As previously reported on the Religion Clause, TruthOut is reporting that Weinstein’s MRFF is again complaining about an outside Christian organization having access to the Pentagon. This time it was David Kistler’s HOPE ministries.
The article makes it unclear whether it is the theology that is the issue (since much of the article is a mockery of Kistler’s views) or the fact it was a religious organization.
While the writer makes it appear that it is “intuitively obvious” that the Pentagon again violated the ‘Constitutional separation of church and state,’ that is not the case. Chaplains routinely host outside visitors of varied religious persuasions for the spiritual benefit of their servicemen, which is their legal duty.
While Weinstein may disagree, the Constitution and the courts have supported the religious influence of the chaplaincy and its programs in the military.
The Best Intentions…
According to the International Herald Tribune, the US military apologized for offending Afghani Muslims when it gave them soccer balls that had the Saudi flag on it. The Saudi flag has the words Allah and Muhammad on it; those names in any form are considered sacred to Muslims. The thought of kicking those sacred names was apparently offensive.
Soccer (or football, outside the US), is wildly popular in most other parts of the world, and has even been a source of national pride in an otherwise sometimes fractious Iraq.
A local paper covers the perspectives of Chaplain Douglas Etter, a Presbyterian Chaplain in the Army National Guard, and Commander Jon Cutler, a Navy Jewish Chaplain, in Military Chaplains Serve Diverse Roles. (Scroll down if the screen formatting appears blank.) With thanks to Religion Clause for the point out.
Joe Carter of the National Review wrote an article on CNN’s “God’s Warriors” in which he noted that while many people are concerned about CNN juxtaposing assassins and Falwell, what CNN is really doing is proposing “equivalency of ideology.” That is, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are “equal.” He notes, for example, that while “theocracy” is a theology most aligned with Islam, it is more often attributed to Protestant Christians. In fact,
more than half of American evangelicals are either Baptists or nondenominational — groups that don’t even want a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church.
The Culture and Media Institute also wrote an article on the CNN series. It contains some positive and negative things about the shows, including Amanpour’s comparison of Christian calls for “modest dress” as equivalent with the Taliban calls for burkas.
Michael Weinstein opines about the state of Christianity in the military in a relatively tame editorial in the LA Times.
As previously posted, CNN’s special on “God’s Warriors” runs this week.
The CNN site lists the topics as:
Judaism: Murder in Hebron and Settler vs. Soldier
Islam: Holy Killing and Martyrdom
Christianity: Christians and Falwell and The Culture War
With murder and holy killing juxtaposed with Falwell and a culture war, it is fairly easy to see why some are worried that CNN will equate evangelical Christians with radical Islam.
Their “objectivity” remains to be seen.
The ACLJ recently responded to the release of the Pentagon Inspector General’s report. They said
We think the legal conclusions of the Department of Defense Inspector General are incorrect as a matter of fact and as a matter of law.
They also stated that they represent two of the officers, including the retired Chaplain who was the focus of much of the report.
See the FRC response and original post below.
According to One News Now, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, is concerned that organizations like Weinstein’s MRFF may “extrapolate” the IG’s recent decision regarding Pentagon officers’ participation in a Christian Embassy video (see recent post below).
The IG found that the officers violated Joint Ethics Regulations regarding endorsement of a “non-federal entity while in uniform,” but also noted that the violations had nothing to do with religion. Weinstein has proclaimed on his website that the report proves
…the intentional dismantling of the Constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state by some of the highest ranking officials in the Bush Administration and the U.S. military…
Perkins points out that the issue at stake was not Constitutionality or the Establishment Clause, as Weinstein insists, but non-religious ethics regulations.
Perkins expressed concern that “extrapolation” to the appearance of punishing the officers’ involvement with a religious organization (which was not the case) may “intimidate…military personnel from being associated with religion.”
Tikkun, which describes itself as a “progressive Jewish magazine,” recently gave an interview to Michael Weinstein in which he repeated many of his standard lines (America is equivalent to Nazi Germany in 1937, on a train to Slaughterville, withering fields of fire and sucking chest wounds, etc).
When Weinstein couldn’t come up with one, Tikkun told him it believed that the reason for the rise of the “Christian Right” was that only Christians were adequately responding to a “spiritual crisis” in America. Weintein was asked how he would address this “crisis:”
How do you build character in this multi-religious, pluralistic way, that is feminist, that is sensitive to people, and yet is part of this huge, military, dominate-the-world force that seems to be what the American military is up to now?
His response: Read more…
As noted recently in Time magazine (and the Washington Post, as of 6 Aug), the Inspector General completed its investigation (on July 20th) into the participation of military officers in a Christian Embassy promotional video.
No “official” release of the “Official Use Only” report could be found, though a few sites have scanned copies–most notably, Michael Weinstein’s MRFF, which claims credit for instigating the investigation. [Edit: The IG has released a public version on their website. It is now available here.]
Notable quotes from the report:
Military officers who appeared in a promotional video for Christian Embassy improperly endorsed and participated with a non-federal entity while in uniform. (Violates JER Sections 2635.702b and 3-300a, and DoD and Service Regulations on uniform wear.)
Two participants were found not to have violated any rules, because though they personally endorsed Christian Embassy Read more…
On 12 July 2007, Rajan Zed, a Hindu resident* of Nevada, delivered a mantra for the traditional daily opening prayer in the US Senate. Few Americans know his name, and fewer know what he said. What many Americans know, however, is that he was interrupted.
Objectively, three people were removed from the Senate chamber during Zed’s chant. Depending on the news source cited, the “activists,” “protesters,” “Christian patriots,” or “heroes” were arrested for “praying in Jesus’ name” or “disrupting” the Senate proceedings.
The three people openly said they were Christians, and they knew they could be arrested for what they were going to do. They also said they were “not heckling,” but hoping their prayer would be a “shield” from God’s wrath over the Hindu “idolatry” in the nation’s Capitol. James Klingenschmitt, the former Navy Chaplain, was in the Senate chamber and noted the irony of a government that would apparently suppress Christian prayer but allow that of a Hindu.
When the Hindu invitation was announced, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU)–which ordinarily vociferously opposes government-endorsed chaplains–welcomed the incident as a step toward “diversity,” not because they agreed with the concept of government-backed prayer, but because it would make “the Religious Right…go insane.” Read more…