting a cut as well?

Here is the promotional video Maj Gen Umbarger makes for Centurion’s Watch.

Why is pressuring your subordinates with buying Tupperware and other products not allowed, but pressuring them to buy Christian marriage seminars is? Sure the web page says that this is a “donation”, but who really believes that?

My next story has evolved over the past year. It involves an Army chaplain who was “retired” a couple of years ago. He has been involved in anti-Semitism, white supremacy, Christian supremacy, conspiracy theories, being removed from the chaplain endorsing agency he co-founded, getting involved with politics, and dragging his family’s personal problems through an email list. Quite a busy life since he was officially “retired” from active duty. Stay tuned.

An Atheist in the Ultimate Foxhole

Many people like to proclaim rather ignorantly that there are no atheists in foxholes. Most of these people seem to have never done any type of military service. But occasionally you meet religious people, either active duty or former military, who subscribe to this strange notion that an atheist can’t exist in a stressful situation such as a foxhole. Even my spell checker on my Evo Android phone replaced foxholes with potholes while writing this post. I had to override and force it to put foxholes in the text. Heh Heh Heh.

I spent over four years stationed at Peterson AFB, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Springs is the home to many conservative, evangelical organizations. I was stationed there in the mid to late 80’s. At that time, like now, their focus was to grow their organization and gain political power.

There were rumors passed around about previous incidents of these organizations using their power over their members stationed at Cheyenne Mountain and at various launch facilities. Apparently in the late seventies, there were several senior officers making comments about doing what god wanted rather than following their training and orders. These officers were quietly removed from their positions. With the current religiosity in the military, I’m not sure that this would happen now.

Mike Weinstein at MRFF has stated recently that 87 missile officers have complained that their commanding officer has made statements encouraging them to disobey their orders if they feel that god would want them to. This commanding officer should be courts martialled and removed from active duty. He is encouraging is officers to not follow their orders. This is extremely dangerous as we are talking about having our nation’s nuclear strike capability in the hands of a mega-church.

I spent much of my time at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, familiarly known as Cheyenne Mountain, or known simply as “The Mountain”. I was assigned in the Missile Warning section, where we monitored the world for incoming ballistic missiles. Cheyenne Mountain was built at the height of the cold war to provide shelter against a Soviet first strike, the ultimate foxhole against nuclear missiles.

The first time I walked through the tunnel and through the blast doors was a surreal experience. To my left was a huge stack of boxes of canned meals (before MREs), above me was the netting used to keep rocks from falling on people and equipment, and in front of me were several multistory buildings mounted on gigantic shocks. I went to my duty station which was a very small and cramped space, filled with computer equipment, completely different from the depiction shown in various television shows and movies.

Nowadays, Cheyenne Mountain has been retired from it’d missions of missile warning, space watch, and satellite tracking. I saw on a recent documentary that the facility has been turned into the alternate command center for NORAD/USNORTHCOM and some sort of secure computer facility.

General Herres was SPACECINC during most of the time I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. He was a great commander to work for. He was on the board for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation until his untimely death from brain cancer in 2008. Even though was a very religious man, he recognized the dangers of our nuclear capability falling in the hands of zealots. Seeing General Herres on the board encouraged me to support MRFF.

While I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain, I had no problem as an “out in the open” non-believer. Everyone was strictly professional on the job. I think Gen. Herres had a lot to do with this. He made sure that everyone was taken care of and everyone had a chance to perform at their best. I sincerely hope that the current generation of missile warning and launch officers are as professional as we were before. The 87 officers who have made complaints about their over zealous commander have probably already tried to make official complaints or else it was made clear that doing so would be a career-killer. They are to be commended for trying to keep religious doctrines out of the silo.

Rock Beyond Belief Summary

Excellent video detailing Justin Griffith’s struggle to get the same support from the base for the Rock Beyond Belief event that the Christian event received.

Update on an Old Story

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted via email by Chaplain Robert Nay. He wanted to discuss this particular story. Shortly after I started this blog in 2008, I came across a story about religious harassment towards a Jewish chaplain. The website, truthout, posted a story about Chaplain Jeff Goldman who alleged anti-Semitic harassment at the hands of his fellow Christian chaplains as well as his immediate superior officer in his chain of command.

He told Jason Leopold that at a mandatory meeting, Nazi uniforms and swastikas were displayed, and anti-Semitic comments were made. He named Chaplain Robert Nay as one of the perpetrators of this mess. He also alleged that another Jewish chaplain, Chaplain Lapp told him to ignore all of this and that he would have to work with the bigots. Jason Leopold interviewed Rabbi Lapp who told him that sure there were a few problems with certain Chaplains, but that Rabbi Goldman would have to learn to work with them.

Chaplain Nay wrote that many details of the story were incorrect and wanted to correct any errors from the original story from truthout. I asked him if he would answer a few questions. He agreed. I also searched the internet for any hints of links to neo-nazi and white supremacy sites. I found none, not even a hint of Christian supremacy at all. I checked out his thesis for his master’s degree, and an interview. Other than some nonsense about the latest “spiritual fitness” craze that seems to be the latest fad in the chaplain corps, there is nothing remotely controversial in his past writings.

Here are my questions and his answers:

Anna,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Below are my answers to your questions. Thank you again.
Chaplain (LTC) Robert Nay

1) What was your working relationship with Rabbi Goldman? Very professional. We both were Captains in a Corps Support Group.

2) What was your impression of the working environment of non-Christian chaplains at Ft Stewart? Commanders and Chaplains were very sensitive to non-Christian chaplains and provided for the free exercise of all faith groups.

3) Rabbi Lapp is quoted in the article that he was aware of anti-Semitic remarks directed towards Rabbi Goldman by yourself and others. These allegations were supported by the Army’s own investigation. What happened? I never saw the army investigation and I am not aware of any anti-Semitic comments made at Fort Stewart.

4) What happened at the mandatory interfaith prayer breakfast in 2001 where the Nazi uniforms and swastikas were displayed? It was reported that inappropriate jokes were made and no one made any attempt to stop it.
First, the interfaith prayer breakfast was not mandatory. Second, there were not any Nazi uniforms or swastikas at the prayer breakfast. There were historical U.S. uniforms. I did not hear any inappropriate jokes at the prayer breakfast.

5) What has been the reaction of people that know you to the story?
At the time, it was very embarrassing that a Chaplain went AWOL at a time of war.

6) What are you doing now? Other than the letter to the Jewish Voice, what are you doing to explain what happened? And why after 3 years did you contact me to explain your version on the events that happened? Have you offered you version of events to Mr. Leopold? He writes that you hung up on him when he called you for comment. Several years ago, the head of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army told us that we have a right to correct falsehoods in the media and in blogs. Since that time I approached those who ran the article from Truthout.org. News agencies such as Salon have removed Jason’s articles in the past because of his questionable sources. Jason has every right to conduct his research and provide the facts and his analysis. I respect those news agencies that have provided my unedited comments or have removed his false article. The reason why I contacted you, is that your blog is being used by spam to bring an old false article to the top of the search engine. Jason’s article brings a very embarrassing moment for Rabbi Goldman, but also a very painful moment for me and this is why. My life has been devoted to remembering the victims of the Holocaust.

7) Do you think the Public Affairs office at Ft Stewart did you a favor by declining to comment on the matter? Do you think it hurt or helped matters by not talking to Jason Leopold? I cannot comment what Fort Stewart did or didn’t do. I can tell you that Jason never called me. My question to Jason and others who initially ran with the story is where is the law suit you said was in the works? The fact that it has been almost ten years since Rabbi Goldman went AWOL, and over three years since Jason’s article there is no law suit because there is no case. Rabbi Goldman went AWOL because he ran from the new Hamon. Proof that he didn’t care about the victims of the Holocaust and when it came to defending them again, he ran.

8) I will be checking out your story with others who are familiar with it. I will also have their comments as well in the story, but I will place your answers as they are in my post. Will this make you uncomfortable? I will also give you a chance to rebut anyone as well. Thank you for posting my answers.

I was getting ready to to post the above story, as Robert Nay seemed a pleasant enough fellow via email. But then I received a strange email from him. Since I don’t post emails without permission from the author, I will paraphrase his email. After first stating he thought that everyone regardless of religious viewpoint should be treated the same, he went on a rant stating that Muslim extremists and secular humanists were in cahoots trying to destroy the United States.

I replied with the following email.

Hi Bob

Sorry to be so late getting back to you, but to be honest, your last email has me a bit perplexed. I would be happy to take up your invitation should I be in the Fort Lee area.

“Personally I believe that the chaplaincy is perhaps a very visible representation of the freedom and toleration we have in our country. We have many different faith groups working along side one another, respecting the differences yet not forcing no one to compromise.

I agree with the above completely, but your next paragraph is somewhat confusing.

“In contrast to this, I believe that our current enemy with the war on terror who believes in only one faith with no toleration of others, or those who do not allow any faith but the faith of secular humanism, both of these enemies, foreign and domestic do not believe in freedom and toleration.”

You seem to be equating non-religious humanists with murderous Islamic bomber cultists. Why? Is it because the secular humanists are non-religious or is it because they are humanists?

I would think that as a chaplain that you would remember that many religious groups have a basis in humanism. In Christianity, this is reflected in such denominations such as the Quakers and other such groups that are works based. This is also reflected in the sermon on the mount and the story of the loaves and the fishes in the Bible.

Humanism is simply the position that people are more important than dogma or ideology.

Or are you claiming that simply being non-religious makes someone an enemy of the state? Or is it the label “secular”? Because remember, someone can also be for a secular government and be religious as well. The founding fathers are an excellent example of a group of men ranging from the nearly non-religious like Jefferson to highly religious men getting together to create a secular government (i.e. a government not run or controlled by a religion).

And what about other groups that are explicitly “secular humanist” like Humanistic Judaism? When some of my relatives go to temple at a Humanistic Jewish Synagogue are they enemies of the state as well? And what about the 10 percent of the US population and 21 percent of the Armed Forces that identifies as non-religious, are they enemies as well?

You sound like a nice guy, but I sincerely hope that you don’t get seduced by the easy answers and scapegoating that is found in conspiracy theories. My husband watched a friend get involved with a sovereign citizen group, stopped paying his taxes, go to prison, get out of prison, and ended up alone in a run down house surrounded by books and magazines all espousing conspiracy thinking. It seems once you succumb to that sort of thinking, all conspiracies seem believable.

Sincerely,

Anna

He then replied with an email sort of taking back some of what he had said earlier, but then trying to say that he has been persecuted in the past. WTF? White, male, Evangelical Christian chaplain officer in the Army and he thinks he is persecuted ? I replied with the following.

Hi Bob

I plan to update my blog this weekend. What do you mean that “secular humanist have taken over the public square”? The public square usually means public property (owned by the taxpayers), not private property open to the public. Government owned property should always be neutral towards religion and it should not promote one belief system over another.

If one religion can place their message in the public square, then all other beliefs and opinions can as well. In other words, if a courthouse posts the 10 commandments (which version?), then competing ideas can be posted as well. Perhaps it would be better for religious ideas to remain in the private square rather than being endorsed by the government in the public square.

Are you aware that the term “secular humanism” simply means a philosophy of humanism motivated by care for others instead of religious values or motivations? Someone can be considered a secular humanist and be religious as well. Now there are organizations such as The Council for Secular Humanism that advocate a moral non-religious stance. You say that you have endured persecution at the hands of secular humanists. Who has done this? What organization has done this?

Telling me that some secular humanist has somehow persecuted you sounds very improbable to me. You are in an organization where you are a member of the majority gender, majority race, and majority religion. You are in a position of authority within that organization as well. What happened? We in the non-religious community are fairly serious about calling out those members who are acting like jerks.

Now, MRFF has received many complaints about military superiors trying to coerce their subordinates into adopting the superior’s beliefs. 96% of those complaints come from Christians. These complaints allege that the complainants (mostly mainline Christians) are having problems with other Christians, mainly from evangelical and charismatic denominations, not from the non-Christians. They are being told and judged as not being the right sort of Christian.

While I have had someone at a previous job place religious pamphlets on my desk and threaten to shoot me if I did not become a Christian. Luckily my boss stood up for me and the guy was transferred. I did not want him fired and later showing up at my door for revenge. This is not persecution but the actions of a bully and a bigot.

When I went through Air Force Officer Training school, we had a system of merits and demerits which could cancel each other out. You needed 5 merits to get off base privileges. I found out that if you went to Christian religious services, you could earn those merits. Non-Christian services did not count. There was not even an option of attending Unitarian services.

I went to a Methodist service with my roommate and mentioned this when I was there. There was also the chance of earning more merits for attending bible study, which I did. Needless to say, the chaplain ended up being a bit irritated by my questions. These questions were chosen because they would cause more questions and because they could not be answered easily. The chaplain asked why I was there and I answered that I was there because I both love to discuss theology and because of the merits. He told me he would give me the merits without church attendance. He seemed like an okay guy. I think he was uncomfortable with the whole merits for church attendance thing.

But I don’t consider my self persecuted. I can work and carry on with my life without fear of getting put in prison or killed. My husband and myself are giving a friend of a former foster child of our a home until she graduates from high school. She was nearly killed by her brother because she is gay. He is a highly religious conservative evangelical christian who attempted to hurt his younger sister by running her over with his truck. It has taken her nearly a year to get over the trauma. She doesn’t consider herself persecuted either. We have simply run into jerks and bigots.

As far as MRFF claiming conspiracy theories, I don’t really think so. MRFF is simply trying to get the Armed Services to follow their own rules regarding religious coercion. The problems seem to be coming from senior officers and chaplains from a couple of endorsing agencies.

These agencies such as The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches do not have college educated chaplains and they seem to regard military units as mission fields. These chaplains come from heavily charismatic denominations affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Far from being some secretive conspiracy, this is a large religious movement with about 500 million adherents worldwide. Most members of this movement would probably be appalled with the behavior of some of their leaders such as Jim Ammerman. He leads The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and preaches hate and anti-government conspiracy theories. Check him out and you will see full on crazy.

Sorry for the long letter, but wanted you to see where I am coming from and some background information.

Thanks,

Anna

I have not heard back from Chaplain Nay, perhaps he does not have a good reply to my letter. Interesting.

Update:

I can easily see why others may have a problem working with Chaplain Nay. He seems to have a habit of saying offensive statements towards others. He came across at first as a nice enough fellow, but after a few emails, started with accusing nonbelievers of trying to destroy the United States. Then he started with the “persecution” attitude. I think that Christians who really are persecuted in parts of the world would see him as a whiny brat. I’m sure he would embarass them deeply.

I was contacted via email by Jason Leopold from Truthout. Look for more details to come out of this story.

A Poor Little Sheep?

“We are poor little sheep that have lost our way. Baa Baa Baa.” At least for women according to a religious group allowed access at the Air Force Academy. MRFF and truthout have been covering an ongoing scandal at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado involving a cultish fundamentalist group on campus.

Lauren Baas was a cadet (until her graduation last year) at the Academy and joined the Cadets for Christ run by Don Warrick and his wife Anna. According to Jean Baas, Lauren’s mother, Lauren totally changed once she joined Cadets for Christ. Cadets for Christ members believe that women are “sheep” and men are the women’s “shepherds”. Lauren even allowed the cult to select a husband two years her junior to marry. Wow.

Here is a photograph of a cookbook given to Lauren by her “shepherds”.

Baa Baa Sisterhood Cookbook

But I have a few questions. Lauren Baas is an intelligent college age woman who formally had ambitions and plans for a vibrant and productive life. Why would she fall for the love bombing and authoritarian structure of a cult? How could an intelligent woman fall for such transparent nonsense?

When I was about 13, I went to a Sunday School at my neighbor’s church. Unknown to my parents, this church was a hard core Church of God. This church was really a cult and the churches collapsed during the nineties. Even at that age, I realized that there was something not right about this church. I kept questioning what they were teaching. When it was realized by the Sunday School teacher that I was not buying what was being taught, I was asked not to come back. I guess they wanted unquestioning obedience, which I was not going to give them.

Why did Lauren fall for such nonsense? Well for one thing, the environment at the AFA is extremely stressful. This is why religious groups place a priority on evangelizing at military training bases and service academies.

The cadets are usually away from home for the first time, with older cadets and instructors providing a role model for them to emulate. If these senior cadets and instructors insinuate that acquiring a similar religious viewpoint would advance their careers, then some cadets will pretend a religiosity they don’t have in order to fit in and make life easier. Others like a lonely Lauren Baas succumb to the “love bombing” of a campus cult-like group.

When I attended the Air Force Officer Training School in the early eighties, one obtained merits to offset demerits by going to a Christian church and bible study. Since I’m fascinated by religion, even though I don’t believe in it, I decided to go to the Methodist service my roommate did. I openly stated in a friendly manner that I was there only for the 5 merits that I would earn. Unlike my roommate, I also attended the bible study to get even more merits. I enjoyed asking uncomfortable questions of the Christians. I did this in a friendly and questioning manner. After seeing a couple of officer trainees seriously considering my questions, the Methodist Chaplain offered me 5 merits a week not to attend. I still smile when I recall the story.

But I was not a lonely, frightened young woman who did not know how to resist cultists. I grew up in a family that openly questioned religious matters and was raised not to believe things without questioning them. Also the religious environment of the Air Force was not nearly as evangelical as it is today.

Swing Low, Sweet Couple (The Real McCoy Part 3)

Here is more information on the yahoo member lesdeuxparfois, who I have posted about before. Lesdeuxparfois seems to be online account for Army Chaplain LTC William McCoy and his wife. This account has been listed over many, many adult sites. I am covering this story a piece at a time with screen shots of his online accounts. Due to an extremely busy and erratic personal life recently, I am posting the third part of this story rather late.

This story seems to be pushing a few people’s buttons. I have been contacted by email inappropriately by a senior Army officer seeking information. Here’s the kicker, the senior officer was not seeking information about Chaplain McCoy’s alleged behavior, or to have his email forwarded to the person who discovered Chaplain McCoy’s online hobbies. No, he was seeking information that would identify my reader who found Chaplain McCoy online in various sex sites publicly exposing himself. A friend of the dear chaplain perhaps? I of course declined to give any information out about my reader.

I have previously discussed Chaplain McCoy’s statements about unbelievers in an Army unit being the source of unit non productiveness and misfortune. Well, if you are going to throw stones at nonbelievers in the military, then you shouldn’t live in a glass house. A bit cliche but true. Hence the continuation of this story.

Lesdeuxparfois seems to have a fondness for online camera action. Lets check out his groups. Here are more screenshots. I wonder if someone has video of his online sexcapades?

Wow, they really get around. If you google “lesdeuxparfois” you get all sorts of hits on sex sites for a couple ages 57 and 50 years old.

Be all you can be. Huuuyaaahhhh. HehHehHeh.