Military Religion Question Answered: Brooks
Previously, a question was posed about the propriety of a photo that showed Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks and a flag with a Christian cross. The photo and initial post can be seen here. The accusation said that a regulation had been violated because it was
a photo of an Army officer giving a briefing while standing in front of a Christian flag.
So, did the General, as the accusers assert, violate military regulations?
The shortest, most accurate answer: No.
As in previous incidents, the MRFF did not say which regulation was violated. What do the regulations actually say? Let’s take a look.
Did General Brooks violate military regulations because he spoke near a Christian flag?
It is difficult to “prove” a negative. There are no specific military regulations that apply, though a variety of policies might somehow be related to the situation. For example, the United States Code dictates on which side of a speaker the American flag will be displayed, if it is displayed at all.
However, the MRFF accusation does not assert any such specifics; they claim that he violated regulations merely because he was photographed in the presence of the flag.
No military regulation prohibits any member of the military from speaking near, being photographed near, standing in proximity to, or being in the presence of any religious symbol while in uniform.
As with its unsupported assertions about Colonel Mundy’s appearance on a TV show, the MRFF makes no attempt to cite the regulation that was violated–it is an ipse-dixitism, to borrow a phrase.
In fact, one of the few regulations that has some relation to this scenario contradicts one of the MRFF’s own assertions. The MRFF said
The flag is an Army Christian chaplain’s flag.
The MRFF is well aware of Army Regulation 840-10, having used it in the past to cite irregularities with the use of Chaplain’s flags. But the MRFF is wrong. This isn’t a Chaplain’s flag. It is a chapel flag, as described in the unedited regulation excerpt below:
Chapel flags (as distinguished from chaplains flags) are authorized for display in Army military chapels only. The flag is 4-foot 4-inch hoist by 5-foot 6-inch fly, with fringe 2 1/2 inches wide. Chapel flags are dark blue with the appropriate chaplain’s branch insignia in white centered thereon. The fringe is white. Device will be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist.
The MRFF accuses the General of violating military regulations–and, by extension, participating in the Christian takeover of the military and “rape” of the Constitution–but can’t even cite a specific regulation or get its own facts straight.
In fact, while the MRFF complains about an officer being photographed next to a Christian cross, it has never complained about officers being photographed in Buddhist meditations, Islamic prayers, or Jewish Torah dedications. Using the MRFF’s logic, these instances would be worse because their context explicitly associates the US military with religion. By contrast, the context of General Brooks’ situation had nothing to do with religion. When context is removed, all of the photographs still associate the US military with various religions.
The truth is, though, that none of those photographs violated military regulations, nor did the photograph of a soldier with a wiccan symbol, because there is no regulation that prohibits any military member from being in such a situation. One is free to take issue with the circumstances, certainly, but merely disagreeing with the situation does not mean any of the military members “violated military regulations.”
In this case, it would almost seem that the truth is secondary to the motive.
Despite how one might feel about General, his ideology, or the photo, there are no regulations that govern it, and it is irresponsible–and deceitful–to assert that he violated regulations that do not exist.
Again, as with its inflammatory accusation against Colonel Mundy, the MRFF makes an injudicious and unsupported accusation of illegal activity against a military officer. Again, as with the other accusations, the “shocking” nature of the “violation” is enough to goad those who already have negative inclinations toward religious association with the military. For example, one response to the article that included this accusation said:
Thank you…for pulling the curtain back on these Theo-Fascists.
The fact that it is untrue doesn’t seem to faze anyone. For some, their minds are already made up and this “violation” fits neatly into their preconceived notions of an impending Christian theocratic movement blooming in the military. They hope that by making these allegations vociferously public–despite their blatant fallacy–they will stigmatize the Christian faith in the eyes of the American public. If nothing else, they will rally the “faithful” to their cause.
One final problem is that the MRFF and similarly-minded organizations often use these incidents to proclaim that Christianity is endangering our troops, inflaming our adversaries, and turning the world against us. But when the accusation is false, they create the harm they say they are attempting to prevent. For example, in this situation, there was no controversy until they (falsely) created it.
Without rebuttal against fictional charges such as these, they may just succeed.
The analysis following the last incident remains true:
Regrettably, this is a common technique: display what superficially appears to be offensive and call it illegal, unconstitutional, or a violation of regulations–but provide no facts to support that claim. Instead, they lead the readers to draw their “own,” though incorrect, conclusion. The nature of the offense is shocking enough to some that it won’t matter that the accusation is later proven incorrect, inflammatory, and irresponsible. The damage to the image of the Christian faith in the US military is done.
And that is the point.