Sunday, January 11, 2009
Christianity forced on the military
The MRFF was founded by Mickey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer, when he became aware of the power and pressure of Christian fundamentalists at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Today, the MRFF, noting that the U.S. military is rife with Christian fundamentalists who try to force their religion on our troops, has taken an aggressive stance against such pressure, arguing that the line separating church and state in our military has not only been blurred but excised.
The co-plaintiff in this suit against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Department of Defense is Army SPC Dustin Chalker, a "decorated combat medic." The suit has now been amended to include "a number of additional examples of the 'pattern and practice' of unconstitutional promotions of religion in the military," and notes that Chalker attempted to "resolve his complaint through military channels," but was unsuccessful.
Just recently, the Army "determined his objection to Christian prayers at mandatory military functions" was "'unfounded.'"
The amended complaint, however, goes further, specifying that the U.S. military was involved "in the production of a Christian reality TV series, the publication in the Air Force's quarterly magazine of the anti-Muslim writings of a member of an extremist Christian white supremacy organization, the US. military's involvement in the evangelizing of Iraqis and Afghans, and the U.S. Air Force's official sponsorship of an evangelical Christian motocross ministry."
Furthermore, an Army manual dealing with suicide prevention includes material stresses the "value of Christianity," and a series of videos specifically refer to the Christian god and Christian beliefs as fundamental in fighting the kind of depression that leads to suicide.
Suicide in the military is a problem. The incidence of suicide in the military and among veterans is rising. According to the christianist outfit, onenewsnow, the Veterans Administration has "confirmed that 6,552 veterans" commit suicide each year, "an average of 126 per week."
The question is how to to deal with this serious problem.
Now, our old wacko friend, former Navy chaplain, Gordon James Klingenschmitt, has entered the fray. Klingenschmitt is a theocrat and reconstructionist who disbelieves in any notion of separation of church and state so long as the religion running things is fundamentalist Christianity. (In fact, the fundamentalist power gains in the military are directly related to the larger reconstructionist goal of turning the United States into a christianist theocratic state!)
Thus, in his mind, the MRFF's lawsuit "has absolutely no merit whatsoever."
Onenewsnow reports Klingenschmitt as saying "Weinstein is crazy to think that service members should not be briefed and encouraged in their faith."
"For him to come in and sue to the Army to prevent any kind of spirituality, any kind of chaplain's briefings, any kind of faith from being expressed, or even encouraged among those who are tempted to commit suicide, he's really asking for them to hasten their deaths," says the rightwingnut Klingenschmitt.
Klingenschmitt complains that Weinstein wants "an atheist military -- and for Christianity to be punished."
As usual, what Klingenschmitt says is unadulterated bullshit. Weinstein is not against soldiers being "briefed and encouraged" in their faith, not is he against any kind of spirituality in the military, and Klingenschmitt knows that, so he's a liar, too.
Weinstein is about stopping fundamentalist Christians from coercing our troops to accept Christianity and from forcing non-Christians to be subjected to one-sided presentations by representatives of fundy Christianity.
There is nothing that restricts any soldier from counseling with a chaplain of his/her faith. What is wrong, says Weinstein, is that the military is actively involved in promoting fundamentalist Christianity. The U.S. military should not be promoting religion at all.
The 2008 Suicide Awareness program, for example, is up front about Christianity solving the problems leading to suicide.
Weinstein says, correctly, "This presentation is not only an unconstitutional promotion of Christianity for the soldiers who are mandated to attend it, but for the behavioral health providers and non-Christian chaplains who must present it."
The MRFF website, where you can find the suicide prevention videos is here.
An excellent article dealing with the problem by Chris Hedges is here.
Chris Rodda has another take on the problem here.
Mickey Weinstein speaks to the issues in the video.