MRFF’s Chris Rodda Criticizes One Military Chapel, Defends Another
If one wasn’t aware of her history, it might have been surprising to see a recent pair of articles highlight the intellectually inconsistency of the MRFF’s Chris Rodda.
Rodda recently went on record defending the construction of the US Air Force Academy chapel facility called the “Falcon Circle” from those who claimed it was an inappropriate use of government money for three cadets (a separate issue discussed elsewhere). She said:
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.
Comically, four days later an article appeared in the Tennessean quoting the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s 2009 criticism of the construction of a different chapel at Fort Campbell.
The [MRFF] felt it looked too much like a megachurch and would be used mostly by evangelicals. Members also argued that it was a waste of taxpayer money to build a new chapel when there are already plenty of churches in Clarksville for soldiers to attend.
“It’s not like they are in the middle of nowhere and there is no place for them to go to church,” said Chris Rodda, senior research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Despite Rodda’s concern that it “looked too much like a megachurch,” the Army post has been quite adamant about what the chapel will be used for:
People of all faiths — from Wiccans to Christians — are welcome.
“You try to accommodate as many faith groups as possible,” said Col. Roger Heath, the installation chaplain at Fort Campbell. “That’s what these chapels are designed for, to be multifaith and multiuse…”
Heath said the new chapel will help him and the other 75 or so chaplains on the base to better serve the spiritual needs of the 30,000 soldiers at Fort Campbell and their families. It’s all part of the Army’s long-standing commitment to ensure that soldiers are free to practice whatever faith they choose.
Chris Rodda’s “religious freedom” group opposed the construction of a facility providing a larger and improved space for spiritual support of all servicemembers at Fort Campbell — yet it defended the construction of one for three pagans at USAFA. Despite Rodda’s insinuations, it’s not as if there isn’t proof of Fort Campbell’s pluralistic environment:
Twenty-one weekly services at the base draw worshippers from a wide variety of faiths. There are traditional Protestant and Catholic services, Muslim prayers, a Shabbat service, a contemporary music service called ChapelNext, a Greek Orthodox Service, two services conducted in Samoan, and a Wednesday night ceremony for about 20 Wiccans…
Staff Sgt. Trevor Madison, a chaplain assistant who also leads the Wiccan group at the base, said that even soldiers who aren’t religious turn to chaplains when they have a crisis. The new facility, he said, will make it easier for people to connect with chaplains who will have offices in the building.
Also, the chapel is intended to replace a half-dozen too-small World War II-era chapels, including providing sufficient space for an entire battalion to conduct a memorial service (something unfortunately frequent in this day and age).
Ironically, a sometime-ally of the MRFF had no problem with the chapel. Ginny Welsch, representing the local Americans United for the Separation of Church and State,
said she could see why Fort Campbell would need a new chapel. As long as the facility is open to all faiths, she has no problem with it.
Apparently, Chris Rodda’s issue, and that of Michael Weinstein’s MRFF, is the Fort Campbell chapel (which “looked like a megachurch”) represented the “wrong kind of Christian” to deserve religious freedom in the American military. No doubt she and Rick Baker will claim these proclamations of the environment of religious freedom at Fort Campbell are all “window dressing” to obscure an evangelical Christian coup in the military, part of Weinstein’s conspiracy that Christians are out to take over the world. It will be called an after-the-fact whitewash to cover up an attempt at Christian domination, since it will largely be used by Christians.
The fact Christians make up a majority of the American (and US military) population will likely influence the majority use of the military chapel. The fact they form a majority makes them no less deserving of religious freedom than, say, the Wiccans on the same post, however.
Naturally, all US troops are deserving of religious liberty, right?
It appears Chris Rodda and Michael Weinstein’s MRFF — an awkwardly named “religious freedom” charity — would disagree, which is why they would oppose one chapel apparently purpose-built for Christians, while defending another apparently purpose-built for pagans. (As it turns out, both appearances are inaccurate.)
Rodda’s self-contradiction on behalf of the MRFF isn’t hypocrisy, however, because hypocrisy indicates an inconsistency between stated beliefs and conduct. Rodda’s statements are actually entirely consistent with the stated objectives of Michael Weinstein: Weinstein created his “charity” not to defend religious freedom for all, but to “battle” the religious beliefs of some.
As Rodda’s statements attest, Weinstein created his foundation not to defend constitutionally-protected religious liberty, but to fight Christians in the US military who aren’t the Weinstein-approved “right kind” of Christians.
The Army built the chapel despite Rodda’s complaint. Overall, the US military generally does an admirable job of protecting the religious liberty of the troops within its ranks, even from opponents of religious liberty like Michael Weinstein.