On May 4, 2009, Aljazeera posted a video showing senior US military chaplains encouraging service members in Afghanistan to proselytize local Afghans. They provided local language Bibles as resources to accomplish this task. The video shows one leader standing in front of a crowd giving a sermon encouraging this activity and another in a more intimate setting equivocating about the legality and ethics of proselytism. Aljazeera was most likely not concerned about the Constitutionality of the action. They were most likely using the incident to incite national and local opposition to US forces. US regulations against proselytism, especially in combat zones, exist for a reason. Those who violate these regulations put our service members in danger for their own personal agenda. This continuing culture of open evangelism through our nation’s armed forces is unconstitutional and dangers, and the Department of Defense must show that it will enforce these regulations.
MAAF provides specific examples of enforcement actions that are necessary: Initiate investigations of the two chaplain leaders listed in the film. Given clear video evidence, this should lead to court martial. Dispatch inspector general personnel to investigate further violations at Bagram. Issue a new policy that Bibles specifically be limited to personal Bibles and chaplains stores not to exceed that required to service the Christian service members on post (because any additional Bibles could only be used for proselytism of non-Christians).
MAAF further asks the public and the media to wait six months and then ask ourselves how the Pentagon has reacted. Will the Pentagon enforce their regulations, or will these chaplains be given the “evangelist’s promotion” that so many others have received? If history repeats itself, the Pentagon will conduct a cursory investigation and hand out ineffectual punishments. The guilty parties will be promoted in their due term with nothing but accolades from their ecclesiastical endorsing agency and their fellow chaplains. Once again pro-Christian, anti-military activities will be tacitly encouraged. Our new Presidential administration has a largely unchanged Pentagon, but we can hope that the new administration will allow Pentagon leaders to actually enforce Constitutional, Equal Opportunity, and general officer prohibitions preventing proselytism in uniform. MAAF also invites these chaplains, if they are truly committed to their duties as chaplains to support all service members, to sign onto MAAF’s Minimum Statement of Support, a simple and straightforward commitment to provide services to all service members without prejudice to a specific faith group.
Source video and regulation
- Aljazeera, May 5, 2009, Military reaction, US Afghan Bibles ‘confiscated’
- HuffPo, May 4, 2009, Breaking News, Soldiers In Afghanistan Given Bibles, Told To “Hunt People For Jesus”
- Democracy Now!, May 6, 2009, Video Interview with Mikey Weinstein, “The Crusade for a Christian Military”: Are US Forces Trying to Convert Afghans to Christianity?
- American Prospect, May 6, 2009, FundamentaList, Message to Obama: Fix the Military’s Evangelism Culture. Now.
- Military Religious Freedom Foundation, May, 2009, Monthly Newsletter, Military Officials at Bagram Urge U.S. Soldiers to Evangelize in Afghanistan
- Friendly Atheist blog, Bagram Bible incident, Why Are American Soldiers Illegally Proselytizing in Afghanistan?
- Rebel Reports, May 4, 2009, Breaking News, US Soldiers in Afghanistan Told to “hunt people for Jesus… so we get them into the kingdom
- Fox News, May 4, 2009, Breaking News, U.S. Military Accused of Handing Out Bibles in Afghanistan
- Alternet, May 5, 2009, Breaking News, Al Jazeera Strikes Back at Pentagon, Releases Unedited Footage of U.S. Soldiers’ ‘Bible Study’ in Afghanistan
- Blog, May 4, 2009, Breaking news, Background for The Word and Warriors Video
- Conservative Action Alerts, May 14, 2009, Christian equivocation, Gordon Klingenschmitt, pariah for dominionist evangelical Christians, admits the Bibles were intended for distribution to Afghans by US service members; creates artificial distinction between ‘proselytism’ and ‘evangelism’ in an attempt to circumvent regulations.
- Onegoodmove blog, May 10, 2009, Bill Maher with 3 authors talking about pervasive Christianization of the US military
- Harper’s [restricted], May 08, Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military
- MAAF, Free Day Away, Ongoing Baptist proselytism of Army basic trainees sponsored by the US Army.
- Weekly Volcano, Nov 20, 2008, Coverage of MAAF/SCA press conference
- Talk2Action, Sept 9, 2008, Strong Bonds Christian government counseling program, Baseball, Jesus, and Alaska’s Military Bases
- Underground Unbeliever blog, Sept 14, 2008, Strong Bonds Christian government counseling program, Alaska National Guard and Army Units Seem to be for Christians Only
- CNN, May 29, 2008, Marine removed from duty over Bible coin reports
- Daily Kos, Jun 1, 2008, Source of Bible coins distributed by Marine in Iraq discovered