December 11, 2006
On a wing and a prayer, revisited
Most of us wake and smell the coffee. U.S. Air Force brigadier generals apparently wake up and are the aroma of Jesus Christ. I am not making this up.
A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.
In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.
“I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. “And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I’m an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am.”
Pete Geren, a former acting secretary of the Air Force who oversaw the service’s response in 2005 to accusations that evangelical Christians were pressuring cadets at the Air Force Academy, also appears in the video. The Christian Embassy “has been a rock that I can rely on, been an organization that helped me in my walk with Christ, and I’m just thankful for the service they give,” he says.
The 10-minute video is on the group’s Web site, Christianembassy.com. […] The Christian Embassy Web site says the group holds prayer breakfasts each Wednesday in the Pentagon’s executive dining room and organizes small groups to help military leaders “bridge the gap between faith and work.”
Army Brig. Gen. Bob Casen refers in the video to the Christian Embassy’s special efforts to reach admirals and generals through Flag Fellowship groups. Whenever he sees another fellowship member, he says, “I immediately feel like I am being held accountable, because we are the aroma of Jesus Christ.”
I wish I understood that sentence. So does Mikey Weinstein, whom we’ve met before:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group led by retired Air Force lawyer Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, is requesting an investigation in a letter to the Defense Department’s inspector general.
Weinstein, a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration, cites Defense Department regulations barring personnel from appearing in uniform in “speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies or any public demonstration … which may imply Service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted.”
All the officers are identified in the video by their Defense Department positions, “yet the video failed to include any disclaimers indicating that the views expressed were not those of the Department of Defense,” the letter says.
As readers of this blog may recall, the U.S. military has a long and not-so-proud history of infiltration and indoctrination by the religious right, most visibly at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado (where meth ’n’ massage Pastor Ted Haggard ministered to as many young cadets as he could lay hands on). But as the Washington Post points out, the Army and Navy are at it too:
In 2003, Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin drew criticism for appearing in uniform before church groups and saying, in remarks captured on video, that President Bush was “appointed by God,” that the United States is “a Christian nation” and that Muslims worship “an idol.” The inspector general’s office determined that Boykin had not violated any rules, and he remained in a top intelligence post.
This year, Navy chaplain Gordon J. Klingenschmitt was court-martialed for appearing in uniform at a political protest in front of the White House, though he maintained that all he did was lead a prayer.
Perhaps he was praying for the wrong side.
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