Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson Equates American Christians with Taliban
Update: The Arizona Daily Independent published a letter from retired Command Chief Master Sergeant Chuck Wooten, in which he rebuts Weinstein, saying
To boil this entire issue down to its lowest form, [Wilkerson] and the MRFF are nothing more than predictable liberals. They make a living by fabricating controversy where none exists (think Al Sharpton). They hide behind massively loquacious pieces of hate-filled diatribe which ultimately means nothing. A by-product of their incessant squawking is a colossal waste of tax dollars when a branch of the military or court has to divert attention from its mission to swat these gnats aside.
It must be exhausting for [Wilkerson] and the MRFF to fight a fictitious foe only to have their butt handed to them in defeat.
Retired US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is most famous for having been the Chief of Staff to retired General Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State from 2002 to 2005. Wilkerson’s most recent role has been as voice for Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which has a long history of calling for restrictions on Christians in the US military.
After the recent hullabaloo over Mikey Weinstein’s demand for Major General Craig Olson’s court-martial, Wilkerson wrote a piece at the Huffington Post which was entitled “The ‘Taliban’ in Our Midst.”
The article began with a wide-ranging indictment of religion in the military:
Military officers who wear their religion on their sleeve are a danger to our country at any time, but especially after the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001.
Wilkerson probably doesn’t realize he just called every US military chaplain, many US military Jews, and even the rare US military Sikh a “danger” to the United States of America. The rest of his article focuses solely on Christians:
[Like] the…recent example of US Air Force Major General Craig Olson saying in uniform and in public…”I am a redeemed believer in Christ,” these are dangerous men, making dangerous displays of religion.
The intolerance and hostility in that single sentence is staggering, especially coming from a former Army officer and an “advisory board member” of an organization that claims to support religious freedom. Stating nothing more than that one is a Christian, in Wilkerson’s words, is not only objectionable, but it also makes one dangerous. Naturally, because it is dangerous, it requires restriction and prohibition, something about which Wilkerson is happy to pontificate:
We officers, when we take the oath of office, surrender for the duration of our service the privilege of publicly professing our religion, of “wearing it on our sleeve.”
That is an interesting opinion, but it is nothing more. Wilkerson’s beliefs about religious expression are not based on any law, policy, or military regulation. In fact, his beliefs are counter to both regulations and the law, including AFI 1-1 (for the Air Force, referencing General Olson).
Wilkerson continued by saying that religion must be restricted because…good order and discipline:
These rules protect the good order and discipline of the military…To profess a particular religion from a leadership position is detrimental to that order and discipline.
The first point is the obvious one: Anything can be portrayed as affecting “good order and discipline.” The second point is Wilkerson’s subtle insertion of a straw man: No one was speaking from a leadership position, nor has anyone advocated that military officers should be able to use such positions to advocate religion. The false argument works its way into Wilkerson’s rhetorical question:
How might, for example, a Jewish soldier feel when his lieutenant professes his belief in Jesus before his platoon? A Muslim soldier? An atheist?
Wilkerson is actively advocating a shove down the slippery slope. No one did anything “before his platoon” nor any of his subordinates, yet Wilkerson still called it dangerous. He also said it was a threat to good order and discipline because others who did not share their leaders’ faiths might react, somehow, when they discovered what those faiths were.
So, Col Wilkerson: Should military leaders be prohibited from attending religious services that are open to the public (including all military chapel services) to prevent their subordinates from seeing them, discovering their faiths, and having a hypothetical feeling about it?
Wilkerson’s final point is one debunked many times here and recently by the ACLJ: ‘Christianity makes the terrorists hate us, and it makes us just like the terrorists’:
Public professions of religion by military officers give groups such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, al-Nusra and other religious fanatics superb propaganda…We, in effect, become no better than they, some sort of American taliban.
Though it strains rational credibility, Wilkerson appears to honestly believe an officer publicly professing a religious belief makes the United States no better than ISIS.
Despite the obviously ludicrous nature of Wilkerson’s allegations, he continues, finally concluding that people will die if General Olson is not punished for professing his faith during the National Day of Prayer:
If no action is taken it’s a dangerous game…A game that will get Americans killed in future…A game that destroys our truest values.
Did the decision by President Franklin Roosevelt to lead the nation in prayer get Americans killed? Did General Patton’s division-wide prayer destroy our truest values? When has anything remotely like that ever happened?
As is now public, the Air Force defended General Olson’s right to speak. It remains to be seen if Wilkerson’s predictions will come true.
If a person loathes Christians or is predisposed to recoilling at public statements of faith, then their natural inclination is to disapprove of what General Olson did. That is their right and privilege as Americans.
It is also General Olson’s right and privilege as an American to do precisely what he did.
Religious liberty is an essential element of the fabric of our nation. It is also under attack by those like Weinstein, Wilkerson, and others who believe their personal offense outweighs Constitutional protections of human liberties. Fortunately, for the time being, the views of Wilkerson and others like him are generally seen for the fringe conspiracy theories they are.
What rational person thinks it is illegal for a military officer to say “I am a Christian”, and that doing so makes one a “danger to our country”?
It is noteworthy, though, that he and those who agree with him are not being roundly derided as bigoted toward Christians.
Does anyone really doubt that if Wilkerson had focused his ire instead on US Army Capt Stern — who, according to Wilkerson, is dangerous because he ‘wears his religion on his face’ and whose public displays of religion ‘make us like the Taliban’ — that there wouldn’t have been cries of anti-Semitism?
Perhaps not. But few seem to realize that, while Wilkerson focused his hue and cry on Christians, his diatribe is just as applicable to every outward religious display in the US military. Christians are apparently just a politically correct target.
If they are intellectually consistent, Wilkerson, Weinstein, and his acolytes believe all Sikhs and Jews like Rabbi Stern shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the US military because they are a danger to our country — because of their religion.
Mikey Weinstein and his MRFF may be fighting for something, but it sure isn’t military religious freedom.