Thursday, June 14, 2007

With God on Our Side: Evangelical Christianity On Steroids In US Military


Jason Leopold: My Interview With Mikey Weinstein
By Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report, Thursday 14 June 2007

More than two years ago, Mikey Weinstein launched the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit government watchdog group that aims to keep a close eye on the military to ensure its adherence to the law mandating the separation between church and state, after his son, a student at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, was harassed about his Jewish faith and urged by other cadets and Air Force officials to convert to Christianity.

Weinstein is no military outsider. He describes his and his family's background this way: As a 1977 honor graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Weinstein spent 10 years in the Air Force as a "JAG," or military attorney, serving as both a federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney. His oldest son and daughter-in-law are 2004 Air Force Academy graduates, and Weinstein's youngest son is currently a first classman (senior) at the Academy and the sixth member of the Weinstein family to attend the institution. Weinstein's father is a distinguished graduate of the United States Naval Academy.

Since he launched his watchdog organization, Weinstein has been contacted by more than 4,000 active duty and retired soldiers, many of whom served or serve in Iraq, who told Weinstein that they were pressured by their commanding officers to convert to Christianity, he told me during a recent interview at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Weinstein said the military has been hijacked by a right-wing, fundamentalist Christian agenda, in what appears to be a clear-cut violation of the constitutional separation between church and state, that has rippled across all four branches of the military under President Bush.

"The rise of evangelical Christianity inside the military went on steroids after 9/11 under this administration and this White House," Weinstein said in an interview. "This administration has turned the entire Department of Defense into its own personal faith-based initiative."

He recently published a book on the issue, "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military."

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Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

Also see:

Ft. Leavenworth Army Chaplains Preaching Anti-Semitism to US Soldiers

Anti-Semitic Bible Teachings Disappear From Army Site

2 comments:

mcortner said...

I have a son that is a Captain in the Army. He has done two tours in Iraq assigned to SOG. He is now in Afghanistan. At one point, he considered going to Seminary and becoming a Chaplain. He told me that the Army was top heavy with Non-denominational evangelical preachers, because that is who applies for commissions. In all branches the written requirements for commissioning in the Chaplain Corps is a 72-hour graduate degree (Master of Divinity, etc). They also require that you be ordained in a recognized religion or sect thereof. However, after 9/11 many times these credentials were waived. If you could prove that you had spent at least one year as a "pastor" of a congregation of more than 100 people and had a Bachelor’s degree in any subject or if you had a Bachelors degree from an accredited Bible College, you were given a waiver and a "reserve" commission. Thousands or non-denominational, fundamentalist, evangelical "preachers" with the most mediocre of credentials were commissioned in every branch of service. The Air Force and the Army got most of them, as they are the largest Reserve Corps, especially when you consider the National Guard. Most of these people end up with the troops in combat zones. Part of the pressure from officers for their troops to "participate" is there are not enough Medical Psychologists and Psychiatrists in these forward operating areas to be available for counsel. In addition, those officers can order troops be transferred out of combat because of their mental health. Good, bad, or indifferent, Platoon leaders and Company commanders use the Chaplains as a sub for this medical service. A Chaplain cannot order a soldier out of a combat zone except for rare and extreme circumstances. There is a 90% chance that the Chaplain is going to be one of those "special" commissions. Of course, their answer to everything is pray hard enough and Jesus will fix it. It is a sad state of affairs. My son tells me he neither encourages nor discourages the people under his command to participate in any of the organized religious services and he gives standing permission for anyone to see the Chaplain or the Shrink at anytime, provided it does not pull them off duty, a patrol or mission. He says that he has not had any pressure from above him at the command level. However, he is regular Army and the SOG operates differently from other commands. It is a problem.

Edger said...

It is a sad state of affairs indeed.

Also, my best wishes for your sons safe return home.

Thank you for your great comment explaining this. I will forward it to Jason.