For some reason, the official Facebook page for the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade — part of the Fort Drum Army base in northern New York — was posting videos promoting Christianity. The videos urged soldiers to think about God, quoted Bible verses, and told them that Christianity is “so important to our livelihood.”
Those things might be okay on a chaplain’s Facebook page — though, even then, these videos aren’t promoting spirituality in general but one faith specifically — but that’s not where these videos were posted. It was only after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a letter to the base that the videos were finally removed.
Chris Rodda talks about why those videos are problematic in a post at Daily Kos:
In a video posted on March 25, Chaplain [Scott] Ingram, quoting a New Testament Bible verse, criticized those who do not believe in the Bible by saying, “When we think of biblical faith, many think it is some kind of magical thinking or not rooted in reality, but I assure you it is not.” Chaplain Ingram proceeds to repeatedly say “our faith,” as if everyone of faith is presumed to be of his faith. He goes on to say that “Our hope, like our faith, has God as its object,” and “this is why reading, meditating on, and living out God’s word — the Bible — is so important.
In Chaplain Ingram’s second video, posted on April 2, he says, after quoting a Bible verse, that “God encourages us not to be dismayed;” that “we can place our trust in him;” and that “together we can walk forward in supernatural strength.”
Under no circumstances should videos like these be posted by the U.S. military. They suggest a faith-based military that isn’t here to defend the nation but to defend believers of one faith because that’s the only one that seems to matter.
MRFF’s founder Mikey Weinstein said he was acting at the behest of eight clients at Fort Drum, “half of whom are practicing Christians.” While praising the leadership for taking down the videos as soon as the complaint was made, Weinstein says it shouldn’t have taken his group for the military to do the right thing:
… MRFF and its military clients would greatly prefer that the Army would have taken this action sua sponte (‘ON ITS OWN’) without having to cause MRFF to make these obviously valid demands to ensure church-state separation in the first place on behalf of aggrieved Army personnel who justly fear reprisal, retribution, revenge and retaliation for taking their grievances up the chain of command.
But as you’d expect, not everyone is taking this development well. An attorney for the Christian group First Liberty Institute was stunned that the merging of Christianity and U.S. Armed Forces would be a problem for anyone.
Mike Berry, a lawyer for the First Liberty Institute, said he was shocked to find out the news and questioned why MRFF is focused on this issue.
“At a time when our nation is hurting and many feel hopeless, why on earth would Mikey Weinstein attack prayer?” Berry told Fox News. “America has the strongest military in history, but our brave service members are not immune to the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked.”
Of course, Berry is making things up because he works for a group where that sort of mischaracterization is celebrated. Weinstein wasn’t attacking prayer. No one cares if soldiers are Christian. All that matters is that the military itself is not.
These videos were posted on a page for the 10th Mountain Division, not a page specifically earmarked as a religious one. It raised serious questions about why our military would be advertising Christianity in a way that would obviously never be acceptable if similar videos were made promoting Islam or atheism.
Berry doesn’t understand that because reading must not be his strong suit. But he quickly criticized the military leadership and Weinstein for following the Constitution:
He added, “I cannot believe the legendary U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division raised the white flag of surrender to an anti-religious freedom zealot. Every president, from Washington to Trump, has publicly prayed for our military. If the commander in chief can pray, then our soldiers can, too.”
No. One. Is. Stopping. Soldiers. From. Praying.
That’s just a lie these Christian lawyers tell themselves to feel better. In any case, Weinstein isn’t the problem here. It’s the officials who allowed these videos to go up as if they were endorsed by the U.S. military. Taking them down was the right move.
I know I say this often, but religious neutrality is not anti-Christian no matter how much conservatives whine about it.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)