Back in August 2011, Beth Dowty, wife of Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty, a.k.a. the “Christian Fighter Pilot,” wrote an article for Command, the magazine of the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF). In her article, Mrs. Christian Fighter Pilot claimed that many OCF groups exist at the service academies and ROTC colleges, as well as on military bases. But why should we believe her? Isn’t she, after all, the wife of Maj. Dowty, a known OCF member? The OCF claims to have over 15,000 members, but we only have OCF’s word for that. I smell a conspiracy. Unless I see a list of all of OCF’s members, I’m not going to believe they’re not just making up their numbers. We have no way of knowing if these people actually exist. Mrs. Christian Fighter Pilot even admits in her article that the OCF is just selling a “product.”
Maj. Dowty’s latest conspiracy theory is that all of MRFF’s complaints come from people who are existing MRFF clients, and that our clients are fabrications who don’t really exist. Of course, this begs the question: How do we have the existing clients that Maj. Dowty speaks of if, as he claims at the same time, our clients are made up and don’t really exist? But then, consistency and logic have never been Maj. Dowty’s strong suits.
The issue that prompted Maj. Dowty’s latest diatribe is MRFF’s letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding the distribution of the virulently anti-semitic “Manga Messiah” comics in the military. (See http://www.talk2action.org/story/2013/1/6/232210/2079/ for a description and images of the “Manga Messiah.”)
Maj. Dowty, to feed his insatiable obsession with all things MRFF, is crying conspiracy because the people involved in bringing this issue to light all have ties to MRFF. Apparently, it’s a real head-scratcher for the Christian Fighter Pilot to figure out why a MRFF issue might be brought to light by people who are somehow connected to MRFF. Therefore, it must be some kind of conspiracy.
Here’s how it went down: The other day, Bruce Wilson of Talk2Action.org emailed MRFF president Mikey Weinstein. Bruce, who had written about the “Manga Messiah” comics on the Huffington Post back in 2008 for reasons other than them being distributed in the military, had, for whatever reason, come across a November 2011 post about these comics on Justin Griffith’s Rock Beyond Belief blog here on FTB. In that post, Justin said that he had received one of these heinous “Christian” comics while deployed in “the sandbox.” Mikey asked me to check it out, so I went and read Justin’s 2011 post.
I should mention here that MRFF has had a number of complaints over the years about anti-semitic and anti-Muslim Christian comics being distributed not only to our service members, but to Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, so, although I’d never looked particularly at the “Manga Messiah” comics, the issue of these types of comics is an ongoing issue for MRFF.
After I read Justin’s post from November 2011, I reported back to Mikey that it was not a new post, and that it didn’t contain enough details to know whether or not the distribution of this particular comic was a widespread thing, and, if it was a widespread thing, if it was still a current problem.
My recommendation was that we should look into it, but that we needed to make sure that this wasn’t just an isolated incident of one soldier placing this Christian comic on a particular atheist soldier’s bunk, and that there was in fact a more coordinated effort by commanders and/or chaplains to distribute these comics. Even though the post was from Justin, who we know quite well, we still needed to have his story corroborated by other service members for MRFF to get involved, and, as I said, we needed to see if these particular comics were still being distributed, since Justin’s experience of receiving one was over a year ago.
A bit of asking around at various military installations confirmed that the “Manga Messiah” was and continues to be widely distributed by both commanders and chaplains both here in the U.S. and on military bases overseas. Service members at sixty-one different military installations (including several naval vessels) were contacted by MRFF, and one or more service members at forty-eight of the sixty-one installations confirmed that they had seen the “Manga Messiah” at their installations.
Because this comic violates the military’s regulations prohibiting chaplains from distributing materials that denigrate other religions, this is a publication that isn’t even acceptable for chaplains, let alone commanders, to give out.
Among the methods of distribution we were told about were the placing of copies of the comic where soldiers in training would find them while navigating an obstacle course, and the inclusion of them in gift bags given out to children at a base’s Easter egg roll.
The email we received about the Easter egg roll came from a military spouse — a Methodist who found this comic so offensive that they immediately threw it in the trash:
My name is (name withheld). I am the spouse of (name, rank and U.S. military branch withheld) and we are stationed at (military installation withheld). My spouse is a (military specialty withheld) who has been deployed in combat many times. We are Methodists. On Easter Sunday 8 April 2012 my children and I attended a Easter Egg Roll on base. Sponsored by as far as I could tell my spouses commander and his staff. They were all there and very much participated. I remember that it was allowed for only children age 12 and under. We have (# of children withheld) kids under 12 so we all went. There were well over a hundred children there. Maybe two hundred? Not sure but alot. The kids were all given plastic gift bags. My youngest kept dropping hers so I held on to it for her. I don’t recall what all was inside but I do remember some things. Bubble gum a plastic glasses, nose and mustache toy some pencils and erasers and a plastic magnifying glass. There was also 2 booklets. One on the meaning of Easter and the other was that manga messiah comic book. I will never forget that shock. I read that comic book right there and was disgusted. I threw it right away into the nearest trash can. I took the others in my other kids gift bags out. I threw them away too. I do admit that I was worrid that I might be seen throwing them away. I did not complain to anyone. I am not proud that I didn’t but I seen what happens to those who do. When it comes to this Christian stuff in the U. S. (military branch withheld) you better be on the right side. Please do not give my name to anyone. I don’t want any more trouble. But if this helps I am happy.
After confirming that the “Manga Messiah” is, in fact, currently being distributed throughout the military, MRFF decided to take the action of writing to the secretary of defense, demanding that all distribution of this anti-semitic “literature” cease immediately.
Maj. Dowty will, no doubt, claim that the above email about the Easter egg roll is made up, since its author asked to remain anonymous, but Maj. Dowty’s condemnation of people who choose to remain anonymous is laughable considering the lengths that he himself has gone to to remain anonymous. He plugs his Christian Fighter Pilot book on his website, but doesn’t reveal there that he is the Major Jonathan C. Dowty who wrote the book; he was listed as the OCF leader at Edwards Air Force Base until I mentioned that somewhere, at which point his name was removed from the OCF website; and whenever I’ve referred to him as Maj. Dowty in comments on his blog, rather than his pseudonym “JD,” he has edited my comments to remove his real name. Does this mean that Maj. Dowty doesn’t really exist? Unfortunately, no.