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Dec 15 2011

Southern Baptists Admit That They Oppose Religious Equality In The Military

Well, it doesn’t get any clearer than this. In an article from the Baptist Press, the news arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptists have finally come right out and admitted what we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) have known all along — they oppose religious equality in the U.S. military.

Beyond just getting many of the “facts” wrong in the article, titled “Air Force Academy dogged by anti-Christian pressure,” shows the true colors of the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes to religious freedom, stating, as if it’s a bad thing, “Not only does the academy now provide worship space for all, it requires all cadets to complete religious respect training.” Really? The Air Force Academy accommodating cadets of all religions and teaching religious respect is a problem? Well, maybe if you fancy yourself to be among America’s “persecuted” Christians and consider religious pluralism a threat to your religion.

The article uses what has recently become a very popular talking point to shock its readers — the Air Force Academy spent $80,000 on a pagan worship area. According to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Daniel Heimbach, quoted in the article: “… something is grossly out of proportion when the institution dedicates a $80,000 outdoor worship center to only serve 3 cadets. … All of which leads me to wonder what in the world can explain dedicating such a large and expensive worship center for only 3 cadets. This is driven by something more than simply equity. It is something powerfully religious that is non-Christian, non-theistic and ‘Earth-based’ with deep pockets and a lot of political influence.”

Well, first of all, the outdoor worship area did not cost taxpayers $80,000. Seriously, have any of these people using this talking point actually stopped to wonder how putting a circle of rocks on a hilltop could possibly cost $80,000? Of course not. They just keep repeating this so-called “fact” to shock their audiences. The truth is that this money was already being spent on a project that had nothing to do with the worship area.

The boulders that now form the outdoor worship area were moved from the hillside to the hilltop as part of an erosion control project that was already underway. Erosion had made these boulders a safety hazard, in danger of falling down the hillside and crashing into the Academy’s Visitors Center and Cadet Chapel, so they were moved from the hillside to the top of the hill. When the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron moved the rocks to the top of the hill in spring and early summer of 2009, they arranged them in a circle.

Months later, when the pagan lay leader at the Academy was looking for a suitable site for a worship area, he realized that there already was one — the circle of boulders that had been moved to the top of the hill during the erosion control project. All that needed to be added to the already existing site to turn it into a worship area was some flagstone to make a floor and a small altar in the center of the circle. So, no, the Academy’s outdoor worship area didn’t cost anything even close to $80,000. The only other significant expense has been the installation of security cameras, made necessary when some nice Christians decided to send a message by placing a large wooden cross at the site. (Anyone seeing a need for that religious respect training?)

Second, here in the good old U.S. of A., religious equality is not based on the number of adherents to a particular religion, although those “persecuted” Christians seem to think it should be, incessantly citing their large majority as the reason they shouldn’t be persecuted (although just how such a large majority can cry about being the persecuted class while at the same time citing their majority status is a bit hard to wrap the brain around).

Unlike most military bases, where the various religions share the same worship facilities, the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Chapel has separate chapels for Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. The main floor is an exclusively Protestant chapel, with separate smaller chapels for Catholics and Jews in the basement. In 2007, a Buddhist chapel, paid for by a private donation, was added to the basement. For anybody else, there is a small “all faiths” room, also in the basement. But this “all faiths” room is not suitable for those who follow earth-centered religions and prefer to worship outdoors. Designating the stone circle as a chapel facility simply accommodates a religious group with a worship area that meets their needs, something taken for granted by other religious groups at the Academy. Whether the users of that worship space number in the hundreds or in single digits is completely irrelevant when it comes to providing a place for them to worship according to their beliefs.

The Baptist Press, like a number of other Christian news outlets, is currently reviving the nearly year old story about Air Force Academy’s outdoor worship area in response to recent events at the Academy, particularly the recent change made by the Academy regarding cadet participation in Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child. Hey, they have to have some other juicy, if not quite true, examples of Christian persecution to generate some good outrage, right? And they also need someone to target as the big, bad anti-Christian boogeyman — and that would be Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of MRFF. In fact, the main gist of Baptist Press article is that none of this horrible Christian persecution at the Air Force Academy is the Academy’s fault; it’s all the work of Weinstein.

In reality, neither Mikey Weinstein nor MRFF are anti-Christian. Of MRFF’s 351 clients at the Air Force Academy, 316 are Christians themselves, both Protestants and Catholics.

And nobody stopped the cadets from participating in Operation Christmas Child. All MRFF did was get the Academy to place this clearly religious program under the auspices of the Academy chaplains rather than the command structure, in accordance with the Air Force Chief of Staff’s recent memorandum on “Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion.” But, oddly, while criticizing MRFF for getting the Academy to put Operation Christmas Child under the chaplains, the article also cites that same Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor quoted above about the outdoor worship area actually agreeing with MRFF that this was the right thing to do: “Daniel Heimbach … told Baptist Press that the Operation Christmas Child reversal is understandable because the program genuinely does promote Christianity and should be handled by the chaplains.” So, what is the problem? MRFF, the Academy, and this Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor have all said that the right thing was done!

But wait, there’s more. The Baptist Press brings up another story from a while back to further demonize Weinstein — the one about MRFF getting the Air Force to remove what some Air Force officers had nicknamed the “Jesus Loves Nukes” portion of the ethics training for its nuclear missile officers.

From the article:

“What is most concerning is criticism of the just war class, said Heimbach, who has worked in defense- and domestic-policy positions in Washington in both the executive and legislative branches.

“‘That the western tradition of just war ethics has included biblical as well as classical influences is simply a matter of history,’ Heimbach said. ‘Although academy courses are no place for religious indoctrination, neither should they deconstruct what actually has occurred as though religion does not exist.

“‘Teaching of the history and development of just war history should be fair and objective whether at a military academy or at a religious seminary.’”

Well, we’re a little off on the facts here, too. First of all, this wasn’t a course at the Air Force Academy. It was the nuclear missile officer training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. And, second, this wasn’t a matter of teaching about the history of both biblical and classical influences on Just War Theory. This was slide after slide of Bible verses, with the big heading of “Christian Just War Theory” on every slide, ending with Revelation 19:11 — “Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior.” Is it any wonder that this presentation was nicknamed the “Jesus Loves Nukes” speech?

The presentation also included a slide of former Nazi and SS officer Werhner Von Braun, not as a scientist but as a moral authority promoting the Bible, quoting Von Braun, upon surrendering to American forces in 1945, saying: “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”

Twenty-nine of the thirty-one Air Force nuclear missile officers who initially came to MRFF for help in getting this training stopped were Christians — both Catholics and Protestants. These thirty-one officers were soon joined by thirty-eight more, thirty-two of whom were also Christians.

(For more details on the contents of the “Jesus Loves Nukes” training, see my post from September.)

The Baptist Press article also includes some outrageous things said by Mikey Weinstein. It quotes a local pastor saying that Weinstein “even says the Constitution is to guarantee both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.” Yikes!

Then there’s this crazy stuff they found on MRFF’s website:

“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation believes religious freedom ‘takes on an additional importance in the current international environment, where religious motivations are an increasing rationale for waging conflict.

“‘At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious freedom in Muslim nations, it is imperative upon America to show by example that religious pluralism is a viable and preferred option,’ the website says. ‘Any sign of hypocrisy in United States policy, official or otherwise, toward the free exercise of religion within the military makes it more difficult to convince others to follow our nation’s chosen path.’”

Pretty radical stuff, huh? All that crazy talk about America setting an example of religious freedom for the world.

The Southern Baptist Convention aren’t the only folks to have recently shown their true colors when it comes to their opinions on religious equality in the military. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which continually calls MRFF an atheist and anti-Christian organization (despite the fact that  96% of MRFF’s clients are actually Christians), finally came out and admitted what they really mean by anti-Christian. They mean anti-what the ACLJ and other fundamentalists like the Southern Baptists consider to be the “right kind” of Christians, which doesn’t include all those “mainliners” — you know, all those Protestants who are apparently anti-Christian.

In a very telling moment during the ACLJ’s November 8 radio show, Jordan Sekulow said of Mikey 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 — or for the ACLJ and the Southern Baptists.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    “…the dominionists that he thinks are trying to take over the U.S. military.”

    Isn’t taking over the military a necessary part of dominionism? Or are the dominionists happy to let “you know, the mainliners, the denom…” run the show?

    I’m getting a mixed message here. “No, we don’t want to control the military. We just don’t want anyone else serving.”

  2. 2
    samsalerno

    Chris Rodda you are awesome. I love following your blog.

  3. 3
    Aquaria

    If they were honest, Chris, they wouldn’t be Southern Baptists.

    Talk about a wretched hive of scum and villainy…

  4. 4
    savoy47

    I see an additional issue here with the; “the dominionists that he thinks are trying to take over the U.S. military”. The key word here is thinks.

    From their POV Mikey is exposing them and bringing unwanted attention to their motives as stated above. They are trying to discredit Mikey so people won’t believe his “crazy ideas”. They paint him as a heathen atheist pagan loving evil agent of Satan.No real Christian would have anything to do with him, let alone be 96% of his secular organization. These people are trying to hide so, in addition to setting the record straight, it may be good idea to find more ways to draw attrition to them.

  5. 5
    Yoritomo

    Minor typo: It’s Wernher von Braun, not Werhner.

    If they had constructed that stone circle from scratch, $80,000 would seem a likely price tag. I’m pretty sure that if my local government would try and build something similar, it’d cost more. On the other hand, we don’t have the boulders lying around ready to be used. Clever re-use, I’d say; and I’d almost wonder about the religious persuasion of whoever at the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron is responsible for that layout.

  6. 6
    Pinky

    “even says the Constitution is to guarantee both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.” Yikes!

    Every time I hear that phrase: “Its freedom of religion, not freedom from religion,” I find myself staring at the alien who said it and wonder what dimension they come from where the laws of logic are so different from earth’s.

    Yet the thought comes that we the unchurched are missing out on a great scam – the tax free church.

    Logically we should declare this get-out-of-taxes-free a governmental establishment of religion and revoke it.

    However since that seems unlikely in the near future the unchurched should band together and call ourselves a church or perhaps we could join up with the Church of the SubGenius

    Slack-filled young men and women of Yeti descent who are spread, SEEMINGLY randomly, throughout the breakthinking world… but are bent on breaching all Earthly human political and cultural barriers with the searing nonhuman truth of the Word of “Bob”: J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, living god who walks this planet earth in huckster’s shoes.

    PRAISE HIS SWEET NAME

    – OR BURN IN SLACKLESSNESS TRYING NOT TO!

    Or the Church of Discordia

    “When dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases” — Robert Anton Wilson

    The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. would be a good choice.

    The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® is a leading-edge Order of queer nuns. Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

    And I would add; the Sisters of Indulgence frighten the pants off mainstream religulous types.

    However the unchurched do it we should establish a tax shelter. We would not get away with it you say? Consider the Church of Scientology they are the greediest scammers since the Church of Later Day Saints and they are tax exempt.

    Consider the possibilities; our new tax exempt church would never have to submit to an audit so we could get away with just about any dodge we desired, the church could buy real estate, own businesses and invest in stock as a block. Our church could assume control of the world and destroy it at our whim. Bwahahahaha!

    I’m sorry, that last last sentence was uncalled for, I lost control of myself. But come to think of it, if I were part of a church, I could call the statement inspired and publish it. The things you can get away with being in a church.

    Fnord!

  7. 7
    geocatherder

    Lies annoy me, but lies from Christians bug the hell out of me, for some reason. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a Catholic household where truth was a very important value. Oh — but I forget, Catholics aren’t “True Christians”.

  8. 8
    kraut

    It annoys me to no end that in the US any bastard is okay as long it is the US’ bastard.
    It is quite ironic – or actually moronic – to refer to the “moral” of a Nazi and opportunist like von Braunshirt who was ultimately and directly responsible for the deth and horrible living conditions of POWs and other slave workers from occupied countries.
    He had no qualms to work then to death, this arsehole escaped the well deserved rope only because the Russians had the other Nazi guys working on rockets and they needed von Braunshirt to help build rockets.
    To cite this murderous opportunist as a moral authority by christian military apologists speaks volumes as to their system of values. Why not cite Hitler directly as a moral authority – he actually stated clearly that christianity is the foundation rock of a Nazi Germany. Read your Mein Kampf…

  9. 9
    coragyps

    “Just war theory” has a Biblical basis? Does that include killing everyone but the virgin girls, and keeping them for yourself?

    BTW, the popup for graceprayer.org that’s on my screen now is about enough to induce propulsive vomiting. A cute little 8-year-old girl, hands folded in prayer, wearing a yellow summer dress. And angel wings, with what appear to be Honeysuckle White turkey feathers. Possibly soon to be taken home by some mighty Hebrew warrior.

    I’m going to boil my eyeballs now.

  10. 10
    Ellie

    I have been trying to explain to an acquaintance of mine, that neither one of us are The Right Kind Of Christian, according to the ACLJ (which entity, she thinks is a good thing). I will be happy to present her with this and perhaps free her from her delusion. Thanks.

  11. 11
    holytape

    It’s the old say, “You are never pure enough.” First the Mormons aren’t Christian enough. Then the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t. Then the Catholics, and the Anglicans , Lutherans……..
    Soon the southern baptists will start calling the members of the North American Baptist Fellowship godless heathens.

    A better Jesus

  12. 12
    Pierce R. Butler

    … have any of these people using this talking point actually stopped to wonder how putting a circle of rocks on a hilltop could possibly cost $80,000?

    Not to defend the BP, but we are talking about a US military project on a US military facility using US military budgeting & management principles and personnel.

  13. 13
    Crissa

    Putting stones in a circle intentionally? Hard. You always end up with one or more rolling into the circle.

    Accidentally ending up with a circle when you push them together? Easy, in fact, happens in nature pretty often, more often to big constructions like this: The bobcat pushing the stones around keeps pushing them towards a pile but stops when it hit a nearby boulder. The center doesn’t get filled, and you have circle.

  14. 14
    Crissa

    PS, at no point is Von Braun have any authority over the workers in the factory so kraut’s theory of him being a slaver are a bit unfounded.

    Apparently everyone is supposed to die in glory for refusing to be associated with unethical actions. While I’m generally willing to take that step, I’m not willing to brand everyone else who isn’t as a criminal.

  15. 15
    Worldtraveller

    For comparison, the chapel at the academy costs: The shell of the chapel and surrounding grounds cost $3.5 million to build. (Ref. Wikipedia page on the AFA chapel).

    That’s in 1955 dollars, by the way. Not sure what the current conversion is. I wonder why the ACLJ neglected to mention that in their drivel?

  16. 16
    Chris Rodda

    fastlane @ 15 … I actually calculated that while I was working on this piece, and was going to put it in but decided the piece was getting too long.

    That $3.5 million (in 1963 when the chapel was completed) would be about $25 million in today’s dollars. Divided by the number of cadets at the Academy at the time the chapel was built, that works out to about $22,000 per cadet in today’s dollars. Then there’s the fortune spent on maintaining the chapel, not to mention the staggering electric bills to light all those spires up.

  17. 17
    ewanmacdonald

    100% superb work as usual. An absolute beatdown.

    Just one tiny point, though: being a majority and being oppressed aren’t *necessarily* exclusive. There are persecuted majorities in the world. Christians in the US aren’t one of them, of course, though – not by a long shot.

  18. 18
    Jim

    “Isn’t taking over the military a necessary part of dominionism? Or are the dominionists happy to let “you know, the mainliners, the denom…” run the show?”

    The last I heard, the dominionists were arguing that they don’t exist. No, really.

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