In 2008, when Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 was preparing to deploy to Iraq, the unit's commander, Lt. Col. William Lieblein, did something very wise and sensible -- he changed the nickname of the unit from "Crusaders" back to its former name, the "Werewolves." Stating the obvious, Lt. Col. Lieblein said, "The notion of being a crusader in that part of the world doesn't float."

But now, under new leadership, the unit is going back to being the "Crusaders," complete with an insignia of a crusader shield with a big red cross on it and a crusader knight as its mascot.

According to the Beaufort Gazette, the squadron's new commander, Lt. Col. Wade Wiegel, just doesn't see calling a U.S. military unit the "Crusaders" as being "politically incorrect." The paper quoted Wiegel saying of the name change: "It's a way for our Marines to draw on the service of the Marines before them, and to make their own history under the same name. As the squadron prepared to celebrate its (70th anniversary), my intent was to return the squadron to the Crusader name since 50 of the squadron's 70 years were under that name. The name change is a reflection of our heritage."

So, apparently, because it was the unit's 70th anniversary, Lt. Col. Wiegel decided that continuing to call the unit the "Werewolves" -- the name originally given to the unit by its WWII Marines 70 years ago -- didn't reflect the unit's heritage! This is as nonsensical as the historical revisionists who insist that "In God We Trust," which didn't become our national motto until 1956, somehow reflects the intent of the founding fathers more than "E Pluribus Unum," the motto that the founding fathers themselves actually chose in 1782.

This ...

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... is being replaced by this:

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Sources at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort have also confirmed that the "Crusader" insignia is being repainted on the planes flown by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122. These U.S. Marine Corps planes will once again have a great big red crusader cross on them, as shown in this pre-2008 photo.

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While the renaming of the unit from "Werewolves" to "Crusaders" in 1958 was obviously just because the plane the unit was flying at the time was called the F-8 Crusader, and it was all in good fun in that era to do things like dress up the unit's mascot, a little statue of a crusader knight, in a unit baseball cap, it is not at all cute or funny now. With our troops deployed in Muslim countries where the disregard of religious sensitivities has led to the deaths of U.S. service members and others, it is just sheer stupidity.

And, of course, there is also the pesky little constitutional issue of a U.S. military unit having a big red crusader cross as its insignia. It seems that Lt. Col. Wiegel is having a bit of trouble understanding his own "Command Philosophy," in which he states: "Everyone wearing the uniform has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and this oath provides the guideposts of what our country expects in return." Yeah, Lt. Col. Wiegel, that's what we expect in return -- a version of upholding the Constitution that includes using a big red crusader cross to represent our country!

Mikey Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), after speaking to a number of Marines, including one from the "Crusaders" who is disgusted by the renaming and is "expecting MRFF to do something about this," issued the following statement:

"This universally disgraceful 'renaming' action by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122's Commander is a literally breath-taking example of a wretched alloy of both blatant unconstitutionality and boundless stupidity. It will absolutely serve as a priceless propaganda bonanza of jovian magnitude for our nation's fundamentalist Islamic foes and, thus, represents a veritable national security threat to the United States of America. Likewise, it will incontrovertibly, directly and indirectly hasten the maiming and deaths of our armed forces members. To this world class cretin masquerading as the MFAS 122's Squadron Commander, I ask, has your motto now become 'The Few. The Proud. The Crusaders?' We'll be seeing you in Federal Court, chump."
Child star turned fundamentalist Christian activist Kirk Cameron's pseudo-documentary Monumental is coming to over 500 theaters across the country on March 27, and from the clips available online, it's clear that Cameron's movie promises to be packed with the same Christian nationalist historical revisionism that David Barton is so well known for. In fact, Barton himself appears in Cameron's film. One of the clips available online shows Cameron visiting Barton's personal museum in Texas, and hearing a few of Barton's lies about the early Congress and Thomas Jefferson printing Bibles to spread the word of God to all American families.

When it came to light earlier this week that our military has a base named "Aryan" in Afghanistan, the DoD was quick to come up with excuses to explain it away. They claimed that it was the Afghan National Army, and not our military, who named the base; that it was spelled Arian, not Aryan; and that Arian is just a variation of Ariana, the ancient name of the region that includes Afghanistan.

Wait a minute! The same military that just last week was excusing the use of the Nazi SS flag by our Marines by saying they were too historically ignorant to know it was a Nazi flag are now saying that our military members are such a bunch of history whizzes that it would be general knowledge among them that Ariana was the ancient Greek name for Afghanistan?

Well, despite the DoD's insistence that the base is named "Arian" with an "i," it's not. It is absolutely named "Aryan" with a "y," a name that had already raised concerns among some, but those concerns were just joked about and ultimately ignored.

The DoD's attempt to explain this offensive name away as a just spelling error might have worked if the only instance of it being spelled "Aryan" was just the one Army unit that referred to the base as "Combat Outpost Aryan" back in June, the only example anyone writing about this earlier this week, had. See Tuesday's HuffPost article, "Afghanistan Base 'Aryan' Raises Objections From Soldiers Over Name."

All other news outlets reporting on this story also had only the one example cited in the HuffPost article, but the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which first exposed COP Aryan after being contacted about it by members of both the U.S. military and the Afghan National Army who want the base's name changed, has since located a number of other examples of Army units calling the base Aryan, and also obtained official DoD documents that list the base's name as "Aryan."

The example used by HuffPost and others when this story was first reported on Tuesday has since been scrubbed from the Army's 170th Infantry Brigade website, but here is a screenshot of the photo and caption that were on that page.

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But, as I said, this was not the only example. Here are some others.

From a January 2012 newsletter of the Army's 18th Engineer Brigade, saying that an NCO from a unit currently deployed to FOB Sharana in Eastern Afghanistan was being sent to Combat Outpost Aryan:

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From a December 18, 2011 photo album on the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade's Facebook page:

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And, finally, this is from a DoD contract document obtained by MRFF. This document, a modification to a freight container contract, shows containers going to FOB Aryan:

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MRFF has also obtained emails showing that an employee of the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) alerted their chain of command months ago to this base being named Aryan, asking if a different name could be designated for the base and requesting to be provided with an explanation for the choice of the name. This request was ignored. So, unlike the claims that the military didn't know that our Marine sniper scouts were using a Nazi SS flag, officials at USTRANSCOM were absolutely aware that a base in Afghanistan had been named Aryan, and we have proof of this.

Among the twenty-one U.S. service members who contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about the name of this base, two have been there and verified that the base is, in fact, named Aryan. MRFF has also been contacted by ten members of the Afghan National Army who want the name changed. Now why, if the DoD's claim that the name Arian (however it's spelled) is just the ancient name of Afghanistan, would members of the Afghan National Army have a problem with it? Well, maybe because of incidents like the following.

Some of our American troops at this base started joking that Afghanistan was now an "Aryan nation" because it has a base named Aryan. The Afghan soldiers realized that our troops were taunting them, which started a shoving match that almost erupted into a fist fight, but was broken up after the first punch, which missed, was thrown.

As for the DoD's claim that this is an Afghan base and was named by the Afghans, that's just impossible to believe. Whether it's called a Forward Operating Base (FOB) or a Combat Outpost (COP), Americans are still running the show at these bases. The base named Aryan being referred to in some places as an FOB and some places as a COP doesn't mean anything. A COP is just a smaller, more remote base than an FOB. Even our troops who are over in Afghanistan sometimes seem to be unsure if a particular base is considered an FOB or a COP. On one discussion board where the difference between an FOB and a COP was being discussed, the best way one service member could come up with to tell the difference was that if you had to cook your own food you were at a COP and if someone else was cooking your food you were at an FOB.

With the exception of some FOBs and COPs being named for their locations, and a handful named by other non-Afghan forces in charge of a base, (i.e. FOB Edinburgh was named by the British), the names of these bases were clearly chosen by Americans. Some are named for service members killed near the location of the base, and others are named with what are clearly American words. Unless you're going to believe that the Afghans are naming bases with names like "Michigan," "Eagle," and "Lonestar," the DoD's excuse that the Afghans named COP Aryan is just ridiculous.

The name of this base needs to be changed immediately, and the military needs to initiate an investigation to find out who decided to name the base Aryan and who approved this name.

On February 14, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois will be holding its annual National Prayer Breakfast. The guest speaker this year will be Esther Jungreis, a Holocaust survivor who founded the international Hineni movement in 1973 to discourage intermarriage and Jewish participation in cults, according to the Jewish Women's Archive.

In her speeches and writings, Jungreis throws around the name Hitler and the word Holocaust more than Glenn Beck -- not in the expected context of her being a Holocaust survivor talking about the actual Hitler and actual Holocaust, but to make comparisons to things that are not the actual Hitler or the actual Holocaust. One of the most controversial examples of this is her equating interracial marriage between Jews and non-Jews to the Holocaust, with statements like this:

"It's a question of understanding that Hitler's aim was to annihilate our people, and intermarriage is also a form of annihilation, which is sometimes even more deadly than the Holocaust."

That statement was made when Jungreis was in Canada in 2007 to deliver a lecture titled "The Holocaust and the Final Solution to Intermarriage."

Jungreis even includes marriages in which the non-Jewish partner converts to Judaism in what she calls a "spiritual Holocaust," saying:

"Conversions are usually a sham, you know, in name only. It's easy come, easy go, and there's no commitment behind it. It doesn't mean anything. It's just to accommodate someone in the family."

After making these statements, Jungreis was criticized by two prominent Orthodox rabbis in Ottawa, one for her use of the word Holocaust to refer to anything other than the actual Holocaust, and another for her claim that conversions to Judaism are a sham.

Jungreis is a very prolific speaker, appearing in venues ranging from Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum in 1973 to the Republican National Convention in 2004. She also speaks regularly at military bases, which, on February 14, will include Scott Air Force Base.

In addition to hosting such a controversial speaker for this Prayer Breakfast, the commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing, Col. Michael Hornitschek, has blatantly ignored the September 2011 Memorandum on Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, which said that all invitations for religious events must come from the Chaplain Corps and not the command structure.

The invitation the Scott Air Force Base Prayer Breakfast begins:

The Commander, 375th Air Mobility Wing

cordially invites you to attend the

National Prayer Breakfast

featuring guest speaker

Mrs. Esther Jungreis

Now, we here at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have received many complaints that Gen. Schwartz's memorandum is being ignored, and that nothing is being done to enforce it. But maybe this particular violation at Scott Air Force Base will get the general's attention. Why? Well, not just because Col. Hornitschek is disregarding his religious neutrality edict, but because rumor has it that Gen. Scwartz, a Jew, married a non-Jew, which would make he himself part of Esther Jungreis's so-called Holocaust!

Question: How does a charter school whose multiple applications have been riddled with lies and misrepresentations and has been rejected three times by a state education department get approved for a $600,000 grant from the federal government?

Answer: The federal government admittedly does not routinely fact-check grant applications for charter schools, and does not allow the private consultants it hires to look at the grant applications to look at any information other than what's in the grant application.

That's right, an applicant for a federal grant for a charter school can say whatever they want to in their application, true or false, and nothing they say will be questioned, even if their application has already been exposed as a work of fiction.

This is what's going on right now with the proposed Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School, and the epicenter of the fight to stop this school from being approved or getting any federal grant money is my own little town, Highland Park, NJ.

I got involved in the fight against this charter school about a year ago, when one neighbor sent another neighbor my way with a petition opposing the school -- a school that is overwhelmingly opposed by the residents of Highland Park, a town with an exceptional public school system and no need for a charter school of any kind, let alone one designed to provide a free religious education to a small number of students at the expense of our public school students.

Needless to say to anyone familiar with my work, I was immediately drawn in by the church/state separation issue of a religious charter school, and initially got involved for that reason, but as I soon found out, this went way beyond a simple church/state issue. The degree to which the founders of this proposed charter school have lied about all aspects of their school on their applications in their quest for approval is nothing short of astonishing.

Now, the founders of this Hebrew Language charter school, led by Highland Park real estate agent Sharon Akman, will insist that the purpose of their proposed school is not religious, and that it will not cater specifically to Jewish students. So, to give the appearance of this not being a specifically Jewish school, they claimed on their charter application that the location of the school would be a Catholic church, St. Mary of Mount Virgin in the neighboring town of New Brunswick. The problem? They lied about that -- one of the many whoppers they told in their application. They have no agreement whatsoever with this Catholic church, as Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of the Diocese of Metuchen has repeatedly made clear.

On May 24, 2011, Bishop Bootkoski sent a letter to New Jersey's Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf, stating:

"It has been brought to my attention that the Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School has stated that the parish of St. Mary of Mt. Virgin Church, New Brunswick, NJ has entered into a leasing agreement to operate a charter school at the facility of St. Mary of Mt. Virgin Church. This is not so. In order to clarify the situation, I wish to state that an agreement has not been entered into by the Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School and St. Mary of Mt. Virgin Church, and will not be approved by the Diocese of Metuchen."


You'd think this flat denial by the bishop about her charter school having an agreement with this church would have made Ms. Akman change this piece of misinformation in the subsequent applications, right? Wrong! She proceeded to repeat this lie in both her application for her federal grant three months later, and her next (fourth) version of her application to the New Jersey Department of Education in October 2011, five months later.

When Bishop Bootkoski found out that Akman was continuing to use her fictitious agreement with the church, he wrote another letter to Cerf, dated December 14, 2011, again denying that any such agreement existed or would ever exist:

"It has recently been brought to my attention again that the Tikum Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School is applying for a charter for the City of New Brunswick. In May 2011, they claimed to have entered into a leasing agreement to operate the school at the facility of St. Mary of Mt. Virgin Church, New Brunswick, N.J. As I stated in my May 24, 2011 letter to you, no such agreement was approved at that time nor will it be in the future with St. Mary of Mt. Virgin Church or any other Roman Catholic entity in the City of New Brunswick.

"Therefore, I wish to restate that such an agreement has not and will not be accepted by the Catholic entities in New Brunswick or the Diocese of Metuchen."


Now, you'd think that since providing documentation of a "lease, mortgage or title to its facility" is required to open a charter school, this little matter of Ms. Akman not having the facility she claims to have would have squashed her chances for approval, right? Wrong! Tikun Olam made it through the NJ Department of Education's first round of cuts in December, which left 17 of the 42 schools that applied in October (which was Akman's fourth try) in the running for approval.

But, as the New York Times reported last week, the lie about having secured this Catholic church as the location for their school was just one of many lies told by Akman and company, who also claimed to have the support of and/or agreements with quite a few other individuals and institutions that they didn't have the support of or agreements with. But, of course, with the federal government's prohibition on looking at any sources outside of the information provided by the grant applicant, none of the letters from these people and institutions denying that they supported the school could be taken into consideration when making the decision to approve a $600,000 grant to the school!

Akman also claimed in her application to have a relationship with the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, although the Associate General Counsel at Rutgers wrote the following e-mail on May 26, 2011 stating that the museum has no relationship with the school.

You recently sent me a letter inquiring as to whether the Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School founders have "established relationships" with the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum" of Rutgers University as claimed in its charter school application.

The application does not describe what kind of relationship the founders have with the Museum. They could be members, they could be contributors, they could volunteer for the Museum. There is, however, no formal relationship between the founders in their capacity as founders of Tikun Olam and the Museum.

I called Ms. Akman and she confirmed that there was no formal relationship with the Museum.

And yet, even after acknowledging in May that her charter school had no formal relationship with the museum, Akman has continued to claim, in both her October 2011 state application and her federal grant application, that the school has an established relationship with the museum.

Then there's the support that Akman claims from Assemblyman Peter Barnes and Jun Choi, a former mayor of Edison, another town that would be affected by her school. Akman claims in her application that Barnes and Choi "promised to help make connections and build a diverse student body." But both Barnes and Choi have made it clear that they do not support the school and never gave Akman any such promise of assistance. Neither did Heather Ngoma, the African‐American Director of the New Jersey Charter School Resource Center, another alleged supporter claimed by Akman.

As the Times article said in reference to the federal policy of not allowing outside sources to be used in determining whether or not a charter school should get a federal grant:

"[I]f Ms. Akman writes that Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III supports the charter, the federal consultants are not permitted to interview Mr. Barnes, who would have been happy to tell them that he does not.

"This prohibition against using outside information is intended to ensure that no special measures are taken to either favor or hinder an applicant, although what it really invites is fiction writing."


Akman, who has made almost no public statements since the fight to stop her charter school began, declined to speak to the Times, but did give a rare statement to News12 New Jersey regarding her claims about the support of Assemblyman Barnes and former Edison mayor Choi, saying, "We're not misrepresenting anybody. If they subsequently changed their mind about it, that's a different thing. But we did not misrepresent them." Really? They flip-flopped? Is that Akman's explanation for the statements of non-support from the Bishop of Metuchen and the director's of the Zimmerli Art Museum too?

Other claims made by Akman include the alleged support of New Brunswick's predominantly Hispanic and black community, although no community survey has been done and the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., the Civic League of Greater New Brunswick, and the Puerto Rican Action Board all do not support the school; the crazy notion that a Hebrew school will appeal to low-income Muslims; and that the school will serve students with problems such as "poverty, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, academic failure, dropouts, gangs, and other challenges," as well as special needs students, all without even having as much as a single guidance counselor on its staff. As for its plans on how it will get qualified teachers and provide anything even close to the education available in our public schools, well those aren't really clear either, but the details of all of that pesky 'how on earth are these people going to provide anything like an adequate education?' stuff would require a whole other post.

In a nutshell, what we have is a small group of people who want to start a Jewish charter school for a small community of Jewish students but who need to make it appear that they are starting a secular school that will be chock full of students from every demographic in what is an extremely diverse area in terms of income, race, ethnicity, and religion. But nobody is buying that.

As Highland Park Rabbi Steven Miodownik wrote to acting Education Commissioner Cerf last spring:

"Proponents of the Hebrew language charter school have carefully placed a fig leaf over their agenda of forcing the state to fund their 'free' alternative to private Jewish education, but it is not the job of the State of New Jersey to provide religious instruction for its children; that must be left up to our excellent private schools."


But, what did those federal government consultants who aren't allowed to look at anything other than the information provided by the grant applicant base their approval on when it came to diversity and community support? Well, all they were allowed to base it on was Akman's answers to questions like the following on her grant application:

Selection Criteria - Extent of community support for application

1. Note: The Secretary encourages the applicant to describe how parents and other members of the community will be informed about the charter school, and how students will be given an equal opportunity to attend the charter school.

Strengths:

The applicant provided a detailed description of the ways in which it has conducted community outreach to help ensure diversity of the student population at the proposed charters school. The applicant cites meeting outcomes from a number of sessions with leading political and civic leaders who have expressed an interest in helping to tell the community about the proposed charter school. The applicant has proposed hiring a Community Outreach Coordinator to assist with helping members of the community who do not speak Hebrew (i.e. not Jewish) about the school and its commitment to repairing the world or perfecting the world. The applicant has also indicated that a proposed facility for the charter school is a former Catholic school located in a mostly minority, low-income New Brunswick neighborhood. The applicant believes this is a strong statement of the proposed charter school's commitment to ensure that an equal opportunity to attend the school is given to all.

Weaknesses:

There are no weaknesses in addressing the this application requirement.


Right, there are "no weaknesses in addressing this application requirement," unless, of course, you consider the whole thing being a pack of lies to be a weakness!

While the $600,000 federal grant will only be received if the school is approved by the N.J. Department of Education, Ms. Akman wasted no time in informing the acting Education Commissioner that her grant had been approved, giving her school a potential leg up in the state's final decision, expected on January 17.

Finally, getting back to the church/state separation aspect of this Hebrew school, which is what got me involved in the first place, I have to include the ludicrous reason given by Akman in her effort to make her Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School sound like it has a necessary, secular purpose. Ready for this? Akman claims that the teaching of Hebrew is vital to America's national interests because the United States does so much business with Israel (even though the official business language of Israel is … um …. English).

Last spring, I was part of what we called our "documentation committee," a committee formed to thoroughly examine the version of school's charter application that was current at that time. For my part on this committee, I did exactly what anyone familiar with my other work would expect me to do -- I checked out the sources cited by the school's founders to support their ridiculous 'teaching Hebrew is vital to our national interests' claim. And what I found, of course, was that they had misquoted and misrepresented the sources they cited to make them support their claim.

While the school's latest application has dropped parts of what was debunked in the previous application, this will give you an idea of the depths of scholarly deception -- on top of all their other deceptions -- that these Liars For Yahweh have stooped to in their attempt to get their school approved.

Ms. Akman and her cohorts should not only be flatly denied a charter to start their school, but should be prosecuted under Title 18, §1001 of the U.S. Code, the federal statute prohibiting the making of false statements to federal officials, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison for anyone who "knowingly and willfully makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" or "makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry."

Additional resources: Mother Crusader, the blog of Highland Park resident Darcie Cimarusti, who since last spring has made it her full-time job to stop the Tikun Olam charter school; Speak Up Highland Park; and Save Our Schools NJ.

Over the past few months, I've been faced with the utter irony of splitting my time between dealing with the steady stream of lies about my boss and the organization I work for being part of the so-called war on Christmas, and having numerous conversations with that same boss about helping to send toys to kids for Christmas. One minute I'd be writing about the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) spreading lies about our organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), trying to stop Air Force Academy cadets from participating in Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child, which, as I wrote in a previous post, isn't exactly what happened, and the next minute I'd be on the phone coordinating MRFF's participation in a Christmas toy drive run by a student group I work with here in New Jersey.

For the second year, MRFF has partnered with the students of Kean University's Be the Change to send toys to kids in the Gulf whose families have not yet recovered from the BP oil spill, with the students collecting the toys (828 of them this year) and MRFF handling the shipping.

MRFF's involvement with Be the Change's Toys for the Gulf project began last year, when I happened to be on the phone with my boss, Mikey Weinstein, just as I was trying to figure out a way to pay for getting the hundreds of toys collected by the students from New Jersey to Mississippi in time for Christmas. Mikey's immediate response to me explaining our shipping dilemma was that the toys had to get there, whatever it took, and that MRFF would make it happen.

This year, it was Mikey who asked me if we were doing it again, telling me he wanted to help if we were. And so, once again, MRFF, while being relentlessly bashed by the likes of the ACLJ and FOX News as a bunch of Christmas-hating atheists, helped send toys to hundreds of kids whose families couldn't afford much for Christmas. Yes, folks, Mikey Weinstein is a traitor in the war on Christmas!


In reality, of course, MRFF is not an atheist organization. We are a religious freedom organization, with clients, staff, and volunteers of all religions as well as no religion, with the overwhelming majority being Christian, both Protestant and Catholic. So, while we pushed for the religious holiday displays at Travis Air Force Base to be moved two blocks from a main intersection to the chapel grounds, and, when that didn't happen, supported the base's atheist community being able to put up a display alongside the religious displays, we equally supported a Christmas toy project benefiting a community where there are many struggling veterans, as well as some of MRFF's Christian clients. To us at MRFF, that's what religious freedom is all about.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve. The Toys for the Gulf project had been a huge success once again, with the big event having taken place in Gulfport the night before, and I was hanging out with my mom and getting things ready for Christmas Day. I was occasionally checking my email, just in case anything important came in, and, although it's pretty hard to shock me after everything I've seen in my four years of working for MRFF, I couldn't even fathom what I was seeing that night -- hate mail on Christmas Eve! Yes, as I, like millions of other people around the country, was enjoying the holiday, there were so-called Christians out there who are so full of hate that they were actually gathered around their computers instead of their Christmas trees, writing emails like the following.

From: E-Mail Address Withheld
Date: December 24, 2011 3:31:10 PM MST
To: -------@militaryreligiousfreedom.org
Subject: Church Xmas Msg. to Mickey's family & MRFF

Our church leaders and congregation have been watching Mickey Weinstien and the MRFF for some time now. We read and watch everything in the news about Mickey and his family and MFRR. We started praying years ago for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to open his blinded eyes to the Good News so that Mickey will stop his wicked war on our brethren Christians in the military. But it has not happened. Our church knows why. Our Bible knows why too. Mickey is gone and lost to satan forever and we no longer waste our time praying to the Savior to stop his evil ways. 2 Corinthians 6:14. To Mickey's wife Bonny we say harken unto the Lord Jesus or face hellfire. To his sons Casey and Curtis we say harken unto the Lord Jesus or face hellfire. To his daughter Amada and his son Caesy's wife Amber we say harken unto the Lord Jesus or face hellfire. To the MRFF people of Patricia, Becky, Chris and Haley and Linda and Leah, Joan and Elisabeth and Philip and Richard and FJ Taylor and Andy and David Akeva and the Ambassador Wilson we say harken unto the Lord Jesus or face hellfire. Your leader Mickey is all possesed of Satan. Can you not see the obvius? If you ask him he will denie this of course which is always the top sign that he is possesed and in league with the dark one. This Christmas it is still not too late for all of you to break away from  Mickey and save your souls. By doing this you will finally understand the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ born on Christmas day. If you do not free yourselves of satan's barking dog Mickey this Christmas then you will all find out the Bad News of burning forever in hell soon enough. John 3:36 You will not respond to this message as we know how rude and ruthluss MFRR people always are in replying to polite peaceful and loving Christians trying to stop Mickey.


But what was it that Mikey Weinstein wanted to know from me in the midst of receiving emails like this? That everything with the Toys for the Gulf event had gone smoothly and that the kids had gotten their toys!

I want to end this post with three things.

First, I want to say what amazing people the students of Kean University's Be the Change and their professor, Dr. Norma Bowe, are. Not only do they do special projects like Toys for the Gulf, they work tirelessly all year round feeding the homeless here in New Jersey, working with a teen homeless shelter (with several of the former residents of the shelter having gone on to become Kean students), and doing many other incredible service projects both locally and around the country.

Second, don't believe the BP produced commercials currently airing on TV that claim that everything is back to normal in the Gulf. It's not.

And, finally, THERE IS NO FREAKIN' WAR ON CHRISTMAS!

Well, it doesn't get any clearer than this. In an article from the Baptist Press, the news arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptists have finally come right out and admitted what we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have known all along -- they oppose religious equality in the U.S. military.

Beyond just getting many of the "facts" wrong in the article, titled "Air Force Academy dogged by anti-Christian pressure," shows the true colors of the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes to religious freedom, stating, as if it's a bad thing, "Not only does the academy now provide worship space for all, it requires all cadets to complete religious respect training." Really? The Air Force Academy accommodating cadets of all religions and teaching religious respect is a problem? Well, maybe if you fancy yourself to be among America's "persecuted" Christians and consider religious pluralism a threat to your religion.

The article uses what has recently become a very popular talking point to shock its readers -- the Air Force Academy spent $80,000 on a pagan worship area. According to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Daniel Heimbach, quoted in the article: "… something is grossly out of proportion when the institution dedicates a $80,000 outdoor worship center to only serve 3 cadets. … All of which leads me to wonder what in the world can explain dedicating such a large and expensive worship center for only 3 cadets. This is driven by something more than simply equity. It is something powerfully religious that is non-Christian, non-theistic and 'Earth-based' with deep pockets and a lot of political influence."

Well, first of all, the outdoor worship area did not cost taxpayers $80,000. Seriously, have any of these people using this talking point actually stopped to wonder how putting a circle of rocks on a hilltop could possibly cost $80,000? Of course not. They just keep repeating this so-called "fact" to shock their audiences. The truth is that this money was already being spent on a project that had nothing to do with the worship area.

The boulders that now form the outdoor worship area were moved from the hillside to the hilltop as part of an erosion control project that was already underway. Erosion had made these boulders a safety hazard, in danger of falling down the hillside and crashing into the Academy's Visitors Center and Cadet Chapel, so they were moved from the hillside to the top of the hill. When the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron moved the rocks to the top of the hill in spring and early summer of 2009, they arranged them in a circle.

Months later, when the pagan lay leader at the Academy was looking for a suitable site for a worship area, he realized that there already was one -- the circle of boulders that had been moved to the top of the hill during the erosion control project. All that needed to be added to the already existing site to turn it into a worship area was some flagstone to make a floor and a small altar in the center of the circle. So, no, the Academy's outdoor worship area didn't cost anything even close to $80,000. The only other significant expense has been the installation of security cameras, made necessary when some nice Christians decided to send a message by placing a large wooden cross at the site. (Anyone seeing a need for that religious respect training?)

Second, here in the good old U.S. of A., religious equality is not based on the number of adherents to a particular religion, although those "persecuted" Christians seem to think it should be, incessantly citing their large majority as the reason they shouldn't be persecuted (although just how such a large majority can cry about being the persecuted class while at the same time citing their majority status is a bit hard to wrap the brain around).

Unlike most military bases, where the various religions share the same worship facilities, the Air Force Academy's Cadet Chapel has separate chapels for Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. The main floor is an exclusively Protestant chapel, with separate smaller chapels for Catholics and Jews in the basement. In 2007, a Buddhist chapel, paid for by a private donation, was added to the basement. For anybody else, there is a small "all faiths" room, also in the basement. But this "all faiths" room is not suitable for those who follow earth-centered religions and prefer to worship outdoors. Designating the stone circle as a chapel facility simply accommodates a religious group with a worship area that meets their needs, something taken for granted by other religious groups at the Academy. Whether the users of that worship space number in the hundreds or in single digits is completely irrelevant when it comes to providing a place for them to worship according to their beliefs.

The Baptist Press, like a number of other Christian news outlets, is currently reviving the nearly year old story about Air Force Academy's outdoor worship area in response to recent events at the Academy, particularly the recent change made by the Academy regarding cadet participation in Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child. Hey, they have to have some other juicy, if not quite true, examples of Christian persecution to generate some good outrage, right? And they also need someone to target as the big, bad anti-Christian boogeyman -- and that would be Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of MRFF. In fact, the main gist of Baptist Press article is that none of this horrible Christian persecution at the Air Force Academy is the Academy's fault; it's all the work of Weinstein.

In reality, neither Mikey Weinstein nor MRFF are anti-Christian. Of MRFF's 351 clients at the Air Force Academy, 316 are Christians themselves, both Protestants and Catholics.

And nobody stopped the cadets from participating in Operation Christmas Child. All MRFF did was get the Academy to place this clearly religious program under the auspices of the Academy chaplains rather than the command structure, in accordance with the Air Force Chief of Staff's recent memorandum on "Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion." But, oddly, while criticizing MRFF for getting the Academy to put Operation Christmas Child under the chaplains, the article also cites that same Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor quoted above about the outdoor worship area actually agreeing with MRFF that this was the right thing to do: "Daniel Heimbach … told Baptist Press that the Operation Christmas Child reversal is understandable because the program genuinely does promote Christianity and should be handled by the chaplains." So, what is the problem? MRFF, the Academy, and this Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor have all said that the right thing was done!

But wait, there's more. The Baptist Press brings up another story from a while back to further demonize Weinstein -- the one about MRFF getting the Air Force to remove what some Air Force officers had nicknamed the "Jesus Loves Nukes" portion of the ethics training for its nuclear missile officers.

From the article:

"What is most concerning is criticism of the just war class, said Heimbach, who has worked in defense- and domestic-policy positions in Washington in both the executive and legislative branches.

"'That the western tradition of just war ethics has included biblical as well as classical influences is simply a matter of history,' Heimbach said. 'Although academy courses are no place for religious indoctrination, neither should they deconstruct what actually has occurred as though religion does not exist.

"'Teaching of the history and development of just war history should be fair and objective whether at a military academy or at a religious seminary.'"


Well, we're a little off on the facts here, too. First of all, this wasn't a course at the Air Force Academy. It was the nuclear missile officer training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. And, second, this wasn't a matter of teaching about the history of both biblical and classical influences on Just War Theory. This was slide after slide of Bible verses, with the big heading of "Christian Just War Theory" on every slide, ending with Revelation 19:11 -- "Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior." Is it any wonder that this presentation was nicknamed the "Jesus Loves Nukes" speech?

The presentation also included a slide of former Nazi and SS officer Werhner Von Braun, not as a scientist but as a moral authority promoting the Bible, quoting Von Braun, upon surrendering to American forces in 1945, saying: "We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured."

Twenty-nine of the thirty-one Air Force nuclear missile officers who initially came to MRFF for help in getting this training stopped were Christians -- both Catholics and Protestants. These thirty-one officers were soon joined by thirty-eight more, thirty-two of whom were also Christians.

(For more details on the contents of the "Jesus Loves Nukes" training, see my post from September.)

The Baptist Press article also includes some outrageous things said by Mikey Weinstein. It quotes a local pastor saying that Weinstein "even says the Constitution is to guarantee both freedom of religion and freedom from religion." Yikes!

Then there's this crazy stuff they found on MRFF's website:

"The Military Religious Freedom Foundation believes religious freedom 'takes on an additional importance in the current international environment, where religious motivations are an increasing rationale for waging conflict.

"'At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious freedom in Muslim nations, it is imperative upon America to show by example that religious pluralism is a viable and preferred option,' the website says. 'Any sign of hypocrisy in United States policy, official or otherwise, toward the free exercise of religion within the military makes it more difficult to convince others to follow our nation's chosen path.'"


Pretty radical stuff, huh? All that crazy talk about America setting an example of religious freedom for the world.

The Southern Baptist Convention aren't the only folks to have recently shown their true colors when it comes to their opinions on religious equality in the military. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which continually calls MRFF an atheist and anti-Christian organization (despite the fact that  96% of MRFF's clients are actually Christians), finally came out and admitted what they really mean by anti-Christian. They mean anti-what the ACLJ and other fundamentalists like the Southern Baptists consider to be the "right kind" of Christians, which doesn't include all those "mainliners" -- you know, all those Protestants who are apparently anti-Christian.

In a very telling moment during the ACLJ's November 8 radio show, Jordan Sekulow said of Mikey Weinstein: "This is a guy who goes after anyone who is an evangelical. He's fine with, you know, the mainliners, the denom... -- but it's the evangelical Christianity -- the dominionists that he thinks are trying to take over the U.S. military." That's right, Sekulow came right out and confirmed what MRFF has been saying for years -- that the reason the overwhelming majority of MRFF's clients are Christians, both mainline Protestants and Catholics, is that they are not the "right kind" of Christians for their dominionist and fundamentalist military superiors -- or for the ACLJ and the Southern Baptists.

Well, it seems that David French over at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has his panties in a wad over the issue of the Camp Pendleton cross. In an article yesterday on the ACLJ website, specifically going after Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), French puts the 'poor bullied Christians' spin on the Pendleton cross controversy.

French's article begins with an attack on MRFF:

"The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is perhaps the most deceptively-named organization in the United States. Its tone is hysterical (it actually calls those who complain about religious influence 'spiritual rape victims/tormentees') and its methods Orwellian. …"

And goes on to say:

"The MRFF is a group that virtually defines the term 'radical.'  Comparing viewing a religious symbol or hearing a religious message to 'rape' isn’t rational dialogue. It isn’t an argument. It’s an attempt to demagogue and bully commanders – who are rightfully focused on warfighting and not on the Establishment Clause – into satisfying the loudest, angriest voice."

I don't think I could possibly respond to those statements any better than one of the other people at MRFF did in an email after seeing French's article: "This drivel can be summed up by a very simple and clear concept: PSYCHOLOGICAL PROJECTION (…a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.) Anyone squealing about deception, Orwellian methods, demagoguery, or bullying on the ACLJ site (an acronym designed with the intent of obfuscation) is not only projecting, they’re an unmitigated gutless hypocrite to boot."

French's article, of course, includes the ACLJ's version of what happened at Camp Pendleton:

"Let’s be absolutely clear about what happened at Camp Pendleton: As a tribute to fallen brothers, individual Marines and individual family members – acting on their own – erected a cross. This cross has proven meaningful not just to those Marines and family members who put it up but also to thousands upon thousands of Marines who’ve seen it. Of course it’s not meaningful to everyone. Of course it even offends some (including at least one NCO that wrote an incredibly profane and unprofessional letter opposing the Cross), but we simply do not and cannot make decisions about religious liberty on the basis of utterly subjective personal feelings."

A bit of a contradiction there, huh? On one hand we "cannot make decisions about religious liberty on the basis of utterly subjective personal feelings," but it's important that the "cross has proven meaningful not just to those Marines and family members who put it up but also to thousands upon thousands of Marines who’ve seen it." Wouldn't that meaningfulness be an utterly subjective personal feelings?

But, beyond French's contradiction, there's the categorical inaccuracy of his version of the 'facts' about this cross. As I wrote in my previous piece on this cross, "The Camp Pendleton Cross: The Facts vs. What the "Persecuted" Christians Are Saying," which is linked to by French so people can read that "incredibly profane and unprofessional letter," it's not just that this cross is visible from various areas of the base. It goes far beyond that. The cross is the destination of many mandatory training hikes, forcing countless Marines of all religions and no religion not only to visit it, but to participate in the rituals that have grown up around it and to listen, often in formation, to Christian prayers and sermons delivered by their superiors. In my previous piece, I included links to two articles on the official Marine Corps website, as well as a video, showing this.

In that video, which I'm also including here, it wasn't a chaplain delivering that Christian sermon to the Marines on this mandatory training hike to the cross (beginning at 3:36 in the video), which would be bad enough before a captive audience at a mandatory training event; it was the battalion's sergeant major! And the Marine speaking right before the sermonizing sergeant major was the battalion's commander. These are the superiors that a non-Christian or non-religious Marine in that battalion should be able to go to when they have an issue with being forced to participate in religious exercises -- but they're the ones leading the forced religious exercises!


But, of course, to sufficiently outrage his audience, French needs to put the spin on this that the erection of this thirteen foot tall cross was just a completely private thing unofficially done by a few Marines and family members of fallen Marines.

The current cross, put up this Veterans Day, is actually the third cross to be erected atop this hill. The original cross, put up by a group of Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in 2003 was destroyed in 2007 by a brush fire. That cross was then replaced in early 2008 with a second cross. The new cross is just a fire-proof replacement of the second cross, which was also made of wood like the original one destroyed by the fire.

Now, watch this video and tell me that, in addition to all the mandatory training hikes to the cross, which have been going on since the first cross was put up in 2003, there's no officially sanctioning of this exclusively Christian memorial by Camp Pendleton. This is the video officially put out by KPEN-TV, the official TV station of Camp Pendleton, showing the erection of the second cross in 2008.


Seriously, does that look like just a few individual Marines and family members acting on their own to merely put up a little cross as a personal tribute?

In the same paragraph French also minimizes the objections to the cross (this guy can certainly pack a lot of inaccuracy into one short paragraph). He says that the cross "offends some" and minimizes the number of Marines who want the cross removed by saying "including at least one NCO." French does this even while linking to my previous piece, in which I clearly said the senior NCO at Camp Pendleton who wrote the letter did so on behalf of himself and fourteen other Camp Pendleton NCOs, all of whom have served multiple combat tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. MRFF has actually been contacted by well over one hundred Marines at Camp Pendleton, as well as many Marine Corps and Navy veterans, all of whom want the cross removed.

This isn't the first time the ACLJ has attacked and completely mischaracterized MRFF, as well as MRFF's founder and president Mikey Weinstein. It isn't even the first time recently. It was less than a month ago that the ACLJ's Jordan Sekulow went on the warpath over the changes made to the Franklin Graham Operation Christmas Child program at the Air Force Academy. In that case, all MRFF did was get the Air Force Academy to place this clearly religious program under the auspices of the chaplains rather than the Academy's command structure, in accordance with the Air Force Chief of Staff's recent memorandum on religious neutrality. Nobody was stopping the cadets from participating in Operation Christmas Child, and Sekulow's accusation on the ACLJ's November 8 radio show that "Mikey Weinstein is bragging about the fact that he's gonna have less Christmas boxes for kids in the third world countries," was completely untrue. Weinstein said nothing of the kind.

Of course, the ACLJ continually paints MRFF as an atheist and anti-Christian organization, despite the fact that  96% of MRFF's clients are actually Christians, including that NCO at Camp Pendleton who wrote that "incredibly profane and unprofessional letter opposing the Cross."

But it became quite clear on the ACLJ's November 8 radio show just what Sekulow means by anti-Christian; he means anti-what the ACLJ considers to be the "right kind" of Christians. In a very telling moment during that radio show, Sekulow said of Weinstein: "This is a guy who goes after anyone who is an evangelical. He's fine with, you know, the mainliners, the denom… -- but it's the evangelical Christianity -- the dominionists that he thinks are trying to take over the U.S. military." That's right, Sekulow came right out and confirmed what MRFF has been saying for years -- that the reason the overwhelming majority of MRFF's clients are Christians, both mainline Protestants and Catholics, is that they are not the "right kind" of Christians for their dominionist and fundamentalist military superiors.

On that November 8 radio show, Sekulow also deliberately and repeatedly miscalled the Military Religious Freedom Foundation the "Military Freedom From Religion Foundation," although he knows damned well what the name of the foundation is. So, Sekulow and David French think the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is the "most deceptively-named organization in the United States?" Well, I think that title should go to the ACLJ, an acronym which would more aptly stand for the "American Center of Liars for Jesus."

A thirteen foot tall cross atop a mountain near Camp Horno on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base in California has become the source of much controversy over the past few weeks, sparked by a Los Angeles Times article about a group of Marines erecting the cross on Veterans Day.

The cross put up this Veterans Day is actually the third cross to adorn this hill. The original cross, erected by a group of Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in 2003 was destroyed in 2007 by a brush fire. That cross was then replaced in early 2008 with a second cross. The cross erected earlier this month is a fire-proof replacement of the second cross, which was also made of wood like the original one destroyed by the fire.

In virtually all cases like this -- whether its a Ten Commandments monument in a courthouse or a cross on a military base -- you'll hear the same few talking points coming from those who claim that religious neutrality by the government is somehow tantamount to persecution of Christians. I call these the "Persecuted Christians Myths," and here's how they relate to that thirteen foot tall cross at Camp Pendleton.


Persecuted Christians Myth #1 -- Nobody is being forced to look at it

Well, in the case of the Camp Pendleton cross, this is certainly not true. From postings on message boards from Marines at Pendleton who say that they can see it from their office windows to commanders boasting about its visibility, it is clear that this cross is intended to be seen by everybody, whether they want to look at it or not.

Just read the 2009 article that appeared on the official Marine Corps website, which began:

"Although many Marines may not know where the heart and soul of 1st Marine Regiment is, they have two ways to find it: either look far off behind Camp Horno or run up the hill and see it firsthand.

"'It’s the biggest hill around here,' said Sgt. Parker C. Vaculik, a reconnaissance Marine with Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. 'Really, by coming up here, you are killing two birds with one stone. You’re exercising and you’re showing your respect to the fallen.'

"'If you look way up to the top of the hill, you will see a cross,' said Col. Daniel J. O’Donohue, the commanding officer of 1st Marine Regiment. 'It is the heart of 1st Marines. It’s a monument put up by Marines for Marines.'"


And, it's not just that this cross is visible from various areas of the base. It goes far beyond that. The cross is the destination of many mandatory training hikes, forcing countless Marines of all religions and no religion not only to visit it, but to participate in the rituals that have grown up around it and to listen, often in formation, to Christian prayers and sermons delivered by their superiors.

This completely inappropriate and unconstitutional practice has been going on since the original cross was erected in 2003, and has been well documented in articles on the official Marine Corps website, such as this one from 2005, and this one from 2006.

To fully grasp what occurs during these mandatory hikes, just watch this video from one that took place in 2008.


That's not a chaplain delivering that Christian sermon (beginning at 3:36 in the video); that was the battalion's sergeant major, Jeffrey D. Moses, and the Marine speaking right before him was the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin T. Watson. Get that? The superiors that a non-Christian or non-religious Marine should be able to go to when they have an issue with being forced to participate in religious exercises are the ones who are leading these forced religious exercises. Is it any wonder that so many service members say that they can't go to their chains of command to resolve these issues and instead come to organizations like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)?


Persecuted Christians Myth #2 -- The "lone atheist troublemaker"

Now, whenever one of these issues makes the news, there must be someone for the persecuted Christians to blame. Typically, they go after someone who they can turn into what I call the "lone atheist troublemaker." In the case of the Camp Pendleton cross, the "lone atheist troublemaker" of choice has been Jason Torpy, a West Point graduate, former Army captain, and Iraq veteran, who now serves as president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). From FOX News to Jay Sekulow to The Christian Post to outspoken fundamentalist Christian military officers like Air Force Major Jonathan Dowty (a.k.a. JD the Christian Fighter Pilot), all were quick to make Jason Torpy the requisite "lone atheist troublemaker" on this one after he wrote a blog post about it on the MAAF website.


Persecuted Christians Myth #3 -- Only non-Christians object to government promotions of Christianity

Contrary to Persecuted Christians Myth #2, it's not only atheists who are objecting to the Camp Pendleton cross and calling for its removal. While MAAF is an atheist organization, MRFF is not, so MRFF hears from service members of all religions as well as those of no religion. In fact, 96% of the now over 25,000 service members and veterans who have come to MRFF for help are actually Christians -- both Catholics and Protestants who just aren't "Christian enough" for the military.

MRFF has been contacted by well over one hundred Marines at Camp Pendleton, as well as many Marine Corps and Navy veterans, some of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all of whom want the cross removed.

Are all of these Marines and veterans atheists? Of course not. The following email is from a highly decorated senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Marine Corps, who identifies himself as a devout Lutheran, writing on behalf of himself and fourteen of his fellow NCOs at Camp Pendleton, all of whom have served multiple combat tours.

Subject: Marines Fight and Die for America and Fellow Marines, PERIOD!!

My name is (name withheld) and I am a (senior USMC Non-Commissioned Officer rank withheld) stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California. I am a "lifer" in the USMC. I am here until they kick me out of the Corps. Thank you to MRFF for being there so that I can express my feelings on behalf of myself and my fellow Marines. If I said these same things to my superiors in the Corps I probably would get kicked out.

I am a veteran of many, in fact (exact number withheld), combat tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been awarded many combat decorations including (combat awards and decoration names withheld) for my combat tours which have always included much hand-to-hand combat. Now, about that cross being lugged up that hill on the federal land controlled by Camp Pendleton. Fuck those Marines who did that! FUCK THEM TO HELL! What, they think that that cross stands for and represents all the dead Marines that have fallen in the combat zones where we have fought and bled? I happen to be a devout Lutheran myself but I lead now and have led, as a senior Marine NCO, USMC combat units which have Marines in it from DOZENS of different religions and atheists and agnostics too. I have fought and bled with my fellow Marines all over the desert down range in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many might have been Christians like me and many were not Christians but that didn't matter worth a shit when my hands were on their open wounds trying to plug bullet and shrapnel holes to keep them from bleeding out. No, in the Marines we do not honor those who have fallen by the religious symbol of ONE religion. Doing that on Camp Pendleton land itself is in fact a DISGRACE TO THE MARINE CORPS AND ALL OF AMERICA! We Marines fight and die for America and our fellow Marines, PERIOD! Last time I checked, the cross of Jesus and Jesus himself, who is my personal Lord and Savior, does NOT represent my country of America! Nor was Jesus ever a member of the United States Marine Corps! Those Marines who put up that cross disgrace all we fight for in the Corps. Why did they do it then? They did it to let everyone know that, at Camp Pendleton, the USMC-approved, supreme religious faith is their version of fundamental Christianity. Ironic and outrageous, as the Marines they claim to honor with their cross died fighting fundamental Islam. What if Muslim Marines had dragged a giant symbol of Islam and erected it up on that same Camp Pendleton hill? We would be waist deep in blood and guts if that had happened. I and my fellow Marines did not fight and get wounded and almost killed numerous times for that cross to be put up there by those fucking pathetic Marines. They should be severely disciplined and made an example of immediately.

(USMC Sr. NCO's name, rank, position and title and combat unit withheld)


Persecuted Christians Myth #4 -- Blatant displays of Christianity by the government are OK because most Americans are Christians

Well, this is about the stupidest argument used in these cases, given that we have that pesky Constitution to prevent the majority from trampling on the minority, but it's always pulled out by somebody, so I should include it.

Listen to Jordan Sekulow (from the American Center for Law and Justice just like his father Jay Sekulow) in this clip from FOX News as he explains that the great big cross on an Army chapel in Afghanistan should not have been removed because the majority (inflated by Sekulow to be 90%) of the military is Christian. This chapel cross, currently being lumped into stories with the Camp Pendleton cross, as it is in this clip, was removed by the chaplain, who was correctly following an Army regulation that clearly states that symbols of any specific religion can only be displayed at times when worship services of that religion are in progress. This is not persecution of Christians, but merely a common sense regulation to keep Army chapels that are shared by a variety of religions neutral and welcoming to people of all faiths, as Kathleen Johnson, former military director and now vice president of American Atheists, explains.


The bottom line is that religious neutrality by the government DOES NOT equal persecution of Christians, no matter how many times FOX News and "Team Sekulow" keep claiming it does.

Michele Bachmann has been making quite a habit of revising her family history since entering the GOP primary race. Needing to sound more Iowan while campaigning in the all-important state of Iowa, she became a 7th generation Iowan, turning the story of her Norwegian immigrant ancestors into something straight out of Little House on the Prairie.

Bachmann probably never expected anyone to fact check her little family history story, but that's exactly what I did. And, as I suspected when I first heard her telling it at Iowa's "Rediscover God in America" conference back in March, her story was far from the truth, as I detailed in a piece I wrote in April. Then, in August, Ryan Lizza included a summarized version of my debunking of Bachmann's story in his New Yorker article, "Leap of Faith: The making of a Republican front-runner."

Now, you'd think the realization that her fantastic family history stories were, indeed, being fact checked would have stopped Bachmann from using them. But, no. She's just kept on using them.

But, while Bachmann at least had an obvious reason for inventing and/or distorting the "facts" in her original story -- to sound more Iowan when campaigning in Iowa -- nothing can explain why this woman would take a chance on making up the addition to her story that appears in her new book, Core of Conviction: My Story -- that her great-great-grandfather, Halvor Munson, won a farm in Kansas from Jesse James in a poker game!

This incredible claim is already being questioned by others, so I decided to look into it.

So, let's start with the passage from Bachmann's book:

"... When the bugle sounded, Iowans answered the call. That same great-great-grandfather Halvor Munson -- the tall one who almost didn't get to leave Norway -- was fifteen when the Civil War broke out. Halvor rushed to enlist, and because he was big, it was easy for him to join the Army. The young soldier was sent west, spending the war years guarding U.S. forts out on the frontier.

"After the war, Halvor was demobilized and ended up coming home on a river raft. And who else was on the raft? None other than Jesse James and his gang. That notorious criminal crew, in fact, invited Halvor to join them; he declined. Yet he did agree to play poker with James and his gang, and he won, of all things, a farm in Iola, Kansas. Who would know that you could win at poker with Jesse James and live? For a while, Halvor traveled back and forth between Kansas and Iowa, but Iowa was always his home. ..."


Now, let's separate fact from fiction.

In the paragraph before the Jesse James claim, Bachmann is just keeping up the most important piece of fiction in the story she tells when campaigning in Iowa -- that the intended destination of her immigrant ancestors was the awesome state of Iowa, and that it was Iowa where they settled upon arriving in the United States in 1857. In both her campaigning story and her book, Bachmann simply omits that her ancestors first lived in Wisconsin for well over three years, then went to the Dakota Territory for about the same length of time, and only ended up in Iowa -- seven years after coming to America -- because they couldn't hack the hardships and dangers of the Dakota Territory, and fled to the safety of a well established Norwegian community in Iowa. So, of course, in her new Jesse James poker game story, she had to make her great-great-grandfather Halvor an Iowan when he enlisted in the Union Army.

Halvor did enlist in the Union Army, and he was only fifteen at the time. That part is true. He enlisted in February 1862, and his sixteenth birthday was on March 1, 1862. But he was not an Iowan; he was a Dakotan. He became a private in Company A of the 1st Battalion Dakota Cavalry, which was organized in April 1862. Halvor wasn't "sent west." He already was west.

Next, Bachmann's story places the alleged poker game with Jesse James at the time when Halvor's Army unit was demobilized, and Halvor was supposedly on his way home on a river raft. But this is impossible for two reasons.

First, since Halvor's home was in the Dakota Territory, and not in Iowa, there wouldn't have been any river raft trip for him to get home. According to his military records, Halvor's unit mustered out on May 9, 1865 at Vermillion, Dakota Territory, only about fifteen miles from his home at Elk Point -- close enough to just walk home. But it's actually highly unlikely that Halvor even went home at all. His family had left fled the Dakota Territory in 1864, and were then in Utica Township, Iowa. But he probably didn't go there either, and even if he did, he couldn't have gone by raft because Utica Township is almost 300 miles away from the Missouri River.

Second, it was May 1865. There was no James Gang yet. The members of what would become the gang were busy wrapping up their Civil War guerilla activities. The whereabouts of Jesse James and his future gang members at this time are very well known because May 10, 1865, the day after Halvor Munson mustered out of the Army in the Dakota Territory, was the day that Quantrill's Raiders were ambushed by Union soldiers, and James Younger was captured. A few days later, Jesse James was shot by Union troops while attempting to surrender to them, after which he spent many months recovering. This was all happening in Missouri, nowhere near the Dakota Territory. It wasn't until February 1866 that Jesse James formed his gang and robbed his first bank.

Halvor's river raft trip wasn't in 1865 when he got out of the Army, but three years later, in 1868. Immediately after being discharged from the Army, Halvor, along with the sergeant from his Army company, joined up for the Sawyers Expedition, a federally-funded expedition led by Lt. Col. James Sawyers to build a road from Niobrara, Nebraska to Virginia City, Montana. This expedition set out on June 13, 1865.

According to the account of his son, Halvor signed on for a three-year enlistment in the expedition service, and was at Fort Benton in Montana when his enlistment was up. Since Halvor got out of the Army in May of 1865, and left with the Sawyers Expedition in June, his three-year enlistment would have been up in May or June of 1868. This is when he was on a river raft on the Missouri, getting off the raft at Sioux City, Iowa, and going overland from there to join his family in Utica, Iowa.

And where was Jesse James in May and June of 1868 when Halvor Munson would have been on this river raft trip? Well, according to all accounts, he was on his way to California. He was in Kentucky in March (at the time of the Russellville bank robbery), went to Missouri in early April, left from there for New York in May, and was on a ship bound for San Francisco on June 8. So, no, he couldn't have been on a river raft with Michele Bachmann's great-great-grandfather playing poker and losing a farm.

So, where did Bachmann get this story from? Well, just like her fictitious story about how her immigrant ancestors came to Iowa, it appears that she found something on the web, and then made some revisions to it. In this case, it was almost certainly a "Family Group" sheet for Halvor Munson on the IAGenWeb site.

Here's the section, written by other Munson descendants, that mentions the Jesse James story. But this says that the James Gang was only "allegedly" on the raft, and calls the poker game story "folklore" and "unverified," words that, of course, didn't stop Michele Bachmann from turning the story into historical fact in her book.

"Halvor proved his faith in the 'New World,' as the Norwegian emigrants called America, when he enlisted in the Union Army in February 1862. He was only 15 years old so first served as a drummer boy in Company A, First Dakota Cavalry, which was assigned to garrison and patrol duty in the Dakota settlements. Uncertainty about the Indians, who, until a treaty in 1858, had sole access to Dakota Territory, kept Company A and the settlers on constant alert. Halvor was probably one of the soldiers that, along with the settlers, hastily erected Fort Brule in August 1862, for protection against the Indians. Convincing rumors of an imminent attack by the Sioux in early September 1862 later found to be untrue, frightened the settlers into an evacuation to Sioux City rather than taking refuge in Fort Brule.

"Halvor served in the Civil War for three years, two months, being honorably discharged as a Private, First Class, in April 1865, an historic month. On April 9th, General Lee surrendered his Confederate troops to General Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. President Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre April 14th and died the next morning. Out of service and only 19, what next for Halvor? His son, Alfred, wrote that Halvor immediately joined the government's Sawyer Ox Team Expedition for a three-year term of duty. The purpose was to supply U. S. forts along the Missouri River as far west as Fort Benton, Montana (forty miles northeast of Great Falls). They also made a 500-mile trip from Ft. Benton to Salt Lake City, Utah to secure flour for these forts in 1866 or 1867. U.S. troops escorted them through dangerous Indian territories.

"Halvor completed his Expedition duty while at Ft. Benton in the spring of 1868. He rafted down the Missouri River with Confederate prisoners of war that the Union Army had used to fight Indians. The infamous 'James Boys' were allegedly aboard one of the rafts recruiting members for their gang. Jesse was 21 and had been robbing for two years, but may have established his 'fame' later as he lived until 1882.

"Halvor, age 22, left the raft at Sioux City, Iowa and came to Chickasaw County where he lived with his parents in Utica Township. [The Munsons lived near the village of UTICA in Dane County, Wisconsin, in UTICA township in Crawford County, Wisconsin, and in UTICA township in Chickasaw County, Iowa.]

"He married Anna Jorgensdatter Aaberg on October 26, 1868, at Saude, Iowa. They lived in Utica Township one year, and then settled on a farm in Jacksonville Township near the crossroads town of Jacksonville. It was established in 1854 when the first settler built a log cabin on The Old Military Trail, Fort Crawford--Fort Atkinson, Fort Dodge.

"Halvor was a shrewd operator when it came to dealing in land. He bought and sold land in Jacksonville Township, Utica Township, and near Iola, Kansas. Forklore had it that he won the 240-acre Kansas farm in a poker game, but this is unverified. ..."