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Has "Onward, Christian Soldiers" replaced "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder" as the official anthem of the US Air Force Academy? Has the US military become an evangelical Christian organization? Those are questions that theMilitary Religious Freedom Foundation [MRFF] is very concerned about. Here's what MRFF is doing about it...

Here's the mission statement [should an organization battling crossover between military and religion even use the word "mission?" Oh, let's cut them some slack, for "heaven's" sake...]

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Why is this organization necessary? In recent years, according to MRFF, a culture of religious correctness has grown within all branches of the military: a culture in which evangelical Christianity is promoted and proselytized by military leaders. In many instances, a soldier’s acceptance of evangelical Christianity has been a prerequisite for promotion.

The most recent development in this continuing story comes from the US Air Force Academy, where, not trusting conventional channels, a cadet contacted MRFF to report the extent to which the forced Christian culture is rampant at the Academy.

That cadet’s complaint is not an isolated incident. According to Huffington Post,

MRFF receives a constant stream of photographs from service members and DoD employees around the globe showing overt promotions of Christianity in the form of signs, banners, posters, and flyers — all strategically placed in locations that are impossible for military personnel to avoid in their day to day activities.

But advertising is just the beginning. At the Air Force Academy, a group called "Cadets for Christ" actively and persistently attempts to convert other cadets to their brand of evangelical Christianity—even cadets who are self-identified members of other Christian sects. MRFF says,

...We can reach no other conclusion than that this ministry... is allegedly using cult-like tactics to separate cadets from everything and everyone in their lives, including their families, the clearly delineated core values and principles of the United States Air Force and the oaths they took to uphold the United States Constitution.

MRFF reports that the letter it received from that Air Force Cadet spells out a frightening scenario, in which as many as 100 cadets are part of an underground group, pretending to embrace the evangelical brand in order to maintain good standing among their USAF Academy peers and superiors.

They leave Bibles, Christian literature, and Christian music CDs lying around their rooms; they attend fundamentalist Christian Bible studies; they feign devoutness at the Academy’s weekly "Special Programs in Religious Education" (SPIRE) programs. They do whatever they have to do to play the role of the "right kind" of Christian cadets, in constant fear of being outed


Earlier this week, MRFF responded to the Air Force cadet’s charge by sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, with three demands:


* Release this year’s USAF academy Climate Survey, which is reported to reveal that

   353 cadets (almost 1 out of every 5 survey participants) reported having been subjected to unwanted religious proselytizing, and 23 cadets (13 of them Christians) reported living "in fear of their physical safety" because of their religious beliefs.

   * Investigate the activities of "Cadets for Christ" and any other similar religious proselytizing organizations on and off campus
   * Investigate the USAF Academy’s "incontrovertible and unconstitutional establishment of a fundamentalist Christian culture/meme amongst its cadet and staff populations and its concomitant failure to train and educate its professional staff and Cadet Wing about the Constitutionally-mandated imperatives of the Bill of Rights, especially church-state separation."

Evangelical intimidation is not restricted to the US Air Force Academy. A recent report on CNN, for example,  examined a "Rock the Fort" Christian music and prayer event at the US Army’s Ft. Bragg. Mikey Weinstein, founder of MRFF is staying quite busy these days, responding to hundreds of complaints from soldiers and taking his message of constitutional watchdogging of the military to the press. And you don’t have to read too far between the lines of MRFF’s mission statement to get the frightening picture of what is happening in today’s US military, and what makes Weinstein’s organization necessary:


No religion or religious philosophy may be advanced by the United States Armed Forces over any other religion or religious philosophy.

   No member of the United States Armed Forces may be compelled in any way to conform to a particular religion or religious philosophy.

   No member of the United States Armed Forces may be compelled in any way to witness or engage in any religious exercise.

   No member of the military may be compelled to curtail – except in the most limited of military circumstances and when it directly impacts military discipline, morale and the successful completion of a specific military goal – the free exercise of their religious practices or beliefs.

   Students at United States military academies are entitled to the same Constitutional rights pertaining to religious freedoms and the free exercise of those freedoms to which all other members of the United States Armed Forces military are entitled.

   No member of the military may be compelled to endure unwanted religious proselytization, evangelization or persuasion of any sort in a military setting and/or by a military superior or civilian employee of the military.

   The full exercise of religious freedom includes the right not to subscribe to any particular religion or religious philosophy. The so-called "unchurched" cede no Constitutional rights by want of their separation from organized faith.

   It is the responsibility of the military hierarchy to ensure that the free exercise of religious freedoms of all enlisted personnel are respected and served.

   All military personnel have the right to employ appropriate judicial means to protect their religious rights.

For anyone who cares about preserving the intent of the US Constitution regarding religion, this story and this organization bear watching.

[Cross posted from Occasional Planet]

Originally posted to Lefty on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 09:43 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A Scourge. n/t (8+ / 0-)

    Barney Frank: "I Can Complain & Vote At The Same Time!"

    by Detroit Mark on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 09:48:20 AM PDT

  •  Excellent story. (23+ / 0-)

    We have personally experienced similar problems in the Active Duty force. And I will never forget the time I went to a 9/11 memorial service on our military base (happened to be Army, at the time, even though we are Air Force) and the chaplain basically blamed those of us that don't pray for the attacks. I was in shock.

    •  Decorum gives false impression of acceptance (10+ / 0-)

      As much as you felt like walking out in protest, decorum and good conduct training made you stay, right? I would feel dirty, as if staying there somehow meant condoning that kind of language. But, I wouldn't be comfortable leaving, either, because I wouldn't want to leave the rest of my unit there without me.

      I might not know how many agreed. And, even if none of my own unit agreed with that claptrap, those in other units might think we did, because we were staying for it. So, everyone thinks that the belief is widespread, just because everyone else is too polite to leave.

      Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

      by chimpy on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 10:26:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  at some point, it's going to be necessary.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DaleA, chimpy, Gemina13

        .... to do something to demonstrate non-acceptance of those messages.

        Walking out might not be the correct response, but turning one's back, or making some other gesture might be.

        This would have to be organized, for example by some kind of progressive religious & nonreligious organization, so people understand what kinds of things should serve as triggers for everyone involved to make the appropriate gesture of disapproval.

        Also any such instance should be followed up with letters to appropriate persons, expressing disapproval of whatever the specific item was.  

        •  We do demonstrate non-acceptance. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chimpy, G2geek

          My husband has requested not to have a chaplain speak at events, like his change of command, and he's been shot down. Others want the chaplain there, so, of course, others get there way. But the request was made and people will remember.

          And when it is an event that is only my husband's, like a promotion ceremony, we never have a chaplain speak. We rarely have an invocation but every once in a while someone has managed to slip one in. It's so pervasive that folks just think he forgot to think about it rather than he purposefully made a choice.

      •  First, I'm not active duty, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chimpy, Catte Nappe

        I'm a spouse. Second, one person walking away with her children would have been seen as someone who needed to get the kids home or go to an appt, etc. It would never have been seen as a protest. They wouldn't have even begun to think that that was even possible.

  •  good (14+ / 0-)

    I am so glad to hear someone is acting on this clearly manipulative atmosphere. This quiet and consistent conversion attempt has been going on way too long.

    you're gonna get what you give

    by chicagobleu on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 09:51:01 AM PDT

  •  This diary provides some insight... (6+ / 0-)

    into Obama's fear of repealing DADT and allowing gays to openly serve.

    So, instead of fighting for the constitutional rights of his soldiers he has bowed to the Christian Generals.

    It is scary.

    Corporate PACs, not just bribery but a lifestyle!

    by rubine on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 10:11:34 AM PDT

  •  Restoring the Draft is Urgent Nat'l Security Need (8+ / 0-)

    because of this.

    Without a forced wider demographic body of troops, there won't be a way to prevent the military becoming both a skill and a cultural elite, and the Christianists are well known for regaring outsiders as enemies.

    A superpower with troops who regard their society as enemy is absolutely as dangerous as it gets.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 10:15:09 AM PDT

    •  No way (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chimpy, neroden, erush1345

      by drafting people who would otherwise not choose the military all you're doing is degrading the efficiency and effectiveness of the military. You think there are discipline problems and soldiers acting unprofessionally in theater now, wait till you have a bunch of kids forced into uniform. Standing guard over people and things they don't care about.

      It wouldn't do anything to branch a cultural divide between the military and civilians. Which there isn't any in reality. Take a look at the way Russian regular Military and Russian Conscripts interact, for that point.

      •  Disagree: by drafting the scions of the elite (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DaleA, chimpy, G2geek

        you're forcing the Congress to get serious about wars and police actions. The last time whether a war had the support of the American populace or not mattered was in fact VietNam -- and there was a draft; and there were photos and video of draftees dying halfway round the world for ... what, again?

        LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 11:35:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  putting aristos' sons in harm's way not enough (0+ / 0-)

          Historically, elite scions were expected to serve in the military; it was the only acceptable occupation beyond owning land. Yet they still found ways to avoid any real responsibility or danger - an aristocrat officer can't be seen to struggle or show fear, lest his men lose heart - never mind interacting with the lower orders beyond the absolute minimum and then only as an authority figure. You see this even today in the way that a 20-year veteran sergeant major is required to salute and obey the orders of a baby-faced lieutenant fresh out of a very expensive West Point.

          The core of a military has always been the "commoner" NCO corps; men (and women) who started at the very bottom and worked their way up, rather than going to school and getting placed in a position of authority right off the bat.

          Eat the rich; maybe then they'll do us some good.

          by rf80412 on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 12:13:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're idea of military order is bad. (0+ / 0-)

            that baby faced lieutenant isn't being saluted by the SGT Major. The SGT Major is saluting the rank he holds and what it stands for. An Officer's authority comes directly from the President of the United States. A NCO's authority comes from his commanding officers.

            It's this way for a reason, that LT. commissioned for a week on patrol has absolute responsibility for his Platoon if anything happens to that platoon veteran or not it's his fault. Not the Squad Leader with 15 years time

            You have to be viewing this from a very disadvantaged viewpoint to see it that way. Ask that LT. if he thinks he's somehow better than that Sgt Major. You have leaders and you have doers in the military. Officers are the leaders and Enlisted are the doers one can't work without the other.

            •  If that LT has the brains God gave an air fern, (0+ / 0-)

              he listens to -- nay, say better, seeks out and abides by -- that NCO's advice. It's how the LT lives long enough to become, some day, a CAPT / MAJ.
              It's how both of them operate to keep the green kids in the sleeves with neither stripe nor brass alive.

              LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

              by BlackSheep1 on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 06:53:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Since you're so set on this (0+ / 0-)

          walk down to the local recruiter with your child ask them what branch they want to serve in and sign them up to be something they don't want to be. Then do the same to your neighbors children all against their will mind you. Yet, only to their male children and if they are gay you need to coach them on hiding their sexuality.

          Then you can go ahead and tell them, hey you might die but the photos will work for our cause.

          Your reasoning is sickening, how many people do you want forced on to a battlefield to die? There is a difference between professional soldiers who spend much of their time preparing for war and the consequences and some kid drafted off the street.

          I mean are you even listening to yourself? You think the children of Bill Gates are gonna serve? Dick Cheney's daughter in ACUs on a convoy. Get real the children of the elite will always be protected from the horrors of war. You'd be sending people off to die who have absolutely no want of being there in the first place.

    •  As much as I appreciate (0+ / 0-)

      the value of broadening viewpoints this way, it just doesn't work, for a number of reasons:

      1.  Some will always find a way out.  Look at all of the cheickenhawks on the far right, or those who skirted the issue like W, and pretended to serve.
      1.  Slave armies are always a bad idea.

      There are certainly other reasons, but those are foremost for me.

      My life is an open book, and I want a rewrite!

      by trumpeter on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 04:15:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I really miss Chris not being here (8+ / 0-)

    thanks you gloriasb for keeping us up-to-date

    Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

    by Clytemnestra on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 10:29:57 AM PDT

  •  Cadets for Christ is an obvious case (0+ / 0-)

    but the Rock the Fort even really isn't an issue unless Soldiers and Airmen were forced to attend or given special privileges for attending. Unless they deny similar events space for other denominations.

    Going by the list of guidelines and what I know of the event I don't see how they violate the list of principles you've posted. Care to explain maybe I'm not getting all the info here.

    •  read up. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      go check out the stuff MRFF publishes, and read up on cases.  

      See also diaries by Chris Rodda, and Dogemperor, and Troutfishing.

      See also for more.  

      This stuff is real, it's dangerous, and it has to be dealt with.  

    •  Here's a similar incident in which (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaleA, chimpy, Catte Nappe

      soldiers were given the choice of attending a Christian Rock Concert or returning to their barracks. Those who returned to their barracks were then assigned maintenance duties.

    •  Rock the Fort may be borderline, but... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaleA, chimpy, Catte Nappe

      The CNN report notes that Citizens United for Separation of Church and State objected to the military basically partnering up with the Billy Graham Crusade and local churches to increase their membership. Here's a link

      •  Who is putting on the event is a non-issue. (0+ / 0-)

        Unless that person has acted in bad conduct in the past or holds views that are in serious conflict with the Military.

        Hillis defended the event in an interview, saying it was within the bounds of military rules and that attendance is totally voluntary. Hillis said soldiers are not obligated to go and that he would be willing to provide similar support if another faith wanted to hold a similar event on base.

        If they reject offers by other organizations to hold similar rallies then that is a clear case or religious discrimination. Sure the purpose of this event was to convert or increase people's participation in the evangelical community. But considering no one was forced into going and the only people going were those looking to go.

        The event doesn't conflict with the guidelines laid out in this diary. Judging it based on that criteria it's not in violation of the rights of soldiers.

  •  How does this effect enlisted men (0+ / 0-)

    Looks like people going into the military will be lead by right wing Christianists. How do they shove their doctrines down the throats of ordinary military?

  •  Talk about (0+ / 0-)

    "Injurious to unit cohesion and morale"!

    I'd find it far more distracting dealing with these folks than having overtly gay people in my unit.  Why not treat them the way they treat others, and show them what it feels like?

    My life is an open book, and I want a rewrite!

    by trumpeter on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 04:02:05 PM PDT

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