Saturday, July 26, 2014

Taking The Military Away From God...

You've no doubt heard of the recent push by the federal government to remove God and religion (except Islam, ironically) from our military branches. As the government hires more imams and allows Muslims in the armed forces to wear Islamic headgear with their uniforms, Christian chaplains are discouraged from mentioning Jesus Christ and in some cases are being told they cannot quote scripture, as in the case of the San Diego based VA-DOD Clinical Pastoral Education Center program.

In that case, two Baptist ministers attending classes last year to become chaplains for the Veterans Administration were told they cannot quote the Bible in the class and praying in the name of Jesus was unacceptable. The two chaplain trainees are no longer in the class. One quit due to continued harassment and two weeks later the other was dismissed from the program by the VA. The two chaplains are suing the VA, and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, for violation of their First Amendment rights.

Earlier this year a request was made by the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers for the U.S. Navy to hire atheist/humanist chaplains. So far the military has refused the ridiculous request citing, among other things, the very definition of the word "chaplain," which is defined by Merriam-Webster as: a religious leader who performs religious services for a military group." Since atheism is not a religion but in actuality the antithesis of religion, and humanism is based on the belief that people, not God, are responsible for what happens and for their own well being, by definition there can be no such thing as a chaplain for these groups. The MAAF has vowed to pursue their request up the ladder.

This background brings us to my topic for today. In the small town of Carthage, Missouri, is a small Baptist church that preaches about God, love of country and love of fellow man. As do many churches, the Bible Baptist Church proudly has an American flag on display in the sanctuary. Every summer the church holds a week-long Vacation Bible School for the children. This year's theme was "God's Rescue Squad."

On Monday, local paramedics attended and shared what they do. On Tuesday it was the Fire Department's turn. They brought a truck and taught the kids about "stop, drop and roll." Wednesday brought the County Sheriff's K-9 Unit and the kids got to see the police dog in action. Then Thursday rolled around...

On Thursday, soldiers from the local National Guard Armory were supposed to come by with a Humvee and give the kids a demonstration. The intention was to honor the military members and instill patriotism in the children. "We were going to thank them for protecting our religious freedoms," said Pastor Kent Hogan. “It was more of a promotion for the military – to show the kids what the military does.”

But the National Guard troops did not come. The church was told that military regulations prohibit military organizations from giving the appearance that they are supporting or promoting a specific religion.

“We were told it was against military policy for National Guard troops to participate in Vacation Bible School,” Pastor Hogan said. “They said if the National Guard had assets on church property it would look like the National Guard is sponsoring the Baptist religion.”

Apparently the Army, or at least the commander of that particular National Guard unit in Carthage, MO, believes that parking a Humvee at a church while soldiers speak to the children somehow gives the appearance that the Army is promoting the Baptist faith.

The actual regulation quoted says: “Army participation must not selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any person, group, or corporation (whether profit or nonprofit); religion, sect, religious or sectarian group, or quasi-religious or ideological movement.” It further states that soldiers are to "avoid any activities that might involve or appear to involve the promotion, endorsement, or sponsorship of any religious or sectarian movement."

One cannot help but wonder, given the regulation and the explanation, if a group of soldiers park their Humvee at a 7-11 while they hit the bathrooms and buy soft drinks does it give the appearance that the Army is promoting 7-11 over the Exxon gas station across the street? It seems to me that's pretty much the same logic.

As the title says - in this example it's not someone removing God from the military but removing the military from God. I wonder - will the military next disallow honor guards from participating in military funerals if said funerals are held in churches? Will chapels be removed from military bases altogether? Honestly - as much as the thought saddens me - I wouldn't be surprised.

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