Hot Air and the Stench of Brimstone: Chaplains, Gutter Journalism, and 66 Lawmakers vs. Religious Freedom
“Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.”
- Oscar Wilde, Irish novelist, poet, and gadfly
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( MRFF), the civil rights organization that I founded and preside over, has lately been accused of holding exaggerated sway within the Pentagon. No doubt, our organization has managed to effect an ever-growing number of major changes with quite humble, yet very dear, resources at our disposal. These resources are comprised of the collective outrage of our over 28,000 clients within the armed forces, paired with the brain trust that comprises our organizational staff and the gracious donations given by our valued support base. Given our forthright nature and our unparalleled effectiveness, it makes perfect sense that we have become the target of concerted attempts to vilify, slander, and distort our cause. As the celebrated Irish icon of wit Oscar Wilde presciently inferred, our rapaciously fundamentalist Christian opponents absolutely couldn’t stand the fact that we have managed to make convincing, logical arguments upholding the civil rights of servicemembers. Hence, these cowards have despicably deployed the all to predictable, pedestrian tactics of defamatory mudslinging and outright falsification.
Recently, I've been grossly mischaracterized as some “grey eminence” sitting behind the scenes at the Department of Defense (DoD), some sinister overlord with an axe to grind against religion in general and Christianity in particular. As my blatantly cynical detractors would have it, whenever I nonchalantly set foot on the grounds of the Pentagon, top brass swarm about to deferentially "kiss the ring" as if I were Capo di tutti capi at DoD. This mirage couldn’t be farther from the truth; our fight entails a bloody, daily tooth-and-nail struggle with those same top DoD officials that we supposedly hold in spellbound thrall.
For example, the disgusting arch-fraud pretender to the title of "America's Historian," David Barton, recently made the ridiculous, off-base remark, "I've decided that Mikey Weinstein is now the new Secretary of the Air Force.” I thoroughly dissected this exaggerated claim in one of my last Op-Eds. Scurrilous lies coming from a career peddler of false, revisionist nationalist mythology... really, is anyone surprised? Unbeknownst to us, Barton’s lunacy was the mere opening shot in a much broader campaign to vilify our organization.
In recent months, MRFF has slammed multiple line drives in our round-the-clock campaign to uphold what little remains of the wall separating church and state in the United States military. Indeed, ever more frequently now, we’re knocking “home runs” out of the ballpark. For example, MRFF pressure decisively put an end to the unconstitutional branding of Holman Bible Publishers' "Military Bibles" with the insignia of the four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces -- a veritable “Grand Slam” that was covered impeccably by journalist Kelley Vlahos. This monumental constitutional victory whipped our religious extremist opponents into an absolute frenzy, replete with disingenuous weeping and a great gnashing of teeth.
No sooner had we made the announcement that “Lady Liberty is smiling,” than the various extreme Christian fundamentalists pounced for an attack. First, Fox News’ fundamentalist barking dog, Todd Starnes, intentionally mischaracterized MRFF as an “atheist” organization and purposely confused our acronym with that of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Our balking at such a false descriptor doesn’t mean that we at MRFF have any problems with atheists in the least, but the claim is substantively inaccurate. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is a constitutionalist organization grounded in an alliance of both interfaith and non-faith communities. The vast majority of our staff, clients, supporters, and donors happen to be of the Christian faith. The “atheist”-baiting smear was a transparent, cold, calculated move by Fox News that was simply meant to incite.
The "Faux News" salvo was followed shortly after by a drive-by hit piece on MRFF from Glenn Beck’s hideous Utah-based web tabloid, The Blaze. The Blaze article was truly vile, framing the removal of insignia from Holman Military Bibles as an action that “will surely raise eyebrows among those who have traditionally appreciated the military’s often Christian undertones.”
Often Christian? As my foundation has thoroughly documented, the U.S. Military is a veritable Petri dish for what can only be described as a metastasizing “Christian Taliban” of sorts, albeit a nuclear armed, apocalyptic-Dominionist variant capable of deploying the most modern arsenal devised in the history of humankind. Officers Christian Fellowship (OCF), Cadence International, The Navigators, Cru ( néeCampus Crusade for Christ) Military Ministries, and many other groups or “parachurch” organizations have brazenly spoken of their worshiped goal of transforming the U.S. Military into “government-paid missionaries,” as shown by the shocking video immediately below:
This seditious, fundamentalist Christian treachery is what we’re up against. However, The Blaze maliciously mischaracterizes MRFF’s civil rights fight as “anti-theist advocacy.” No, our sole purpose is to safeguard Constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty in the truest sense of the phrase, as envisioned by those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Of course, pernicious lies and defamatory rubbish are all that we can expect from the “anti-truth advocates” employed at the propaganda mills of these fascistic, fundamentalist Christian extremist predators.
A so-called “Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL)” had its own novel take on the Military Bible issue, using it as a Trojan horse to disguise their relentless campaign against the basic human rights of the LGBT community. A recent article from this “alliance” of disgusting bigots was entitled “Bibles? Nah ... 'Gay pride'? Yep!” According to CARL, Congress has “forced a radical homosexual agenda on the military” through the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). Offering another indicator of how far our supposedly “Christian” military has drifted from its roots, CARL spokesman Col. Ron Crews (USA-Ret.), stated that “It just seems that every time Mikey Weinstein sends an e-mail over to the Pentagon that they just cater to his every whim…This one individual has that much influence in the Pentagon. They just cave in."
Crews also stated “MRFF must cease and desist their reckless assault on religious liberty. The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty calls on Congress to investigate this frivolous threat and apparent discrimination against religious views by the DoD.”
Mere days later, 66 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with the spurious allegation that U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz was guilty of "imposing a stringent policy with regards to religion," and that the USAF in general is guilty of creating “a culture that is hostile toward religion.” This was a reaction to the watershed memo Schwartz released last September underscoring the long-existing yet oft-ignored expectation that "chaplains, not commanders... notify Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs." According to these woefully misinformed and Constitutionally derelict lawmakers, Schwartz's simple recapitulation of long-standing rules governing the division of labor in the armed forces vis- à-vis religious programs constituted a full-frontal attack on all religious practices throughout the Air Force. Euphemistically, lawmakers accused the USAF of bowing to the pressure of “secular groups” like MRFF. Not so. The Schwartz memo was a wet-noodle, meek attempt at damage control issued amidst an especially frenetic period when the Air Force was, yet again, fully embroiled in severe controversy due to a string of breathtakingly embarrassing incidents. MRFF was even forced to erect a public billboard of the Schwartz memo in Colorado Springs in direct reaction to U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. General Michael Gould’s abject refusal to disseminate it to cadets on campus.
Admittedly, yes, many of these incidents were indeed exposed by MRFF to an absolutely thunderstruck global audience. The so-called "'Jesus Loves Nukes' Speech," a mandatory “Christian Just War” ethics training for nuclear missile launch officers, was even featured on the front page of the major Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. Thus, two days prior to the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our friends and strategic allies in Japan were informed of how the USAF views their national trauma; as an “ethical” example of the waging of “Holy War.” These shameful embarrassments and self-inflicted wounds are among some of the most powerful means by which the religious predators at DoD undermine our national security, desecrate our beloved Constitution and disrupt our alliances.