Oh. My. God.
Last week, after an investigation spurred by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Pentagon abruptly announced that it would not be delivering "freedom packages" to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.
What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.
The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU. Headed by former kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU is an official member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin. But thanks in part to the support of the Pentagon, Operation Straight Up has now begun focusing on Iraq, where, according to its website (on pages taken down last week), it planned an entertainment tour called the "Military Crusade." [Emphasis added]
Iraqis and our soldiers there aren't the only targets for this "crusade," however.
Take, for instance, the recent scandal involving Christian Embassy, a group whose expressed purpose is to proselytize to military personnel, diplomats, Capitol Hill staffers and political appointees. In a shocking breach of security, Defense Department officials allowed a Christian Embassy film crew to roam the corridors of the Pentagon unescorted while making a promotional video featuring high-ranking officers and political appointees. (Christian Embassy, which holds prayer meetings weekly at the Pentagon, is so entrenched that Air Force Maj. Gen. John J. Catton Jr. said he'd assumed the organization was a "quasi-federal entity.") [Emphasis added]
How is it that a general can "assume" that a religious organization is a "quasi-federal entity"? Don't we require that our top military leaders have at least a passing familiarity with the US Constitution, especially the First Amendment? Apparently not, especially these days.
Labels: Separation of Church and State