First of all, I want to direct your attention to Dennis Kelley's piece, "Wow. just...wow" (thanks, Dennis!). That is what has inspired me to write the following email to Congresswomen Marcia Fudge and Senator Sherrod Brown:

==================

I want to draw your attention to the following video:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB1UifGIqaw

 

The beginning portion of this video records military officers, I presume of the Chaplain Corps of various services, TARGETING new recruits and men and women under enormous stress (for example: Rangers in training) and proselytizing them in the Christian faith in CLEAR violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

The job of our military is NOT to turn those men and women whom we trust for our nation’s protection into religious missionaries, yet the people in the above video are clearly aiming to do precisely that.  It may be that the United States is in large portion a nation of Christians, but it is by no means whatsoever a Christian nation.  Were I a Jew or a Muslim or an atheist in situations portrayed in that video, I would be insulted and incensed at the presumption of those who wish to make me a supposed “soldier for Christ,” though I also know that protesting about such treatment would likely cause very considerable retribution upon a man or woman who dared to speak out.

As a citizen of this country who believes firmly in the separation of Church and State, I find this kind of proselytism and particularly that which targets soldiers under the most demanding conditions nothing short of DESPICABLE.  I urge you to direct those in our armed services with sufficient authority to STOP this practice forthwith.

Freedom OF religion must also include freedom FROM religion, or it is meaningless.

==================

This crap has been going on for a while.  I first became aware of it when the evening news reported on a proselytism scandal going on at the Air Force Academy, and I was angry enough about it then.  Hearing about this in Dennis' discussion just put me over the top, pissed me off enough to break out the word processor and kick some ass with it.  By the way, you may note I didn't write Senator Portman.  The reason is simple: I'm not into pissing into the wind.

I urge you to do the same.  Write your congressperson.  Write your senators.  GIVE THEM HELL ABOUT THIS!!!  If you've got some bread to spare (which I don't), you might also consider giving to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation as well.

In any case, please do SOMETHING.  This crap has got to stop.

Views: 212

Tags: military, proselytism, soldiers for Christ

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Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on December 25, 2012 at 5:55pm

So, James Kz, the US military procedures institutionalize atheist discrimination. That's a lot more hardcore than bombarding service members with proselytizing. We're barred from promotion on the basis of our refusal to swallow theist garbage.

Comment by Loren Miller on December 25, 2012 at 2:58pm

Great, Pat.  Feel free to use the above text I sent Congresswoman Fudge and Senator Brown, if you wish.

Comment by Pat on December 25, 2012 at 2:29pm

I was in the Army from 1970-73. And, fortunately, I never experienced any of this. The big thing at that time, coming at the end of the Civil Rights push in the 1960's, was trying to promote the idea of combating racism. Not all that successfully, mind you, but at least there was an effort.

Like SB, I was stationed overseas, but was in, at that time, West Germany. There was no push whatsoever by chaplains to proselytize. Come to think of it, I can't recall ever talking to a chaplain once I was deployed overseas. There was no push to get the troops to attend chapel, services, or engage in any religious activity whatsoever. To this day - 40 years later - I can still recall where the mess hall, motor pool, NCO club, and HQ were, but have no clue where the chapel was. Then again, I was in the Army when it still relied on the draft. I can't help but wonder if going to an all volunteer force has something to do with this. When young men are plucked from all facets and backgrounds of society and thrown together, military discipline may be one thing, but shoving church up your ass is something entirely different. Then again, it was the early 70's, before the evangelical right started their power grab.

Ohh, and if anyone is curious, the West German brothels were legal and regulated, and getting an STD was a punishable offense. As I recall, it came under the heading of "destruction of government property."

P.S. Loren. I'm already drafting a letter to Senator Dick Durbin and Cong. Bill Enyart. 

Comment by Sentient Biped on December 25, 2012 at 1:04pm

There was proselytizing in the Army when I was in the US Army in the late 70s.  That was mostly post-Vietnam and when the military was very unpopular in many places of the US.

I remember arguing with the Baptist chaplain at the bases where i was stationed in Turkey.  We had one of the highest STD rates in NATO, and I was on a public health promoting binge to lower the rate, so leaving bowls of condoms in the mess hall and NCO club and medic station.  THe main source was Turkish govt-run houses of prostitution that were not inspected.  Not sayng here I agree with prostitution, its just that was the situation there and then.  The chaplain did not like my getting boxes of condoms (which were military supply, I ordered them as medical supplies), and said I should be promoting abstinence.    Yeah, right - 18, 19, 20 year old horny stressed out guys often drunk, to abstain from sex for a year.  This was a station that was all male at the time, and no families allowed (violence and terrorism in the 70s) and were were there for 12 months.  Also called "Hardship tour".   The chaplain didn't like me.  I never backed down, and the STD rate dropped.  

It was intimidating - chaplains are officers, and medics are enlisted, but I knew to always say "Sir", always defer, always salute, never disobey.  Always be exemplary in every way possible.  Plus the commanding officer also knew where to go for treatment.  

But after that I think things became tougher for nonchristians and I would not have gotten away with it.  

I also remember discussing biblical contradictions with the chaplain.  Like I said, he didn't like me.  He knew he was picking and choosing.  I would just say, "This is confusing, why does the bible say this, here, and it says that, there?  Which one is right?" and put my chin in my hands and have a thoughtful expression.  He would promise to get back to me on it, but never did.

Plus condoms are never mentioned once, not once, in the bible.

Comment by James Kz on December 25, 2012 at 11:49am

My score, test taken at the beginning of the year, before the Army passworded the test. It is now a protest picture. Anyone who is an atheist will automatically score in the red shaded area. (That indicates you need spiritual "guidance." Since the Chaplaincy is in charge of that, and is overwhelmingly Evangelicals . . .

Comment by Steph S. on December 25, 2012 at 11:08am

I was not aware of this. So thanks for educating me on this matter. I will give to that organization you linked. So Loren is anything being done about this? Any protesting?

Comment by Loren Miller on December 25, 2012 at 10:31am

Hmmm ... be nice to see if someone who has the password can OUT the test or grab screenshots.  Someone needs to inform the US armed services that religiosity does not equate to instant morality.

Comment by James Kz on December 25, 2012 at 10:23am

The Army has now passworded the test (located at https://www.sft.army.mil/ ) so that those not in the Army cannot see it.

Comment by James Kz on December 25, 2012 at 9:30am

Yes this crap has been going on for a long time.

I was in the Navy from 1978-1984, and from 1985-1996 (when epilepsy ended my career).

All ships have an evening prayer (it's traditional don'cha know) just before taps (2155 local time).

Proselytisation is technically prohibited but not enforced. My entire time in the US Navy was as a FamTrad Wiccan, and the target of endless pitches to "see the light" (and threats of damnation when I didn't).

The US Navy advances people based on a weighted system of time in rate, time in service, previous passed tests taken but not advanced, awards and citation, personnel evaluations, and technical examinations about your rating (mine was aviation electronics technician). The higher in rank, the less weight the technical exam has and the more the personnel evaluation has.

Due to my religious beliefs, I would frequently get low "military bearing" marks, which I protested but such protestations get nowhere. Of course they never said it was for religious reasons, but since I didn't attend church I would be graded low on "personal bearing."

Contrarywise, on my technical examinations, until I reached the rank of petty officer first class (E-6), every examination I took I got a perfect score. (The Navy scores the tests on a bell curve, the highest score is 80, only one person gets that in each rating, I got it on every examination. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service does a check on each person that got an 80 within his rating to ensure there was no cheating, thus I was investigated every time I took an exam.)

At the rate of chief petty officer, however, the test only qualifies you to have your personnel record put before the chiefs' advancement board. Thus, my 80 on the chief's exam could not overcome my low personal bearing marks. And such marks ended my advancement: the chiefs' board would not consider advancing someone with low personnel marks in any category.

This despite a plethora of letters of commendation (including one from President GHW Bush), the American ambassador to Spain, and the Spanish Crown (for my participation as a musician in the Royal Pavilion at the World's Fair in Sevilla in 1993 - a long story how I got there), plus several personal decorations.

The Religious Reich has been slowly taking over the military in the same way they took over the GOP, start at the bottom and work up. Our recently-resigned CIA director General Petraeus was the fellow that directed the writing of the Army Spiritual Fitness Test.

(I took that test when it was still on the Army's official site: no matter how well you score in the other areas, if you are an atheist you are automatically recommended to consult with a chaplain and told you need to work on your spiritual growth.)

Since the overwhelming majority of Evangelicals feel the Bible trumps the Constitution, and they (like everyone in the military) swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, I fear for our country.

It is not beyond the realm of my imagination of a military overthrow of our "demonic" secular democracy, couched in terms of "domestic enemies."

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