Top 10 Ways to Convince the Muslims We’re on a Crusade
10. Have Top US Military Officers, Defense Department Officials,
and Politicians Say We’re in a Religious War.
We couldn’t have gotten off to a better start on winning hearts and minds
back in 2003, when US Army Lt Gen William “Jerry” Boykin decided to go on
a speaking tour of churches, publicly proclaiming in uniform that the global
war on terrorism (GWOT) was really a battle between Satan and Christians,
and making comments like, “We in the Army of God, in the House of God, the
Kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this.” Of course, Boykin
knew what he was talking about. After all, a decade earlier he had captured the
dangerous Somali warlord Osman Atto and was very clear about the reason
that happened—“I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
President Bush, in spite of the fact that Boykin believed he was “in the
White House because God put him there,” wasn’t too pleased with these remarks,
but still, the general’s friends stood by him—friends like then-Cong.
Robin Hayes (R-NC), who, speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his hometown
a few years later, pronounced that stability in Iraq ultimately depended on
“spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good
will towards men,” and “everything depends on everyone learning about the
birth of the Savior.”1
While few such statements have been as overt or widely publicized as those
of Boykin and Hayes, plenty of other military leaders and policy makers are on
record espousing similar views. When asked what effect such statements have
on the US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a retired Air Force
officer appearing on MSNBC in a segment about the remarks of Congressman
Well, it’s not helpful if this stuff gets back to the Iraqis, and of course in the days
of the internet and the blogosphere out there it’s likely that it could. And youknow our troops have enough problems over there just doing their jobs. Having to defend what a U.S. congressman might say, because you know, when you bring up the idea of proselytizing Christianity, to a lot of Muslims, that’s very offensive, and if we can keep religion out of what we’re trying to do over there, which is very difficult, it would be a lot easier for our troops. . . . If you’re trying to be a unit trainer to, say, an Iraqi battalion and the battalion religious advisor, the imam, would come in and say look what a congressman said, it just takes away from what we’re trying to do.2
Nevertheless, some representatives of our government continue to present
the war on terror as a spiritual battle, promoting the specious notion that victory
in Iraq and Afghanistan is somehow necessary to preserve our own religious
freedom here in America. “Thomas Jefferson would understand the threat
we face today—tyranny in the name of religion,” asserted a top Army official at
a West Point graduation ceremony. “Your sons and daughters are fighting to
protect our citizens . . . from zealots who would restrain, molest, burden, and
cause to suffer those who do not share their religious beliefs, deny us, whom
they call infidels, our unalienable rights.”3 And, finding it vitally important for
Congress to recognize “the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith,”
another congressman made his case: “American men and women in uniform
are fighting a battle across the world so that all Americans might continue to
freely exercise their faith.”4 As of yet, nobody making such statements has offered
any explanation of how the outcome of this war could possibly affect the
free exercise of religion by Americans.
9. Have Top US Military Officers Appear in a Video Showing Just
How Christian the Pentagon Is.
In addition to providing propaganda material to our enemies, public endorsements
of Christianity by US military leaders can also cause concern
among our Muslim allies. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time,
but the situation became very awkward for Air Force Maj Gen Pete Sutton
shortly after he appeared in a promotional video for the Christian Embassy.5
Dressed in uniform and using their official titles, several high-ranking military
officers and DOD civilians gave testimonials and made statements such as
“we’re the aroma of Jesus Christ,” which were publicly available on the Christian
Embassy’s Web site. What Sutton didn’t know when he appeared in this
video was that he would soon be assigned as the US European Command’s
chief of defense cooperation to Turkey, a country in which religion and government
are strictly separated. According to the DOD Inspector General’s report
on the investigation of allegations relating to the video:
Maj Gen Sutton testified that while in Turkey in his current duty position, his
Turkish driver approached him with an article in the Turkish newspaper ‘Sabah.’
That article featured a photograph of Maj Gen Sutton in uniform and described
him as a member of a radical fundamentalist sect. The article in the online edition
of Sabah also included still photographs taken from the Christian Embassy
video. Maj Gen Sutton’s duties in Ankara included establishing good relations
with his counterparts on the Turkish General Staff. Maj Gen Sutton testified
that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, with religious matters being kept
strictly separate from matters of state. He said that when the article was published
in Sabah, it caused his Turkish counterparts concern, and a number of
Turkish general officers asked him to explain his participation in the video.6
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of uniformed military personnel endorsing
fundamentalist Christian organizations and military ministries, some of which
have clearly publicized missions that include proselytizing Muslims. These
videos are easily found on the Internet, providing plenty of potential propaganda
material for recruiting by extremists.
8. Plant Crosses in Muslim Lands and Make Sure They’re Big Enough
to Be Visible from Really Far Away.
As Gen Norman Schwarzkopf recounted in his autobiography, It Doesn’t
Take a Hero, back in 1990, when US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, an attempt by a Christian missionary organization to
use the military to proselytize Saudi Muslims led the Pentagon to issue strict
guidelines on religious activities and displays of religion in the region. It was left
to the discretion of individual company commanders to determine how visible
religious services should be, depending on their particular location’s proximity to
Saudi populations. In some cases, decisions were made not to display crucifixes
or other religious symbols, even at worship services. There were a few complaints
about these decisions, but the majority of the troops willingly complied, understanding
that these decisions were being made for their own security. According to General Schwarzkopf, even his request that chaplains refrain from wearing crosses on their uniforms received an unexpectedly positive reaction, with the chaplains not only agreeing with the policy, but also going a step further by calling themselves “morale officers” rather than chaplains.
But now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, General Schwarzkopf ’s commonsense
policies and priority of keeping the troops safe have been replaced by a flaunting
of Christianity by Christian troops and chaplains who feel that nothing comes
before their right to exercise their religion, even if it means putting the safety of
their fellow troops at risk. Numerous photos, some posted on official military
Web sites, show conspicuously displayed Christian symbols, such as large crosses,
being erected on and around our military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.7
Large Christian murals have been painted on the outside of the T-barriers
surrounding a chapel on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warhorse in Iraq. In
addition to being a highly visible display of Christianity to Iraqis on the base,
photos of these murals were posted on an official military Web site.8 It is even
more important that the regulation prohibiting displays of any particular religion
on the grounds of an Army chapel—a regulation that protects the religious
freedom of our Soldiers by keeping chapels neutral and welcoming Soldiers of all
faiths—be strictly enforced on our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet there is clear
and credible evidence that those in charge routinely overlook such regulations.
7. Paint Crosses and Christian Messages on Military Vehicles and
Drive Them through Iraq.
For those Iraqis who may not see the overt stationary displays of Christianity
on and near US military bases in their country, there have been plenty
of mobile Christian messages painted on our tanks and other vehicles that
patrol their streets.
The title of Jeff Sharlet’s May 2009 Harper’s Magazine cover story, “Jesus
Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military,” actually comes from
one such vehicular message—the words “Jesus killed Mohammed” were painted
in large red Arabic lettering on a Bradley fighting vehicle, drawing fire from
nearly every doorway as it was driven through Samarra. Other vehicles have
sported everything from the Islamic crescent overlaid with the internationally
recognized red circle and slash “no” sign to large crucifixes hanging from gun
barrels. A military public relations office even officially released a photo of the
tank named “New Testament.”9
6. Make Sure That Our Christian Soldiers and Chaplains See the War
As a Way to Fulfill the Great Commission.
To many fundamentalist Christians, the “Great Commission” from Matthew
28:19—“Go and make disciples of all nations”—trumps all man-made
laws, including military regulations. It’s hard to find a military ministry whose
mission statement doesn’t, in one way or another, include fulfilling the Great
Commission. Thus, it is not surprising that many service members who’ve been
influenced by these military ministries are conflicted about their mission, a
conflict often leading some of these service members to disregard the military’s
prohibition on proselytizing.
Campus Crusade for Christ’s (CCC) Military Ministry,10 a parachurch
ministry active at all of the largest US military training installations, the service
academies, and on ROTC campuses, frequently states its goal of turning the
US military into a force of “government-paid missionaries for Christ.” The vision
statement of another organization, Military Missions Network,11 is “an
expanding global network of kingdom-minded movements of evangelism and
discipleship reaching the world through the military of the world.”
Describing the duties of a CCC Military Ministry position at Lackland Air
Force Base and Fort Sam Houston in Texas, for example, the organization’s
Web site stated, “Responsibilities include working with Chaplains and Military
personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to Christ, build them in their faith
and send them out into the world as government paid missionaries.”12
CCC’s Valor ministry,13 which primarily targets future officers on ROTC
campuses, states, “The Valor ROTC cadet and midshipman ministry reaches
our future military leaders at their initial entry points on college campuses,
helps them grow in their faith, then sends them to their first duty assignments
throughout the world as ‘government-paid missionaries for Christ.’ ”14
In a promotional video filmed at the US Air Force Academy, a USAFA
CCC program director pronounced that CCC’s purpose is to “make Jesus
Christ the issue at the Academy,” and for the cadets to be “government paid
missionaries” by the time they leave.15
According to a CCC Military Ministry instructional publication uncovered
in 2007, CCC’s mission is not simply to provide Bible studies to allow Christians
in the military to exercise their religion, as its defenders claim. The instructions
state, “We should never be satisfied with just having Bible studies of
like-minded believers. We need to take seriously the Great Commission.”16
Whatever one’s position on the issue of evangelism, the undeniable fact is
that all of the above quotes, as well as the video filmed at the Air Force Academy,
were found on the Internet, which, of course, means that any extremist
looking for recruiting tools could also find this easily accessible “evidence” that
the US military is being groomed to be a force of crusaders.
5. Post Photos on the Internet of US Soldiers with Their Rifles
CCC’s indoctrination of basic trainees at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the
Army’s largest basic training installation, is a program called “God’s Basic
Training,” in which the recruits are taught that “The Military = ‘God’s Ministers’”
and that one of their responsibilities is “to punish those who do evil” as
“God’s servant, an angel of wrath.”17
Until being exposed (and taken down), the Fort Jackson CCC Military Ministry
had a Web site containing not only its Bible study materials, but also numerous
photos of smiling trainees posed with their rifles and Bibles.18 Obviously, no
explanation is necessary to see the propaganda value of photos like these.
4. Invite Virulently Anti-Muslim Speakers to Lecture at Our Military
Colleges and Service Academies.
In June 2007, anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel, author of Because They
Hate, was allowed to deliver a lecture at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC).19
In February 2008, the 3 Ex-Terrorists,20 a trio of self-proclaimed former Muslim
terrorists turned fundamentalist Christians, appeared at the US Air Force
Academy’s 50th Annual Academy Assembly, in spite of the fact that their
claims about their terrorist pasts have long been questioned by both academics
and terrorism experts.21
Gabriel’s JFSC lecture, which was broadcast to the world on C-SPAN,
eventually ended up on YouTube,22 and articles about the ex-terrorists’ Air
Force Academy presentation, which included details such as Walid Shoebat’s
pronouncement that converting Muslims to Christianity was a good way to defeat
terrorism, also ended up online,23
providing yet more “evidence” to extremists that the US military’s training includes teaching cadets, officers, and senior non-commissioned officers (NCO) that Islam is evil and must be stopped.
3. Have a Christian TV Network Broadcast to the World That the
Military Is Helping Missionaries Convert Muslims.
Travel the Road, a popular Christian reality TV series that airs on the Trinity
Broadcasting Network (TBN), follows the exploits of two “extreme” missionaries
who travel to remote, and often dangerous, parts of the world to fulfill their
two-part mission to “(1) Vigorously spread the gospel to people who are either
cut off from active mission work, or have never heard the gospel,” and “(2)
Produce dynamic media content to display the life of missions, and thus,
through these episodic series electrify a new generation to accomplish the
The second season of the series ended with three episodes filmed in Afghanistan.
To film these episodes, the missionaries were embedded with US
troops as “journalists,” staying on US military bases and accompanying and
filming troops on patrols—all for the purposes of evangelizing Afghan Muslims
and producing a television show promoting the Christian religion. As the
first of the program’s three Afghanistan episodes clearly showed, these missionaries
were able to waltz into Afghanistan without any of the advance approval
and planning required for embedded journalists and, within two days, be
embedded with an Army unit.
A question that many will ask is whether or not the Army knew what these
missionaries were up to. According to ABC News Nightline, which did a segment
on the embedded missionaries, the answer from one of the missionaries
was yes: “They knew what we were doing. We told them that we were born
again Christians, we’re here doing ministry, we shoot for this TV station and
we want to embed and see what it was like.”24
USCENTCOM’s General Order 1A (now GO-1B) prohibits any and all
proselytizing in its area of responsibility (AOR) and applies to civilians accompanying
US troops as well as military personnel. Yet despite this directive,
the US Army facilitated the evangelizing of Afghans by these Christian missionaries,
which included the distribution of New Testaments in the Dari language.
Numerous Soldiers and NCOs, as well as several officers, including one
general, appeared in the program.25
While the Army’s participation in the Travel the Road program is certainly
one of the most prominent examples of broadcasting to the world that the US
military was aiding missionaries who were trying to convert Muslims, it is regrettably
not the only example.
In September 2008, the Discovery Channel’s Military Channel aired a twohour
program titled God’s Soldier. Filmed at FOB McHenry in Hawijah, Iraq, the
program’s credits identified that it had been “produced with the full co-operation of
the 2-27 Infantry Battalion ‘Wolfhounds.’” The co-producer of the program was
Jerusalem Productions, a British production company whose “primary aim is to
increase understanding and knowledge of the Christian religion and to promote
Christian values, via the broadcast media, to as wide an audience as possible.”
Bible verse text captions appearing between segments of the program included
“I did not come to bring peace, but the sword” and “put on the full armor
of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may stand your ground.”
This was one of the prayers uttered by the program’s star, CPT Charles Popov,
an evangelical Christian Army chaplain, during a scene in which he was blessing
a group of Soldiers about to go out on a patrol: “I pray that you would give them
the ability to exterminate the enemy and to accomplish the task that they’ve
been sent forth by God and country to do. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.” That
prayer was followed by a scene in which the chaplain, sounding an awful lot like
the Campus Crusade Bible study described earlier, said to the Soldiers: “Every
soldier should know Romans 13, that the government is set up by God, and the
magistrate, or the one who wields the sword—you have not swords but 50 cals
and [unintelligible] like that—does not yield it in vain because the magistrate
has been called, as you, to execute wrath upon those who do evil.”
The scene that tops them all, however, is one in which Popov is setting up a
nativity pageant for Christmas—using the unit’s Iraqi interpreters to play some
of the roles. The chaplain described this as some sort of cultural exchange, with
US troops recognizing Ramadan, and Muslim interpreters, in turn, celebrating
Christmas. The notion of this merely being a harmless cultural exchange is absurd.
US Soldiers participating in a Muslim religious observance are not risking
death by doing so, while Muslims, in a country where many consider converting
to Christianity a death penalty offense, are. Broadcasting to the world via the
Discovery Channel that US Army personnel were putting Muslims in a Christmas
pageant not only provides more fodder for radical Islam extremists, but also
exposes the Iraqis who are helping the US military to grave danger.26
2. Make Sure Bibles and Evangelizing Materials Sent to Muslim Lands
Have Official US Military Emblems on Them.
It’s not hard to imagine what message is being communicated to the Iraqis
and Afghans when hundreds of thousands of Bibles with official US military
emblems show up in their countries. Some of these military Bibles are produced
by private organizations, and others are officially authorized by the military.
One of the officially distributed editions has both the Multi-National
Corps-Iraq and I Corps seals imprinted on a camouflage background cover.
And it doesn’t stop with Bibles.27
A chief warrant officer from the 101st Airborne Division, for example, referring
to a special military edition of a Bible study daily devotional published
and donated by Bible Pathways Ministries, told Mission Network News that
“the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this
copy, and they’re using it to minister to the local residents,” and that his “division
is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading
out with the soldiers.” Just like the many civilian missionaries who see the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a window of opportunity to evangelize Muslims,
the warrant officer continued, “The soldiers are being placed in strategic
places with a purpose. They’re continuing to spread the Word.” This daily devotional,
admittedly being used by the 101st Airborne Division “to minister to
the local residents,” has the official military branch seals on its cover, giving the
impression that it is an official US military publication. And while these logos
are sometimes used without permission and may have been on this particular
book, the Iraqis and Afghans don’t know that.28
The chiefs of chaplains even designed one of the Bibles sporting the official
military logos. An organization called Revival Fires Ministries has, “at the request
of the Chief Chaplains of the Pentagon,” been promoting, collecting
money for, and shipping these Bibles to Iraq since 2003. A formal arrangement
between the Pentagon and Revival Fires has allowed these Bibles to be shipped
via military airlift.
To promote these Bibles, a Navy chaplain, whose own anti-Muslim book
was taken off the market when it was revealed that much of its content had
been plagiarized and some of the endorsements on its cover fabricated, has
improperly appeared in uniform at three of Revival Fires’ rancorously anti-
Muslim camp meetings29 and also endorses the ministry on the Web sites of
both its founder, Cecil Todd, and his son, evangelist Tim Todd. At one point,
the chaplain’s photo and endorsement appeared right next to the following
statement on the younger Todd’s Web site: “We must let the Muslims, the
Hare Krishnas, the Hindus, the Buddhists and all other cults and false religions
know, ‘You are welcome to live in America . . . but this is a Christian nation . . .
this is God’s country! If you don’t like our emphasis on Christ, prayer and the
Holy Bible, you are free to leave anytime!’ ”30
1. Send Lots of Arabic, Dari, and Pashtu Language Bibles to Convert
Arguably worse than any English language Bibles stamped with official US
military emblems are the countless thousands of Arabic, Dari, and Pashtu Bibles
making their way into Iraq and Afghanistan, often with the help of US
In his autobiography, General Schwarzkopf recounted his 1990 run-in with
one fundamentalist Christian organization—an incident that made it clear
that the Saudis’ fears and complaints of Christian proselytizing were not unfounded.
While some of the Saudis’ fears, as the general explained, had resulted
from Iraqi propaganda about American troops disrespecting Islamic shrines,
the attempt by this religious organization to get US troops to distribute tens of
thousands of Arabic language New Testaments to Muslims was real.
The Saudi concern about religious pollution seemed overblown to me but understandable,
and on a few occasions I agreed they really did have a gripe. There was a
fundamentalist Christian group in North Carolina called Samaritan’s Purse that had
the bright idea of sending unsolicited copies of the New Testament in Arabic to our
troops. A little note with each book read: “Enclosed is a copy of the New Testament
in the Arab language. You may want to get a Saudi friend to help you to read it.” One
day Khalid31 handed me a copy. “What is this all about?” he asked mildly. This time
he didn’t need to protest—he knew how dismayed I’d be.
This was the incident that, as mentioned earlier, led to the implementation of
strict guidelines on religious activities of military personnel in Muslim countries.
A recent al-Jazeera English news report showed US troops at Bagram Airfield
in Afghanistan discussing the distribution of Dari and Pashtu language
Bibles to the local Afghans.32 While the US military claimed that these Bibles
were destroyed and that this was an isolated incident, countless other examples
seem to indicate that these incidents are anything but isolated.
In the newsletter of the International Ministerial Fellowship (IMF), an
Army chaplain described the evangelizing he was doing while passing out food
in the predominantly Sunni village of Ad Dawr: “I am able to give them tracts
on how to be saved, printed in Arabic. I wish I had enough Arabic Bibles to
give them as well. The issue of mailing Arabic Bibles into Iraq from the U.S. is
difficult (given the current postal regulations prohibiting all religious materials
contrary to Islam except for personal use of the soldiers). But the hunger for the
Word of God in Iraq is very great, as I have witnessed first-hand.”33
Another Army chaplain, in an article titled “Kingdom Building in Combat
Boots,” wrote: “But the most amazing thing is that I was constantly led to stop
and talk with Iraqis working at the Coalition Provisional Authority. I learned
their names, became a part of their lives, and shared Jesus Christ by distributing
DVDs and Arabic Bibles.”34
And here’s one from a private organization, boasting of the help it gets from
military personnel to distribute its Bibles: “OnlyOneCross.com recently sent a
case of Arabic Bibles to a Brother who is working in a detention center in Iraq.”35
Another organization, the Salvation Evangelistic Association, now has the
Soldiers they converted at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, distributing the Arabic
Bibles for them: “Many young men in training at Fort Leonard Wood were
converted to Christ. The Lord led us on to preaching in Army camps in the US,
Korea, and the Philippines. We are now supplying Arabic Bibles for distribution
by our troops in Iraq.”36
Then there was a lieutenant colonel, whose religious zeal was so extreme
that a missionary had to explain to him that he was putting his troops at risk.
The missionary’s organization had already shipped 20,000 Arabic-language
“Soul-Winning Booklets” into theater with more on the way. The lieutenant
colonel, who knew the missionary from the states, had gone to his hotel with
15–20 armed troops and literally blocked off an entire city block with tanks and
Humvees to secure the area. He offered to use his troops to protect the missionaries
who were there on an evangelical mission to convert the Muslims. The
missionary later remarked, “I had to tell [the lieutenant colonel] that it would
probably be best if he and his unit left as soon as possible. . . . The Iraqi people
in the hotel and those on the street were to say the least, very concerned. I did
not want to bring that much attention to the hotel for fear that the terrorists
would target the area as well.”37
In a video from Soldiers Bible Ministry, an Army chaplain boasts about
managing to get Swahili Bibles into Iraq to evangelize Muslim workers from
Uganda employed by the US military, in spite of the regulations prohibiting
this. Referring to this shipment of Bibles, the chaplain said, “Actually, they’re in
Baghdad right now. Somehow the enemy tried to get ‘em hung up there. There
was a threat they were gonna get shipped back to the States and all that. We
prayed, and they’re gonna be picked up in a couple of days. God raised someone
up right there in Baghdad that’s gonna go—a Christian colonel that’s stationed
there in Baghdad, and he’s gonna go and get the Bibles.”38 Despite its disregard
of military regulations, Soldiers Bible Ministry is officially endorsed by the
Army’s chief of chaplains, with the following statement on his Web site:
“Thanks so much for your invaluable ministry of the Word to our Soldiers.”39
In addition to Bibles, other Arabic language Christian books are being shipped
into Iraq for distribution by our troops. The January 2009 newsletter of Worldwide
Military Baptist Missions, for example, included photos of its English-
Arabic proselytizing materials, an English-Arabic New Testament, and an
English-Arabic Gospel of John. This is from the caption for these photos: “In
2008, we shipped over 226,000 gospel tracts, 21,000 Bibles, New Testaments and
gospels of John (to include English-Arabic ones!) and 404 ‘discipleship kits’ to
service members & churches for use in war zones, on ships and near military
bases around the world.”40
Clearly, converting the Iraqis and Afghans is a pet project of numerous private
organizations, some with the help of the military, as well as military personnel
and military ministries. In one case, a DOD-authorized chaplain endorsing
agency actually set up a well-organized network of 40 of its chaplains
in Iraq to receive and distribute Arabic Bibles and an Arabic gospel tract titled
“Who Is Jesus” for a private missionary organization.41 All of these groups and
individuals have found ways to circumvent the prohibition on sending religious
materials contrary to Islam into the region. There are literally thousands of
people involved, and hundreds of thousands of Arabic and other native language
Bibles, tracts, videos, and audio cassettes have made their way into Iraq
and Afghanistan, along with Christian comic books, coloring books, and other
materials to evangelize Muslim children. The line between joining the military
and joining the ministry has seemingly become increasingly blurred for many.
To Campus Crusade for Christ, basic training installations and the military
service academies are “gateways”—the places that young and vulnerable military
personnel pass through early in their careers. This was the explanation of
its gateway strategy that appeared on CCC’s Military Ministry Web site:
“Young recruits are under great pressure as they enter the military at their initial
training gateways. The demands of drill instructors push recruits and new cadets
to the edge. This is why they are most open to the ‘good news.’ We target
specific locations, like Lackland AFB and Fort Jackson, where large numbers
of military members transition early in their career. These sites are excellent
locations to pursue our strategic goals.”42
According to CCC’s executive director, “We must pursue our particular
means for transforming the nation—through the military. And the military
may well be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure.
Militaries exercise, generally speaking, the most intensive and purposeful indoctrination
program of citizens.”43
At Fort Jackson, the largest Army basic training installation, trainees attending
CCC’s “God’s Basic Training” Bible studies are taught that by joining
the military, they’ve become ministers of God. This is also taught by CCC’s
Valor ministry, which targets future officers on ROTC campuses.
A Valor ministry video titled “God and the Military” is a presentation
given at Texas A&M by a Texas pastor to an audience of cadets and an assortment
of officers from the various branches of the military. The pastor’s presentation
I, a number of years ago, was speaking at the University of North Texas—it happens
to be my alma mater, up in Denton, Texas—and I was speaking to an ROTC
group up there and when I stepped in I said, “It’s good to be speaking to all you
men and women who are in the ministry,” and they all kind of looked at me, and
I think they wondered if maybe I had found the wrong room, or if they were in
the wrong room, and I assured them that I was speaking to men and women in
the ministry, these that were going to be future officers.44
The stated mission of CCC’s ministry for enlisted personnel is “Evangelize and
Disciple All Enlisted Members of the US Military. Utilize Ministry at each basic
training center and beyond. Transform our culture through the US Military.”45
Cadence International46 is another large military ministry that targets
young service members, seeing those who are likely to be deployed to war
zones as low-hanging fruit. One of the reasons given by Cadence for the success
of its “strategic ministry” “Deployment and possibly deadly combat are
ever-present possibilities. They are shaken. Shaken people are usually more
ready to hear about God than those who are at ease, making them more responsive
to the gospel.”47
Organizations like CCC’s Military Ministry and Cadence could not succeed
in their goals without the sanction and aid of the military commanders who allow
them to conduct their missionary recruiting activities on their installations.
And there is no shortage of military officers who not only condone but also
participate in and promote these activities. The Officers’ Christian Fellowship,
an organization consisting of over 15,000 officers and operating on virtually
every US military installation worldwide, which has frequently stated its goal to
“create a spiritually transformed US military with Ambassadors for Christ in
uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit,”48 has actually partnered with CCC’s
In addition to the military-wide organizations like Campus Crusade, there
are also a number of coercive religious programs on individual bases. A basic
training schedule from Fort Leonard Wood described “Free Day Away,” a
program attended by all trainees during their fifth week of training, as follows:
“Soldiers spend the day away from Fort Leonard Wood and training in the
town of Lebanon. Free Day Away is designed as a stress relief that helps soldiers
return to training re-motivated and rejuvenated.”
Omitted from this event description was that this day was actually spent at
the Tabernacle Baptist Church and included a fundamentalist religious service.
All facilities that the trainees were permitted to go to during this free time (a
bowling alley, a convenience store, etc.) are owned by the church. Numerous
Soldiers have reported that they were unaware that this part of their “training”
was run by a church until they were being loaded onto the church’s buses that
came to pick them up, and those who wanted to opt out of the church service
once they were there were not permitted to do so.
While claims are made that Free Day Away and other religious programs
and events conducted at basic training installations are not mandatory, these
words make little or no difference to the trainees. As anyone who has gone
through basic training is well aware, no trainee wants to stand out, and almost
none would risk being singled out as different or difficult by speaking up and
telling their drill sergeant that they don’t want to attend a program or event
because it goes against their religious beliefs.
“Spiritual fitness” is the military’s new code phrase for promoting religion,
and the religion being promoted is Christianity. There are spiritual fitness centers,
spiritual fitness programs, spiritual fitness concerts, spiritual fitness runs
and walks, and so forth.
This year, for example, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and Fort Lee, Virginia, have
been holding a spiritual fitness concert series. At Fort Eustis, it’s actually called
the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series.” This is a Christian
concert series. All of the performers are Christian recording artists. Photos
from one of the Fort Lee concerts show crosses everywhere, and one photo’s
caption even says that the performer “took a moment to read a Bible passage”
during her set.49 In some cases, attendance at Christian concerts held at basic
training installations has been mandatory for the Soldiers in training.50
In March 2008, a program was presented at a commander’s call at RAF
Lakenheath, England. This commander’s call was mandatory for an estimated
1,000 service members, and the PowerPoint version of the presentation was
e-mailed to an additional 4,000–5,000 members. The “spiritual fitness” segment
of this presentation was titled “A New Approach to Suicide Prevention: Developing
Purpose-Driven Airmen,” a takeoff on Rick Warren’s The Purpose
Driven Life. The presentation also incorporated creationism into suicide prevention.
One slide, titled “Contrasting Theories of Hope, 2 Ultimate Theories
Explaining Our Existence,” has two columns, the first titled “Chance,” and the
second “Design,” comparing Charles Darwin and “Random/Chaos” to God
and “Purpose/Design.” Darwin, creationism, and religion are also part of a
chart comparing the former Soviet Union to the United States, which concludes
that “Naturalism/Evolution/Atheism” lead to people being “in bondage”
and having “no hope,” while theism leads to “People of Freedom” and “People
Strong Bonds is an Army-wide evangelistic Christian program operating
under the guise of a predeployment and postdeployment family wellness and
marriage-training program. Strong Bonds events are typically held at ski lodges,
beach resorts, and other attractive vacation spots, luring Soldiers who would
never attend a religious retreat to sign up for the free vacation.
The materials officially authorized by the Army for Strong Bonds are not
religious, but there’s a loophole. These authorized materials are only required to
be used for a minimal number of the mandatory training hours, leaving the
remaining mandatory training hours open for other materials selected by the
chaplain running the retreat. In some cases, the chaplains do stick to the authorized
materials and keep the program nonreligious, but this is not the norm.
At one Strong Bonds weekend, the attendees, upon arrival, were handed a
camouflage box called “Every Soldier’s Battle Kit.” This kit was imprinted with
the name New Life Ministries and the ministry’s phone number and Web site,
and contained The Life Recovery Bible and four volumes by a Christian author.
They were also given several Christian devotional books and The Five Love
Languages by pastor Gary Chapman, who is described on his Web site as “the
leading author in biblical marriage counseling.” Pastor Chapman’s book was
used as the core of the Saturday portion of the training, at which a video of
Chapman, full of Bible verses and a call to “love your partner like Jesus loved
the church,” was also shown.52
DOD contracts also show the frequent hiring of Christian entertainers and
speakers for Strong Bonds events. One base, for example, contracted, at a cost
of $38,269, an organization called Unlimited Potential, Inc.53 to provide “social
services” for a Strong Bonds event. Unlimited Potential, Inc. is an evangelical
baseball ministry that has a military ministry whose mission is “to assist commanders
and chaplains in providing religious support to military service members
and their families by sharing the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ
through the medium of baseball” and “to use our God-given abilities in baseball
to reach those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” This
same ministry has been “serving Christ through baseball” at a number of other
Army bases in the United States, as well as many bases overseas.
The use of official military e-mail to send religious messages is another
ongoing problem. These e-mails range in content from Bible verses and
evangelistic Christian messages to “invitations” from superiors to worship
services and Bible studies.
One recent e-mail, widely distributed to an Air Force installation’s e-mail
list, contained an essay by the executive director of the Officers’ Christian Fellowship.
The essay began by posing the question, “Why do you serve in our
military?” The answer was:
We serve our Lord by serving our nation, our family or prospective future family,
and so that we have something that we can share with God’s people in need. But
what is the greatest need? Why do we serve our God as Joshua exhorted? We
serve our God because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We are blessed to be
able, through our lives in the military, to demonstrate the message of salvation to
those who have not heard or received it. It was by God’s grace through faith that
we were brought fully into His family and presence. Our love for Him motivates
us to serve Him in our military, to serve and work for our families, and to serve
and work to enable the message of salvation to reach those who have yet to accept
Him as Lord and Savior.
In another recent case, an Air Force colonel sent out an e-mail to a large
number of subordinates containing a link to an “inspirational” video. Not only
was the video an overt promotion of Christianity, but the Web site linked to
was a far right Catholic Web site containing material attacking the president
and vice president of the United States, including an image of the president
depicted as Adolf Hitler.54
Often, command staff and NCOs forward religious e-mails to a base or a
unit on behalf of a chaplain. A recent example of this was a flyer for a Bible
study titled “Moses the Leader: How Would You Like to Lead 1,000,000
Whiners?” Numerous recipients of this e-mail complained about its negative
stereotype of Jews, as well as the fact that it was e-mailed to the base e-mail list
by command staff.
Occasionally, officers and NCOs send out e-mails inviting their subordinates
to religious events that they themselves are hosting, putting the recipients in the
position of wondering if not attending their superior’s religious event will negatively
affect their career, and if those who do attend will be shown favoritism.
For example, the Soldiers of a platoon in Iraq recently received an e-mail
that had a flyer55 attached to it for a Christian men’s conference being hosted
by their platoon sergeant. The flyer had the unit and division emblems on it,
and the sender of the e-mail, an E-7, listed himself as a minister and the host
of the event.
This platoon sergeant had been sending out religious e-mails almost daily,
including one with an attachment titled “Psalm 23 (For the Work Place),” which
began, “The Lord is my real boss, and I shall not want,” and ended with, “When
it’s all said and done, I’ll be working for Him a whole lot longer and for that, I
BLESS HIS NAME!!!!!!”56 Another contained several Bible verses, preceded by
the following statement: “There are many things that work to keep us from
completing our life-missions. Over the years, I’ve debated whether the worst
enemy is procrastination or discouragement. If Satan can’t get us to put off our
life missions, then he’ll try to get us to quit altogether.”
Overt Promotions of Christianity in Military Publications
Numerous chaplains, as well as a few commanders and other officers and
NCOs, are taking advantage of their military base newspapers and unit newsletters
as another forum for promoting Christianity. While some would argue
that protection of free speech applies and that anyone can publish virtually
anything anywhere, when the publication is an officially sponsored base newspaper
and the authors are members of the military, the perception is an official
endorsement of these religious messages.
In an article titled “Living in Victory,” a publication of the Louisiana National
Guard, one chaplain explained how having Jesus as “your reference point to victory
is crucial,” how “victory is not something that is ahead of us, but has already
been accomplished by Jesus’ completed victory on the cross,” and why “when you
experience defeat, it just shows you that you need to quickly get your branch reconnected
to the Vine, who is the Victorious Life of Christ in you.” He summed
up his piece by telling the troops that they “are Champions ‘in Jesus Christ.’ ”57
In a column about Independence Day in a Marine unit newsletter, the chaplain
got off to a good start, explaining in his opening paragraph how our independence
from England led to “people having the right to worship in accordance
with their own faith tradition,” and that the First Amendment is “the reason the
military has chaplains to uphold every service member’s . . . right to worship in
accordance to their particular faith group tradition.” The rest of his article, however,
was all about promoting one “particular faith group tradition”—his.
I always remind people that we live in a fallen world, darkened by sin and evil because
mankind wanted their independence from God. I also remind people of the
incredible cost our Heavenly Father paid with the sacrifice of his one and only Son
who died in our place in order that whomever [sic] would believe in Him would not
perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). In other words, our Heavenly Father
through his Son paid the ultimate price, even death on a cross in order that whomever
[sic] would believe could live a life independent from sin. Therefore, because of
this great sacrifice paid by the Son of God any and every person can walk in victory
beyond the struggles, skeletons in one’s closet, and temptations that can keep us
from being men and women of honor, courage and commitment.58
Writing about the upcoming move of the headquarters of an Air National
Guard fighter wing, a chaplain assistant compared the move to Moses, the
tabernacle, and the Christian Holy Spirit. She wrote:
I have been studying about the life of Moses and recently studied how the Israelites
set up the tabernacle. I won’t go into all of the details about the tabernacle, but I do
want to tell you about the “cloud” since I found the cloud to be very interesting and
perfect for our upcoming Wing HQ move. . . .
The cloud was a gift to the Israelites that the Lord had given to them for protection
from the hot and cold. This cloud is like the Christian Holy Spirit that we
have available to us today. The cloud was a gift and the Holy Spirit is a gift that all
human beings can receive. The Holy Spirit helps us to make decisions and enables
us to know when we need to move just like the cloud did for the Israelites.59
Sometimes, in addition to promoting Christianity, the articles get political,
as in this example from one Army base newspaper. In an article titled “Virtue
of Truth,” the chaplain condemns all the “sins” of our “progressive” culture—
freedom of choice, gay marriage, and so forth. He then injects the word “progressive”
into a quote from the apostle John, a word that appears nowhere in the Bible verse he quotes, and adds the word “progressive” again before a quote from Pope John Paul II, although that word was not used by the late pontiff.
At the heart of all sin is pride. This is the kind of pride that makes itself the arbiter
of right and wrong. This is good to remember in an age when euthanasia is called
mercy, suicide termed “creative medicine” and abortion described as “freedom of
choice.” All three are really murder.
Today, marriage is too often considered outdated as an institution and divorce is
considered the better option. Even more disturbing, opposition to same-sex marriage
is thought to be bigoted and intolerant. This makes adultery and sodomy
very uncomfortable terms in some people’s lexicon.
In contrast with today’s attitudes, the apostle John reminds us: “Anyone who is so
‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God;
whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).60
The last example comes from an article titled “The Opportunity to Follow
Is Afforded to Us All,” written by an Air Force master sergeant:
There’s a tremendous biblical illustration of the ever-present duplicitous nature of
followership between leading and accepting and executing orders.
This passage tells of a military leader in command of 100 followers. One day this
leader, who is not a religious man, compassionately sends messengers to ask Jesus
to pray for a dying subordinate. Jesus, so motivated by this compassionate appeal,
deviates from his intended course to visit this kindhearted leader. However, just
prior to Jesus’ arrival to the installation, the leader sends his followers to stop Jesus
from coming to his installation, deeming himself not worthy of hosting such
an esteemed visitor. This is where the leader communicates through his followers
the most convicting principle of true followership. His principled statement is, “I
know authority because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I
have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’
and they come.” This very powerful confession prompts Jesus to clearly identify
the next principle of responsible followership. The scripture reads, “when Jesus
heard this, he was amazed and said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, I have
not seen faith, or confidence, like this in all the land . . .’ The leader’s statement
truly reflects the heart of followership. Followership is firmly rooted in confident
obedience. And followership and leadership are transitional meaning to pass
back and forth between positions. This compassionate military leader knew that
even though he was not a religious man, demonstrating his willingness to follow
Jesus’ command without question would save his follower’s life.61
The master sergeant who wrote the above is from the wing’s Equal Opportunity
Office—the very office where an Airman would go for help if he or she
had a complaint about an inappropriate promotion of religion, like this article
written by this master sergeant.
Religious Programs for Military Children
Nobody would disagree that military personnel and their families should have
the opportunity to worship as they choose. This is the justification for the military
providing chaplains and chapels, and it is a reasonable one. But just how much
support of religion is necessary to ensure this access to worship opportunities?
Countless DOD contracts show that what the government is providing for
religion on military bases goes far beyond chaplains and chapels and, in many
cases, far beyond what would be available to most civilians in their communities
or towns. If a civilian church doesn’t happen to have any talented musicians
in its congregation, for example, the congregation might have to deal with having
less than professional quality music at their services. Not so in military
chapels. If chapels want better music, they hire professional musicians and music
directors, contracted by the DOD. If a civilian church wants to start a youth
program or provide religious education classes, it might have to find volunteers
to run them. Military chapels hire base religious education directors, also paid
for with DOD contracts.
And, while the contracting of these religious “service providers” is in itself
highly questionable, the larger problem is that these contracts are almost exclusively
open only to Christians. Contract descriptions, in complete disregard of
the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause, make this abundantly clear by including
requirements such as “contractor shall ensure all programs and activities are
inclusive of all Christian traditions,” and the contractor will “use a variety of communications medium that shall appeal to a diverse group of youth, such as music,
skits, games, humor, and a clear, concise, relevant presentation of the Gospel.”62
The most egregious practices are found in the programs for the children of
military personnel. These youth programs, many funded by DOD contracts, are
designed to target and evangelize the “unchurched” among our military youth.
The tactics employed by these government-contracted Christian ministries to
achieve this goal range from luring teenagers with irresistible events and activities
to infiltrating the off-post public middle and high schools attended by
military children. One of these organizations, Youth for Christ Military Youth
Ministry, actually goes as far as stalking military children, following their school
buses to find out where they live and what schools they go to.
Incredibly, even the job descriptions in some DOD contracts make it clear
that stalking kids is expected. One recently posted Army base position required
that the contractor target “locations and activities where youth live and spend
time, such as neighborhood community centers, school and sports and recreational
activities, etc.” to draw in “youth that are not regularly affiliated with
established chapel congregational youth programs.”63
According to a video interview64 of Fort Riley’s religious education director
about one of the base’s exclusively Christian youth programs, the mission of the
program, called Spiritual Rangers, is “to train young men to be Godly leaders
by instilling in them biblical character, values and principles and thus giving
them a sense of what it truly means to be a man.” This video, which was aired
on the base’s local cable access channel, described a program where teenage
boys get to do things like using the base’s close combat tactical trainer, engagement
skills trainer, and helicopter flight simulator—in other words, the coolest
video games ever! And all a kid on Fort Riley has to do to play them is hang out
with the “godly” men and memorize some scripture.
Military Community Youth Ministries (MCYM),65 whose Club Beyond program
“seeks to celebrate life with military kids and introduce them to the Lifegiver,
Jesus Christ,” has received millions of dollars in DOD contracts and operates
on dozens of US military bases, both overseas and in the United States.
MCYM’s Contracting Officer’s Performance Evaluation, a form to be filled
out each year by a “person duly appointed with the authority to enter into and
to administer contracts on behalf of the government” at the installations where
the organization is contracted, not only shows that MCYM’s mission is to
target non-Christian children, but also that the contracting officer actually
rates MCYM on its success in this constitutional violation. These are two of the
questions on the evaluation form:
1. MCYM staff are expected to conduct outreach ministry to teens who
have no relationship with the chapel or established churches. What is
your assessment of this ministry objective?
2. MCYM staff are expected to present the Gospel to teens with due
respect to their spiritual traditions, i.e. to engage in evangelism but not
proselytization. This means that they are not to endorse a particular theology
or denomination or creed excepting that which is generally accepted as
representing the principle tenents [sic] of the Christian faith with a focus
on introducing teens to Jesus Christ and to help teens develop in their faith
in God. What is your assessment of this ministry objective?66
Saying that they “engage in evangelism but not proselytization” is questionable
at best. MCYM narrowly defines refraining from proselytization as not trying
to convert someone from one Christian denomination to another and places
no restrictions on evangelizing those teenagers who need some “introducing”
to Jesus Christ.
One of MCYM’s “partner” organizations is Youth for Christ’s Military
Youth Ministry. Actually, Youth for Christ (YFC) and MCYM are one and
the same. Both have the same address and phone number, and the YFC Military
Youth Ministry mission statement states only one mission—to partner
with MCYM: “The Mission of Youth For Christ Military Youth Ministry is
to partner with Military Community Youth Ministries (MCYM) in assisting
and equipping Commanders, Chaplains, Parents, Volunteers and local Youth
for Christ (YFC) chapters on behalf of reaching military teens with the Good
News of Jesus Christ.”67
YFC Military Youth Ministry is just the arm of MCYM that goes after
military children who attend off-post public schools, and its first step in obtaining
a contract from the military is to convince a chaplain that his or her
base needs its services. To do this convincing, YFC provides a fill-in-the-blank
template for a YFC “steering committee” to write up an assessment to present
to the installation chaplain. The first part of completing this assessment is for
the YFC steering committee to attempt to get a meeting with the local high
school principal. This is done with a cold call to the principal in which committee
members say, according to the script provided by YFC, that they are assisting
the base chaplains, even though this phone call appears to be made prior to
approaching the chaplains:
Example when you call the principle [sic] of the local high school: Hello my name
is and I am assisting the chaplains of Fort ___________ by putting together several
facts concerning adolescent culture and youth serving organizations in our community.
Could I drop by and ask a few questions?
Here are a few more sections of YFC’s assessment template, including the instruction
to essentially stalk the children by following their public school buses:
3. a. ___________ High School. The principle [sic] is _________________. I
spoke with _____________ and he indicated that he would be willing/unwilling
to allow me campus access. He did indicate that he would be glad to allow me to
support students by attending practices, games, rehearsals and school activities on
an “as invited” basis. My general impression is that ___________________ and
will continue to develop my relationships at the High School.
b. _____________ Middle School. The principle [sic] is ______________.
a. High School: This is a completely unscientific measurement but I followed the
buses around for three days. Each morning four buses leave the installation in [sic]
route to the high school. There are approximately ______ students on these buses.
Students are primarily picked up in the ________, ________ and ________ neighborhoods.
Students appeared to be equally spread over the four different grade levels
with slightly more/less 9th and 10th graders.
b. Middle School: See a above.68
Like MCYM, Malachi Youth Ministries,69 the youth division of Cadence
International, is funded by DOD contracts. In addition to teenagers, Cadence
International also targets the younger children of military personnel, partnering
with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) “to anchor children in the hope of
Jesus and lead them to living fully devoted to Him” by getting the elementary
school children into Good News Clubs on their bases and in their schools.70
Cadence and CEF have the “mutual goal of reaching every child of the US
military around the world,” and clearly they will have the support and aid of the
military itself to achieve this goal, based on statements like this one from the
deputy installation chaplain at one large Army base, who, in a video promoting
CEF, proclaimed, “The harvest is ready, and I mean it’s out there in more abundance
than we have ability to harvest.”71
In addition to the unconstitutional “religious tests” found in job requirements
for DOD contracts, there are a number of service members who have
expressed concerns about the requirement to disclose their religion on forms
whose purposes would include no legitimate reason to contain any information
about their religion. Two examples are the Army Officer Record Brief (ORB)
and the Air Force Single Unit Retrieval Format (SURF). The ORB and the
SURF are forms whose purpose is to provide information on the career history,
education, and special skills of officers. The information contained in these
forms is used for job placement, award nominations, applications to military
training programs and colleges, and so forth. The religion of an officer should
never be a factor in career decisions or recommendations, yet the Army’s ORB
now contains a block for the officer’s religion, and the Air Force’s SURF, a recently
implemented electronic form, also lists the officer’s religion.
Fear of Making Complaints through Military Channels
The almost universal problem faced by military personnel who encounter any
of the problems listed above is the fear of what might happen if they report a
violation of regulations or bring a complaint to their superiors or the Equal Opportunity
Office. Service members who fear harassment from both peers and
superiors, negative effects on their careers, and occasionally even physical harm
often refrain from reporting violations of regulations regarding religion, even
when those violations are personally impacting their or their family’s lives. Few
ever decide to file official complaints, allowing military spokespersons, when an
issue is reported or uncovered, to say that it was an isolated incident and to
quickly point out how few official complaints have been filed. Clearly, the number
of official complaints filed, usually said to be less than 100, is unrealistically
small given that over 15,000 service members have contacted the Military Religious
Freedom Foundation for assistance from 2005 to 2009. The disparity in
these numbers is something that cannot be ignored.
After dealing with thousands of service members and carefully examining
virtually every military regulation that would apply to their concerns and complaints,
the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has concluded that there
are very few situations in which the existing regulations are the problem. The
problem is that these existing regulations are not being followed or enforced.
One important exception, however, relating to the proselytizing of Muslims
in Iraq and Afghanistan, must be noted here. Because CENTCOM’s General
Order 1B, in its list of prohibited activities in the CENTCOM AOR, lists only
“proselytizing of any religion” as being prohibited, Christian military personnel
intent on converting Muslims are getting around this crucial prohibition. How?
By saying that the order only prohibits proselytizing, but not evangelizing, and
claiming that activities such as distributing Arabic and other native-language
Bibles are merely evangelizing and thus do not violate the order. Simply changing
the wording of GO-1B to “evangelizing or proselytizing of any religion”
would leave no loophole for those who rely on semantics to continue their attempts
to convert the Iraqis and Afghans to Christianity.
Setting the Record Straight Regarding the Military Chaplaincy
Ever since chaplains praying in Jesus’ name at nonreligious military functions
and ceremonies became a hot-button issue, a distorted version of the
history of the chaplaincy has emerged. This altered history of the chaplaincy
has one purpose—to make it appear that the military chaplaincy has existed
continuously since the Revolutionary War, with no problems or objections until
recent years. This is accomplished by simply leaving a few minor gaps in the
history, such as most of the nineteenth century.
MYTH: The chaplaincy has been an essential part of the military since the Revolutionary
FACT: The military chaplaincy was almost nonexistent between the end of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
There really wasn’t much of a military chaplaincy at all during the War of
1812 or up through and including the Mexican-American War. Naval commanders
were authorized to appoint chaplains, but many of these were not
ordained ministers, and their purpose was as much to be instructors in everything
from reading and writing to navigational skills as it was to be preachers.
Some officers even saw their authority to appoint chaplains as a way to get a
personal secretary and chose them for their ability to perform that job, with
little regard for their religious qualifications.
During the War of 1812, there was only one Army chaplain for as many as
8,000 men, and, with the exception of the 1818 appointment of a chaplain at
West Point who doubled as a professor of history, geography, and ethics, there
were no new Army chaplains until 1838, when a small number of post chaplains
were authorized. But these post chaplains were not members of the military.
They were civilian employees hired by the post’s administrators, and like
their counterparts in the Navy, they were hired mainly as teachers and also
served as everything from librarians to mess officers to defense counsel during
courts-martial. Post chaplains, since they were not in the military, were not assigned
to a military unit, but to their post, so when the Mexican-American War began, they did not accompany the troops.
In 1847, Congress passed a law transferring control over post chaplains
from the post administrators to the secretary of war, giving the secretary of war
the authority to require a chaplain to accompany his post’s troops into the field
whenever a majority of the troops were deployed. Those chaplains who refused
to go were fired. This 1847 law caused a bit of a problem, however, because it
neglected to actually give anyone the authority to appoint chaplains. In fact,
when President Polk appointed two Catholic priests as “chaplains” in an effort
to stop the propaganda that the war was an attack upon the Mexicans’ religion,
he made them as political appointments rather than chaplain appointments,
saying that there was no law authorizing Army chaplains.
The total number of Army chaplains during the Mexican-American War
was 15, including the two Catholic priests who weren’t actually chaplains. The
chaplaincy grew much larger during the Civil War, of course, with the appointment
of a chaplain for each regiment. But when the war ended, the chaplaincy
was reduced to the 30 post chaplains authorized in 1838, even though the
regular Army was twice the size it had been in 1838. Six additional chaplains
were authorized for the six black regiments of the regular Army, but this was
reduced to four in 1869. The number of chaplains authorized for the Army
would remain 34 until 1898.
MYTH: There were no problems with or objections to chaplains until recent years.
FACT: There was a widespread campaign to completely abolish the chaplaincy in the
By the late 1840s, opposition to government-paid chaplains was growing,
and a vigorous campaign to abolish both the military and congressional chaplaincies
would go on for well over a decade, supported by both members of the
military and civilians, including churches and religious leaders. Hundreds of
petitions, signed by thousands of Americans, were sent to Congress during the
1840s and 1850s calling for an end to all government-paid chaplains. A large
part of the American public of the mid-1800s objected to chaplaincy establishments
on constitutional grounds; religious organizations objected to them on
both religious and constitutional grounds; and military personnel, including
chaplains, had complaints of religious coercion and discrimination uncannily
similar to those heard today.
Take, for example, the following statement, which was written in 1858: “Mr.
Hamlin presented the memorial of Joseph Stockbridge, a chaplain in the navy,
praying the enactment of a law to protect chaplains in the performance of divine
service on shipboard, according to the practices and customs of the
churches of which they may be members.”72 Given the current disputes over
chaplains’ prayers, this statement could just as easily be from 2010.
A common complaint in the military during the nineteenth century was the
takeover of the chaplaincy by Episcopalians. Once the Episcopalians gained
control, all members of the military, regardless of their religion or denomination,
began to be forced or coerced to attend Episcopalian worship services, and
non-Episcopalian chaplains were being forced to perform these services.
While the particular “bully” denomination may have changed since the petition
of the naval officers in 1858, the issue has not. In the mid-1800s it was the
Episcopalians; in 2010 it’s fundamentalist Protestants. And, as in the mid-
1880s, this is also not an issue of Christians versus non-Christians. The overwhelming
majority of the petitions received by the Congresses of the 1840s
and 1850s were written and signed by Christians and Christian religious organizations,
just as the majority of complaints received by the Military Religious
Freedom Foundation—96 percent of them—are from self-identified Christians,
both Protestant and Catholic.
Beginning in 1848, hundreds of petitions poured into both houses of Congress.
The first of these petitions to be presented in the Senate was from a
Baptist association in North Carolina:
Mr. Badger presented the memorial, petition, and remonstrance of the ministers
and delegates representing the churches which compose the Kehukee Primitive
Baptist Association, assembled in Conference with the Baptist Church at Great
Swamp, Pitt County, North Carolina praying that Congress will abolish all laws
or resolutions now in force respecting the establishment of religion, whereby
Chaplains to Congress, the army, and navy, are employed and paid to exercise
their religious functions.
Mr. Badger said he wished it to be understood that he did not concur in the object
of this memorial. He thought the petitioners were entirely wrong. But as the
petition was couched in respectful language, he would ask for its reading and
would then move that it be laid on the table and printed.73
Five years later, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator
Badger, a devout Episcopalian, would write a very pro-Christian report dismissing
the countless petitions received by that time to abolish the chaplaincy—
a report that is frequently quoted by today’s Christian nationalists to
show just how very religious and pro-Christian Congress was in the nineteenth
century. These historical revisionists simply neglect to mention that Badger’s
report, and a similar report written a year later by an equally religious member
of a House committee,74 had anything to do with a campaign to abolish the
chaplaincy. Acknowledging the historical context of these reports would, of
course, contradict their claims that there were no complaints or questions about
the constitutionality of government religious establishments until modern-day
secularists decided to wage a war on Christianity.
Obviously, Senator Badger, who had already stated in 1848 that he “did not
concur in the object” of the Baptists’ petition to abolish the chaplaincy, was not
someone who was going to be objective in considering the many similar petitions
he was asked to report on in 1853. So it was no big surprise that Badger’s
report dismissed the petitions, stating that “the whole view of the petitioners
seems founded upon mistaken conceptions of the meaning of the Constitution,”
and that the Founding Fathers “did not intend to spread over all the
public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting
spectacle of atheistical apathy.”75
In 1860, Congress addressed the issue of commanders forcing chaplains to
conduct worship services of a faith tradition other than their own with a provision
stating, “Every chaplain shall be permitted to conduct public worship according to
the manner and forms of the church of which he may be a member.”76 They did
not, however, address the issue of the hijacking of the chaplaincy of one denomination,
even though an investigation had shown the complaints to be valid.
Instead of moving forward, Congress soon took a giant step backwards, mandating
in August 1861, in the act that authorized the appointment of regimental
chaplains for the Union Army, that all chaplains be Christians.77 A similar provision
was in the act for the regular Army—the act passed in July 1861 authorizing
the president to raise a volunteer force stated that a chaplain “must be a regular
ordained minister of a Christian denomination.”78 No prior legislation authorizing
chaplains had ever mandated that chaplains had to be of a particular religion
or even that they had to be ordained ministers. Apparently, the earlier Congresses
were familiar with that pesky “no religious test” clause in the Constitution,
applying it even to the office of chaplain. The criteria for a chaplain in the 1838
law authorizing post chaplains, for example, was simply that “such person as they
may think proper to officiate as chaplain.”79
But the 1861 law requiring chaplains to be Christians was quickly and successfully
challenged. The usual practice at the time for appointing Army chaplains
was for each regiment to elect its own chaplain, and a regiment from
Pennsylvania had elected a Jewish cantor. When the Young Men’s Christian
Association exposed this grievous violation of the 1861 chaplain law, the Jewish
chaplain resigned rather than face the humiliation of losing his commission.
But the regiment decided to test the constitutionality of the law. This time they
chose a rabbi, knowing full well that his application for a commission would be
denied. After a public outcry over the denial of the rabbi’s commission, which
included numerous petitions from Jewish organizations, groups of citizens, and
even the members of one state legislature, the provision requiring chaplains to
be Christians was repealed.80 A few months later, in September 1862, President
Lincoln legally commissioned the first Jewish chaplain.
Another issue during the mid-nineteenth-century chaplain battle was over
a naval regulation from 1800 giving commanders the authority to force their
subordinates to attend religious services.81 It had been enacted during the very
religious Adams administration and remained in force in 1858. This example is
often used by historical revisionists to show that “it is simply inconceivable that
the members of the First Congress, who drafted the Establishment Clause,
thought it to prohibit chaplain-led prayer at military ceremonies, having passed
legislation not only approving that practice, but indeed requiring service members
to attend divine services.” However, what these revisionists fail to mention
is that, in 1858, this act was protested by a group of naval officers82 who successfully
petitioned Congress to amend it to make religious services optional.
As already mentioned, most of the protests against government-paid chaplains
came from Christians, and it’s absolutely remarkable how similar the
opinions of these nineteenth century Christians were to those of the modernday
“secularists” who are currently trying to destroy Christianity.
The following was written by Rev. William Anderson Scott, one of the most prominent Presbyterian ministers of his day, in his 1859 book The Bible and Politics. Reverend Scott’s book was written in large part to refute the arguments being used by those who wanted the Bible in public schools, another issue that is far from new, but it also addressed the issue of government-paid chaplains, including the following from a section on military chaplains:
Is it constitutional to take the public money to pay a chaplain for religious services
that are not acceptable to a majority of the rank and file of the army? I do not
think so. If the majority of a regiment, or of the men on board a man-of-war,
should elect a chaplain, then, possibly, the Government might make an appropriation
to pay him, though I doubt whether this is constitutional, and I do not
believe it the best way. I believe that the supplying of religious consolations to the
members of our Legislature, and to the officers and men of our army and navy,
according to our organic laws, should be left to themselves, just as it is to our
merchant ships and to our frontier settlements—that is, to their own voluntary
support. Our blacksmiths, police officers, Front-street merchants, lawyers and
physicians all need the blessings of religion; but they must provide for their own
individual wants. And, in the same way, I would leave the army and the navy and
the legislatures, and I would do so the more readily, because the different churches
and voluntary religious societies would then all stand truly on an equality, and
hold themselves ready to help in furnishing such supplies. Suppose a regiment is
ordered to the wilderness, let the men elect a chaplain and pay him themselves.
Then they will be more likely to profit by his services. Or let a missionary society,
by the vote of the citizen soldiers, be asked to send them a minister of religion. If
the government appoints a Protestant chaplain, is it a disobedience of orders for
a Catholic to refuse to accept of his services? I see nothing but difficulty and the
engendering of constant sectarian feuds and bad feeling, if the Federal Government
touches anything that is religious.83
Clearly, this nineteenth century Presbyterian minister must have been trying to
destroy Christianity and turn the military into a bunch of atheists.
What Would the Founding Father of the US Military Think?
The version of history in which the inconvenient events of the 1800s are simply ignored typically begins with the many instances of George Washington issuing orders regarding chaplains and religious services and usually includes his 1776 directive for each regiment to procure a chaplain. What’s omitted is that a year later, when Congress wanted to cut the number of chaplains from one per regiment to one per brigade, an act that would put many regiments under chaplains who were not of similar beliefs to the Soldiers, Washington and his generals strongly objected.
This is what Washington wrote to the Continental Congress in 1777 on
behalf of his generals:
It has been suggested, that it has a tendency to introduce religious disputes into
the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances
would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess. The old
Establishment gives every Regiment an Opportunity of having a Chaplain of
their own religious Sentiments, it is founded on a plan of a more generous
toleration, and the choice of the Chaplains to officiate, has been generally in the
Regiments. Supposing one Chaplain could do the duties of a Brigade, (which
supposition However is inadmissible, when we view things in practice) that being
composed of four or five, perhaps in some instances, Six Regiments, there might
be so many different modes of Worship. I have mentioned the Opinion of the
Officers and these hints to Congress upon this Subject; from a principle of duty
and because I am well assured, it is most foreign to their wishes or intention to excite by
any act, the smallest uneasiness and jealousy among the Troops.”84 (emphasis added)
Washington and his generals worried about the “smallest uneasiness” over religion
and objected to anything that would “compel men to a mode of worship that
they didn’t profess.” What would they have to say about what’s going on in today’s
military? Regardless of the side one happens to be on, few would disagree
that the current issues are causing far more than the “smallest uneasiness.”
1. “Hayes: Most Troops Will Be Home by 2008,” Concord Standard and Mount Pleasant Times, 21 December 2006.
2. Lt Col Rick Francona, retired US Air Force intelligence officer, appearing on MSNBC, 28
3. Pete Geren, then secretary of the Army (commencement remarks, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, 31 May 2008), http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/06/02/9573-west-point-commencement-remarks-by-secretary-of-the-army-pete-geren/. Secretary Geren was also among the civilian DOD officials who appeared in the Christian Embassy video.
4. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), remarks on “Religious Freedom,” 11 December 2007, Congressional Record, H15291.
5. Christian Embassy is the arm of Campus Crusade for Christ operating at the Pentagon. The Christian Embassy promotional video can be viewed at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/Media_video/christian-embassy/index.html.
6. DOD Inspector General, “Alleged Misconduct by DoD Officials Concerning Christian
Embassy,” Report No. H06L102270308, 20 July 2007, http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/
7. Photos archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
8. “Mural Painter,” http://www.riley.army.mil/NewsViewer.aspx?id=579. Photos also archived
9. Photos archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
12. Web page archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
14. Web page archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
15. Video at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/video/USAF.mov.
16. Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, Movement Model of Ministry Volume 2.
17. “God’s Basic Training” Bible study. Page images archived at http://www.militaryreligious
18. Photos archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
19. From Brigitte Gabriel’s lecture at the Joint Forces Staff College on 13 June 2007: Questioning a statement in Gabriel’s book, a student asked, “Should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation?” Gabriel replied:
Absolutely. If a Muslim who has—who is—a practicing Muslim who believes the word of
the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays
every Friday, who prays five times a day—this practicing Muslim, who believes in the
teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America. . . . A
Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to make Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in
the long run. A Muslim sworn to office can lay his hand on the Koran and say “I swear that
I’m telling the truth and nothing but the truth,” fully knowing that he is lying because the
same Koran that he is swearing on justifies his lying in order to advance the cause of Islam.
What is worrisome about that is when we are faced with war and a Muslim political official
in office has to make a decision either in the interest of the United States, which is considered infidel according to the teachings of Islam, and our Constitution is incompatible [sic] with Islam—not compatible—that Muslim in office will always have his loyalty to Islam.
Among her many other derogatory statements, Gabriel referred to Dearborn, Michigan, as “Dearbornistan” because of its large Muslim community, and, in a comment about racial profiling, said that American Muslims “are good at nothing but complaining about every single thing.”
21. Bethany Duemler, “Alleged Ex-PLO Raises Eyebrows,” Chimes (newspaper of Calvin College, where the 3 Ex-Terrorists appeared), 9 November 2007, http://www-stu.calvin.edu/chimes/article.php?id=3125; “Doubt Cast on Anani’s Terrorist Claims,” The Windsor Star, 20 January 2007,
-f2638619a62c; and Neil MacFarquhar, “Speakers at Academy Said to Make False Claims,” New York Times, 7 February 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/us/07muslim.html?scp=1&sq=Shoeb
22. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WN5rqKkhUU; http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=ipqO_ke-NH4; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l_Mc-0MaZM; http://www.you
tube.com/watch?v=thfYB-VejSQ; and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIokAQa1Xs4.
23. Maria Luisa Tucker, “‘Reformed Muslim Terrorists’ Preach Christ to College Kids,” Village
Voice, 19 February 2008, http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-02-19/news/reformed-muslim
24. Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MibbDnH8BM.
25. Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFqIPjj3ciU.
26. Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVPcjVvvMQU.
27. Photos of military Bibles archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
28. “Ministry Provides Hope in Second Run of Bible Devotional,” Mission Network News, 26 November 2007, http://www.mnnonline.org/article/10592.
29. In November 2008, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation wrote to the secretary of
defense, calling for the DOD inspector general to promptly initiate an investigation into the background and activities of Navy chaplain LCDR Brian K. Waite and requesting that any existing association between the US military and Revival Fires Ministries be immediately terminated. That letter can be found at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/Gates_Letter.pdf. Video of Lieutenant Commander Waite at a Revival Fires camp meeting and links to additional information regarding this situation can be found at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/newsletters/2008
-11/video.html. The Web page is also archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
30. Video at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/Media_video/al_jazeera/index.html.
31. Lt Gen Khalid Bin Sultan al-Saud, commander of Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces, appointed by King Fahd as General Schwarzkopf ’s counterpart.
32. “IMF Chaplains Serving in Iraq,” Gathering, Spring 2004, http://www.i-m-f.org/pdfs/Gatherings/Spring2004.pdf.
34. LTC Lyn Brown, “Kingdom Building in Combat Boots,” Heart & Mind, Bethel Seminary,
Summer 2005, http://www.bethel.edu/publications/heartmind/2005-summer/bethel-army-boots/.
96 RODDA ★ AGAINST ALL ENEMIES
38. Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B7pBbkZpq0.
40. Worldwide Military Baptist Missions “Prayer Letter,” archived at http://www.military
41. For numerous reasons in addition to the distribution of Arabic Bibles, the Military Religious
Freedom Foundation has demanded that the DOD revoke the ecclesiastical endorsing authority
of this endorsing agency. The letter to the secretary of defense and enclosures detailing the
reason for this demand can be found at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/press-releases/
42. Web page archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
43. Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry Life and Leadership newsletter, October
2005, archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
44. God and the Military, video, filmed in 1997, re-released on DVD in 2005 for distribution
by Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry.
48. Until January 2009, the Officers’ Christian Fellowship’s official vision statement was “a spiritually
transformed military with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit,
living with a passion for God and a compassion for the entire military society.” Its mission statement
was “Christian officers exercising biblical leadership to raise up a godly military.” Examples of the use
of these statements are archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
49. Photos archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
50. Several sources confirm that, in some cases, concerts by Eric Horner, a Christian artist who
regularly performs at military bases, have been mandatory for basic trainees.
52. Report of a US Army major in the National Guard who attended this Strong Bonds event.
55. Archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
56. Archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
57. Chaplain Maj. Jeff Mitchell, “Living in Victory,” The Engineer Express, 225th Engineer
Brigade, Louisiana National Guard, 15 July 2009.
58. Chaplain Bailey, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit newsletter, July 2009.
59. MSgt Diane Watters, In Formation, newsletter of the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama
Air National Guard, February/March 2009.
60. Chaplain Capt Paul-Anthony Halladay, “Virtue of Truth,” The Guidon, base newspaper of
Fort Leonard Wood, 15 April 2009.
61. MSgt Stephen Love, “The Opportunity to Follow Is Afforded to Us All,” 460th Space
Wing at Buckley Air Force Base, 18 March 2009, http://www.buckley.af.mil/news/story
62. Community-wide Outreach Youth Ministry Program for High School Students, Fort
Bragg, North Carolina, Solicitation Number: W9124709T0004, 17 October 2008.
66. Archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
68. Archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
71. Video archived at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/dodspp.
72. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, vol. 50, 35th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington,
DC: William A. Harris, 1858–59), 53.
ATTITUDES AREN’T FREE 97
73. The Congressional Globe, 30th Cong., 2nd Sess., 13 December 1848, 21.
74. Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the
Thirty-Third Congress, vol. 2, H. Rep. 124 (Washington, DC: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854).
75. Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Thirty-
Second Congress, 1852-53, S. Rep. 376 (Washington, DC: Robert Armstrong, 1853), 4.
76. George P. Sanger, ed., The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States
of America, vol. 12, 36th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1863), 24.
77. Ibid., 37th Cong., 1st Sess., 288.
78. Ibid., 270.
79. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 5, 25th
Cong., 2nd Sess. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856), 259.
80. Sanger, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 12, 37th Cong., 2nd Sess., 595.
81. Peters, ed., Public Statutes at Large, vol. 2, 45.
82. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, vol. 54, 35th Cong., 1st Sess.
(Washington, DC: James B. Steedman, 1857 [sic]), 792.
83. Rev. W. A. Scott, DD, The Bible and Politics: Or, An Humble Plea for Equal, Perfect, Absolute Religious Freedom, and Against All Sectarianism in Our Public Schools (San Francisco: H.H. Bancroft & Co., 1859), 78.
84. George Washington to the president of Congress, 8 June 1777, in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, vol. 8 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1933), 203.
About the Author
Chris Rodda is the senior research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation
and a writer on issues related to religion and politics. Focusing for many years on
the issue of the politically motivated revisionism and distortion of American history by
the Religious Right, she authored the book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, vol. 1, the first of a projected three-volume series debunking the historical myths and lies found everywhere from homeschooling textbooks to congressional debates and legislation to Supreme Court opinions. She is a regular contributor at Talk2Action.org and a blogger on the Huffington Post.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is a 501(c)(3) founded by Mikey Weinstein
in 2005. Weinstein is a 1977 graduate of the US Air Force Academy. MRFF does
not seek to rid the military of all religion, as its critics would have people believe. In fact,
96 percent of the service members who seek the assistance of MRFF are Christians, and
the work of the foundation is endorsed by a number of religious organizations representing
a variety of faiths.
For more information, visit http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org.