Texas Legislators and Christian Groups Fight to Insert God Into Vets' Funerals -- Against Families' Wishes
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Then there’s the direct promotion of religion in other aspects of military life. Johnson pointed to the Army’s mandatory “Spiritual Fitness” test, part of a $125 million Soldier Fitness program, as an example. In a recent Talk to Action article, Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) discusses the results of the organization’s investigation into this program and other methods of diverting Department of Defense money toward supporting religion. Rodda writes: “Paid for with taxpayer dollars are a plethora of events, programs, and schemes that violate not only the Constitution, but, in many cases, the regulations on federal government contractors.” Military money is thus funneled toward evangelical concerts (with Bible readings between Jesus-loving songs), private Christian retreats, religious youth programs, and more.
With this kind of behavior in the military, it becomes less surprising that chapters of national veterans groups would attempt to impose Christianity on all of their fellow servicemembers, even in death.
The “War on Christmas” Playbook
“War on Christmas” is a phrase that has been used by the Religious Right to claim that their most sacred of holidays is being destroyed by immoral secular liberals, who outrageously demand that employees say “Seasons Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Come Christmas time, if you listen to Fox News, you can usually hear dramatic stories of cashiers whispering their illicit greeting to shoppers to evade the notice of their managers.
This coverage usually leaves out the fact that companies are simply being respectful toward consumers who don’t happen to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Note the framing parallels with the current situation of prayer at military funerals. Christian groups, talking heads, and politicians jump on the bandwagon, selling it as discrimination against them and infringement on their religious rights, without any consideration for non-Christian beliefs. There’s no acknowledgement that being asked not to promote religion on the job doesn’t impact their ability to celebrate Christmas however they want in their private life.
Military funerals are much more serious than holiday shopping, and as government services, the promotion of Christianity is especially egregious. But it’s useful to recognize that this isn’t a new tactic -- it’s just being adapted to a new venue.
Christian groups that want to push a religious agenda have figured out that an effective way to do so is by pretending to be the victim and heading off non-Christians’ complaints of discrimination by capturing that narrative first. And as American Atheist VP Kathleen Johnson indicated -- this works. Once people buy into the narrative and feel the knee-jerk reaction that Christians are being wronged, it makes it more difficult to bring them around to recognizing the true victims.
It’s a topsy-turvy situation -- and a testament to the Religious Rights’ prowess at narrative manipulation -- when the strangers imposing unwanted religious ceremonies succeed in presenting themselves as the wronged party.
Alex DiBranco is an editor at Change.org.