Friday, December 28, 2007
Christian Warriors in the U.S. Military?
--Reza Aslan, CNN Contributor

The e-mail left me speechless. It was a posting from military.com forwarded to me by the good folks at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (militaryreligiousfreedom.org). There were two photos side by side. On the left: a photo of a Hamas suicide bomber in the familiar pose of a rifle in one hand and a Quran in the other. On the right: a photo from Fort Jackson, showing basic trainees at Campus Crusade for Christ's "God's Basic Training" Bible studies. The soldiers wielded rifles in one hand and Bibles in the other.

The caption reads, "Notice any similarities?" LINK TO SEE PHOTOS

The photo of the Fort Jackson Army trainees originally appeared on a Campus Crusade website, along with photos of basic training battalion commander, Lt. Col. David Snodgrass, battalion chaplain, Maj. Scott Bullock-both posing in uniform-and Campus Crusade's military director, Frank Bussey.

When I asked Mikey Weinstein, the head of the MRFF, about the photos he told me that religious endorsements by military personnel in uniform violate military regulations. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

He showed me two Campus Crusade for Christ promotional videos -- one filmed at the U.S. Air Force Academy and another at Texas A&M. In the first one Scott Blom, the Academy's Campus Crusade director at the time, openly states, "Our purpose for Campus Crusade for Christ at the Air Force Academy is to make Jesus Christ the issue at the Air Force Academy and around the world... [the cadets] are government paid missionaries when they leave here."

The second video, "God and the Military," filmed in 1997, has been re-released for distribution by Campus Crusade. In it, Pastor Tommy Nelson, speaking before an audience of Texas A&M cadets and military officers, opens his presentation with this anecdote:

"I, a number of years ago, was speaking at the University of North Texas - it happens to be my alma mater, up in Denton, Texas - and I was speaking to an ROTC group up there, and when I stepped in I said, 'It's good to be speaking to all you men and women who are in the ministry,' and they all kind of looked at me, and I think they wondered if maybe I had found the wrong room, or if they were in the wrong room, and I assured them that I was speaking to men and women in the ministry, these that were going to be future officers."

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been uncovering these kinds of blatant constitutional violations in the military for years. Weinstein told me that senior Bush administration intelligence officials who track Islamic websites and message boards told him that the fundamentalist Christian agenda surfacing in the U.S. military could lead to greater attacks against our soldiers. (Weinstein would not identify the intelligence officials he spoke with because they contacted him with the understanding they would not be named).

According to Weinstein, "The bottom line here is that the constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal organization ever created by humankind, our U.S. Armed forces, is nothing but smoke and debris. This represents nothing short of a monumental internal national security threat to our country."

We should all be asking ourselves whether we want to send soldiers or "government paid missionaries" to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once you know the answer to that question, I suggest you e-mail it to your Senator.
Posted By CNN: 3:55 PM ET
  9 Comments
Reza,
I think it is OK to follow whatever religion that you want to but I draw the line at trying to force it down someone's throat. And if the army allows it to happen then that is something that deffinately needs to be fixed!! You can't go into another country and force them to change their whole outlook on life. If that is what is happening then no wonder they hate us over there!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 4:14 PM ET
Reza,

I have heard about this previously and it is infuriating. It seems that our Constitution and the Bill of Rights are under attack as never before. Our military training academies are more than ordinary universities and we all need to be very concerned about the curriculum presented there and any organizations which are allowed to flourish on their campuses. Separation of church and state is one of our most important principles and we cannot allow it to be eroded. Thank you for your post.
Posted By Blogger Barbara in Culver City, CA : 4:19 PM ET
I will add this issue to my ever growing list of problems with organized religion. Human beings are too inherently flawed to deal with it so they force it on others. Religion has no place in government and especially no place in the military.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 4:25 PM ET
Presenting beliefs in a government-funded setting does not constitute a violation of separation of church and state. Teachers present beliefs and theories to students in government-funded schools all the time.

I agree that shoving any belief system down someone's throat is wrong. Honest discussion, an open life, and true caring are better ways to show the validity of one's beliefs.

But it is completely wrong to let terrorists dictate what the men and women serving in our armed forces believe. Following the idea (that fundamentalist Christian agenda would lead to greater attacks) to its natural conclusion, wouldn't the attacks lessen if all our soldiers embraced radical Islam? Then we could become just like our enemy, and they will have won in ways far worse than in battle.
Posted By Anonymous Katie Hart, Midland, PA : 5:51 PM ET
How does that US soldier not know that his "friend" would blow him up as soon as look at him?
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 6:12 PM ET
The Campus Crusade people are nothing more than cult leaders. They prey on kids away from home for the first time, try to 'adopt' them and basically brainwash them. They are incredibly scary. To have these people loose in the military academies is deeply troubling. In fact, it is terrifying. And you can bet that they are teaching our young military men and women that non-Christians are sub-human and therefore can be killed without remorse. Bring back the Crusades, God is on our side...

January 20, 2009 can't come soon enough. But it will be decades before we can put the Constitution back together again.
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia, Portland OR : 8:01 PM ET
This stuff has been going on for years, but it always gets buried in blogs and back pages so these violations continue to flourish..
Posted By Anonymous Lumpenprolitariot : 8:52 PM ET
Hey Reza
I just saw you on 360. As usual, I loved to hear what you had to say! You say things nobody else says (like Bhutto wasn't all that popular, Musharraf is not a politician but a military man in civilian clothing,etc.) . I always love to hear your perspective... probably because it always reflects my own ;) ha ha.
I hope you will blog more often!!
(Yeah, I know this wasnt' regarding your blog post but I just wanted to tell you that you rock)
Posted By Blogger Minou,NYC : 10:36 PM ET
There are also pictures of American soldiers with the flag, and Hamas militants with their flag; and flag-draped American coffins and flag-draped Hamas funerals. No one has a monopoly on imagery. Just because Al Jazeera has a ticker running across the bottom of the screen, it doesn't mean CNN--which has the same--is an equivalent propaganda machine.

To equate an 18 year old kid from Texas signing up to protect our freedoms (and those of the Arab world right now) and a Hamas suicide bomber--based on a photo--is not only intellectually dishonest, its sick.

Every military member is a "government paid missionary" of whatever belief--or lack thereof--they hold. Everywhere they go they represent their values--and American ones--to the world. Opponents to religious practice in the military like the phrase because it sounds extreme and inherently illegal. Its not the conspiracy some have made it out to be.
Posted By Anonymous JD : 1:23 PM ET
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