Well, it seems that David French over at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has his panties in a wad over the issue of the Camp Pendleton cross. In an article yesterday on the ACLJ website, specifically going after Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), French puts the ‘poor bullied Christians’ spin on the Pendleton cross controversy.
French’s article begins with an attack on MRFF:
“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is perhaps the most deceptively-named organization in the United States. Its tone is hysterical (it actually calls those who complain about religious influence ‘spiritual rape victims/tormentees’) and its methods Orwellian. …”
And goes on to say:
“The MRFF is a group that virtually defines the term ‘radical.’ Comparing viewing a religious symbol or hearing a religious message to ‘rape’ isn’t rational dialogue. It isn’t an argument. It’s an attempt to demagogue and bully commanders – who are rightfully focused on warfighting and not on the Establishment Clause – into satisfying the loudest, angriest voice.”
I don’t think I could possibly respond to those statements any better than one of the other people at MRFF did in an email after seeing French’s article: “This drivel can be summed up by a very simple and clear concept: PSYCHOLOGICAL PROJECTION (…a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.) Anyone squealing about deception, Orwellian methods, demagoguery, or bullying on the ACLJ site (an acronym designed with the intent of obfuscation) is not only projecting, they’re an unmitigated gutless hypocrite to boot.”
French’s article, of course, includes the ACLJ’s version of what happened at Camp Pendleton:
“Let’s be absolutely clear about what happened at Camp Pendleton: As a tribute to fallen brothers, individual Marines and individual family members – acting on their own – erected a cross. This cross has proven meaningful not just to those Marines and family members who put it up but also to thousands upon thousands of Marines who’ve seen it. Of course it’s not meaningful to everyone. Of course it even offends some (including at least one NCO that wrote an incredibly profane and unprofessional letter opposing the Cross), but we simply do not and cannot make decisions about religious liberty on the basis of utterly subjective personal feelings.”
A bit of a contradiction there, huh? On one hand we “cannot make decisions about religious liberty on the basis of utterly subjective personal feelings,” but it’s important that the “cross has proven meaningful not just to those Marines and family members who put it up but also to thousands upon thousands of Marines who’ve seen it.” Wouldn’t that meaningfulness be an utterly subjective personal feelings?
But, beyond French’s contradiction, there’s the categorical inaccuracy of his version of the ‘facts’ about this cross. As I wrote in my previous piece on this cross, “The Camp Pendleton Cross: The Facts vs. What the “Persecuted” Christians Are Saying,” which is linked to by French so people can read that “incredibly profane and unprofessional letter,” it’s not just that this cross is visible from various areas of the base. It goes far beyond that. The cross is the destination of many mandatory training hikes, forcing countless Marines of all religions and no religion not only to visit it, but to participate in the rituals that have grown up around it and to listen, often in formation, to Christian prayers and sermons delivered by their superiors. In my previous piece, I included links to two articles on the official Marine Corps website, as well as a video, showing this.
In that video, which I’m also including here, it wasn’t a chaplain delivering that Christian sermon to the Marines on this mandatory training hike to the cross (beginning at 3:36 in the video), which would be bad enough before a captive audience at a mandatory training event; it was the battalion’s sergeant major! And the Marine speaking right before the sermonizing sergeant major was the battalion’s commander. These are the superiors that a non-Christian or non-religious Marine in that battalion should be able to go to when they have an issue with being forced to participate in religious exercises — but they’re the ones leading the forced religious exercises!
But, of course, to sufficiently outrage his audience, French needs to put the spin on this that the erection of this thirteen foot tall cross was just a completely private thing unofficially done by a few Marines and family members of fallen Marines.
The current cross, put up this Veterans Day, is actually the third cross to be erected atop this hill. The original cross, put up by a group of Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in 2003 was destroyed in 2007 by a brush fire. That cross was then replaced in early 2008 with a second cross. The new cross is just a fire-proof replacement of the second cross, which was also made of wood like the original one destroyed by the fire.
Now, watch this video and tell me that, in addition to all the mandatory training hikes to the cross, which have been going on since the first cross was put up in 2003, there’s no officially sanctioning of this exclusively Christian memorial by Camp Pendleton. This is the video officially put out by KPEN-TV, the official TV station of Camp Pendleton, showing the erection of the second cross in 2008.
Seriously, does that look like just a few individual Marines and family members acting on their own to merely put up a little cross as a personal tribute?
In the same paragraph French also minimizes the objections to the cross (this guy can certainly pack a lot of inaccuracy into one short paragraph). He says that the cross “offends some” and minimizes the number of Marines who want the cross removed by saying “including at least one NCO.” French does this even while linking to my previous piece, in which I clearly said the senior NCO at Camp Pendleton who wrote the letter did so on behalf of himself and fourteen other Camp Pendleton NCOs, all of whom have served multiple combat tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. MRFF has actually been contacted by well over one hundred Marines at Camp Pendleton, as well as many Marine Corps and Navy veterans, all of whom want the cross removed.
This isn’t the first time the ACLJ has attacked and completely mischaracterized MRFF, as well as MRFF’s founder and president Mikey Weinstein. It isn’t even the first time recently. It was less than a month ago that the ACLJ’s Jordan Sekulow went on the warpath over the changes made to the Franklin Graham Operation Christmas Child program at the Air Force Academy. In that case, all MRFF did was get the Air Force Academy to place this clearly religious program under the auspices of the chaplains rather than the Academy’s command structure, in accordance with the Air Force Chief of Staff’s recent memorandum on religious neutrality. Nobody was stopping the cadets from participating in Operation Christmas Child, and Sekulow’s accusation on the ACLJ’s November 8 radio show that “Mikey Weinstein is bragging about the fact that he’s gonna have less Christmas boxes for kids in the third world countries,” was completely untrue. Weinstein said nothing of the kind.
Of course, the ACLJ continually paints MRFF as an atheist and anti-Christian organization, despite the fact that 96% of MRFF’s clients are actually Christians, including that NCO at Camp Pendleton who wrote that “incredibly profane and unprofessional letter opposing the Cross.”
But it became quite clear on the ACLJ’s November 8 radio show just what Sekulow means by anti-Christian; he means anti-what the ACLJ considers to be the “right kind” of Christians. In a very telling moment during that radio show, Sekulow said of Weinstein: “This is a guy who goes after anyone who is an evangelical. He’s fine with, you know, the mainliners, the denom… — but it’s the evangelical Christianity — the dominionists that he thinks are trying to take over the U.S. military.” That’s right, Sekulow came right out and confirmed what MRFF has been saying for years — that the reason the overwhelming majority of MRFF’s clients are Christians, both mainline Protestants and Catholics, is that they are not the “right kind” of Christians for their dominionist and fundamentalist military superiors.
On that November 8 radio show, Sekulow also deliberately and repeatedly miscalled the Military Religious Freedom Foundation the “Military Freedom From Religion Foundation,” although he knows damned well what the name of the foundation is. So, Sekulow and David French think the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is the “most deceptively-named organization in the United States?” Well, I think that title should go to the ACLJ, an acronym which would more aptly stand for the “American Center of Liars for Jesus.”