When the crowd alternates hollering out "Amen" with "Whoohoo," you know this ain't grandpa's Catholic mass.
But then Sister Simone Campbell, the 67-year-old nun who's touring the U.S. right now in a white vehicle labeled "Nuns on the Bus," probably isn't your Catholic grandpa's habit, either.
In fact, Sister Simone is a bit of a rock-star, left-leaning radical. The executive director of Network, a 40-year-old progressive organization of nuns, is featured this month in Rolling Stone's story "The Sisters Crusade," a piece that opens with her struggle to sit down with former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan to talk about the national budget.
The bus tour stopped by Colorado Springs' Meadows Park Community Center at lunchtime today with Sister Simone at the helm, who pledged a continued fight for those less fortunate. Much of her discussion had to do with sharing the word about The Faithful Budget:
A collaboration of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith communities and organizations, The Faithful Budget promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will “protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.”
No matter that President Obama has won a second term — "we have a bit more work to do," she said to a group of about 75 people. "The election is over, and we might all think, 'Oh praise God we don't have to watch those ads anymore.' But the fact is, our work has just begun. Because tomorrow Congress reconvenes, God help us."
If the Good Father hasn't heard them yet, at least now they've got a little extra media behind them.
"Heaven only knows what happens after Rolling Stone," Sister Simone told the Indy after her presentation. "It's amazing."
OK, that's not strictly true. But the media continues to be intrigued by the combination of the two, as evidenced by all the national press coverage of the Nuns on the Bus tour, which rolls into Colorado Springs at noon today.
As the New Yorker's Robert Sullivan noted last month, the sisterly road warriors have expanded the scope of their message — and, in at least one instance, their mode of transport — since their summer tour protesting Congressman Paul Ryan's proposed budget:
Nuns on a Ferry marked the first time that the principals in the Nuns on the Bus campaign officially switched modes of transportation, though several nuns who eventually rode on the ferry did take the subway to the event. It also highlighted the latest phase of the nuns’ effort, in which other nuns, aside from the original bus-riders, take the campaign to other parts of the country—Nuns on the Bus 2.0. “We’re open sourced,” said Sister Simone Campbell, the Nun on the Bus who’d addressed the Democratic National Convention earlier in the month. “We created some car magnets, so you can have nuns on the bus, too. We have some guidelines on our Web site, and you just need to have at least one nun.”
The popular magazine Christianity Today published an article a few days ago questioning the IRS' complete lack of action when it comes to churches violating IRS regulations.
We wrote about such violations a couple weeks back when some local evangelical pastors took part in the fifth Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a nationwide movement of pastors interrupting their regular Sunday sermons to their congregations
to vote for Mitt Romney how to vote.
The strategy is to draw the IRS into a lengthy court proceedings, with the ultimate goal being to overturn the the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which banned certain nonprofits from engaging in partisan speech. The churches participating in the movement are aggressively challenging the law, some going so far as sending copies of their politics-laden sermons to the IRS.
The idea, explains Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with [Alliance Defending Freedom], is to push the issue into court. Then, he says, "We will have a test case, and we will seek to have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional."
Then-Texas Sen. Lyndon Johnson introduced the amendment in 1954 to deal with what he thought was inappropriate campaigning by tax-exempt entities. But Stanley says it infringes on the First Amendment's guarantee to religious freedom.
"You don't get more to the core of religious freedom than a pastor preaching from the pulpit on a Sunday morning." Pulpit Freedom Sunday is less about the restriction on talking about candidates and elections, he says, than "the fact that there is a restriction on the pulpit at all. What we are trying to do is remove an unconstitutional restriction."
And the IRS has, so far, done nothing.
Christianity Today reports that though the IRS only recently announced a moratorium on church audits, Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), says a moratorium has essentially been in effect since 2009.
An IRS official at the level of regional commissioner or above is required to approve any church audits before they are initiated, according to a law passed in 1984. But in 1996, Congress reorganized the IRS from geographical regions to national practice groups—a move that eliminated the office of regional commissioner.
"The IRS designated an official within [its] exempt organizations section to be the one to approve the church audits," Stanley said.
But that position did not rank high enough to be adequate, the court decided after a Minnesota church challenged the legitimacy of their audit in 2009.
"The IRS shut down all church audits at the time," Stanley said. The agency proposed new regulations in 2009, but never got past the review process, he said.
"After that, it has taken absolutely no action on finalizing the regulations," he said. "They've just been sitting out there."
It's not breaking news that the number of churchgoing Christians in this country is on a steady decline. In fact, that hasn't been breaking news for a while.
In an effort to combat this trend, and usher in a new age of Christian growth, religious leaders are trying to re-imagine the church's role in American culture and the methods they can use to prosthelytize and expand. Thus, we have things like the Multiply Conference, an outgrowth of Frontline Church Planting.
From the event site:
The church in North America faces curious times. The old operating system and status quo of the Church no longer resound with our culture. In the western U.S. we have sensed these things coming for a long time.
Church leaders are in process of making seismic shifts toward more mission-grounded and multiplication-based expressions of the Body of Christ, but we must move quickly.
The event is being sponsored by Frontline Church Planting, Colorado Baptists, Pikes Peak Baptist Association, and Fuller Theological Seminary among others.
If you are interested, tickets are still available for this Nov. 2 and 3 affair at the event site.
This past Sunday, more than 1,500 churches across the nation took part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. An effort organized by the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, the movement was a bold denouncement by religious leaders of the decades-old Internal Revenue Service regulations that forbid churches from engaging in partisan political speech.
ADF released the list of churches with Pulpit Freedom Sunday late Monday afternoon.
As we reported, seven churches in the Springs participated. In this week's paper, we spoke with pastor Mark Cowart with Church for All Nations.
As Cowart explained to the Indy, he was convinced to participate after cracking the history books. He says that he went to Texas public school and remembers praying in school, and reading scripture there. “God was taught more freely, and there was a more accurate teaching in our history.”
And yet, he adds, “For years, I was under the impression that the church, i.e. the pastor, was to have nothing to say in the way directly about the candidate that is up for president. And that if you didn't stay in very strict parameters you would lose your tax-exempt status.”
Emboldened by what he says were the Christian underpinnings of our founding documents, he realized that the church has a role to play within the political sphere. And, with the growing support by other religious leaders across the country for Pulpit Freedom Sunday, he decided it was time to act.
“No one at the presidential level is addressing the real problem with America right now,” he says. “The real problem is going away from God. And when you go to our founding, our founding fathers warned us … that if America ever failed, the decay would come from within. And that's what convicted me.”
This matter of the church's historical role in partisan politics is a matter of contention among supporters of Pulpit Freedom Sunday and its detractors.
According to Dr. Kurt Fredrickson, associate dean for Doctor of Ministry and Continuing Education and assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Fuller Seminary in California, before the IRS regulations put in place by the 1954 Johnson Amendment, the church was not monolithic in its relationship with politics.
While many churches shunned the political arena historically, others embraced political battles, whether it was the fight for the abolition of slavery or the civil rights movement.
With the 1980s Moral Majority, evangelicals were driven into the partisan fray, he says, while a number of other Christians continued to find ways to work within the political realm without aligning themselves with political parties. He points to a number of issues that can dovetail with the political world: homelessness, poverty, the sex trade and so on.
These, he notes, are societal issues that rise above political parties or campaigning for specific candidates.
While the growth of the churches involved with Pulpit Freedom Sunday — from 33 in 2008 to 1,500 this year — might seem to signal a growing belief in politicizing the pulpit, Frederickson argues that, in the number of Christians who refuse to affiliate with a church, we might be seeing a rebuke.
"Over the past 20 years, that number has doubled," he says. "And some people theorize that part of the rise of the non-affiliated is a reaction against this linking of religion and politics."
For example: Despite the seeming adoption by the evangelical world of Republican politics, Fredrickson says, he is an evangelical and he won't be supporting Mitt Romney.
On Pulpit Freedom Sunday, Cowart was joined by the Pray in Jesus Name Project, a one-chaplain nonprofit that publishes and distributes voting guides across the nation, promoting its core principles: pro-life, pro-liberty, pro-marriage and pro-Israel.
Watch, here, as chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt explains how homosexuality can be exorcised — as in exorcism — through "personal repentance."
Also on the list of participants is Radiant Church, an Assemblies of God-affiliated church in Colorado Springs.
Speaking before his congregation last Sunday in a recorded segment, Todd Hudnall says that this might be the most important election of his lifetime, "because of the crucial period in our nation and the starkly different directions the two candidates envision taking America."
He urges his congregation to vote "biblically" — taking into consideration what values God holds.
"There are certain Biblical values that are critical to contemplate when voting for a candidate and for any public office" he continues, and encourages his congregants to vote with the word of God in mind.
His congregation was provided a voting guide in their church bulletins, supplied, he says, by Focus on the Family. This voting guide will let his congregants know where the candidates stand on "critical biblical issues."
Without coming out and saying that he was endorsing the Republican candidate, he did outline the issues he believes they ought to consider when voting. The candidate that they should support? The one who is pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and who will "work to protect our religious freedoms."
"I know that some are going to object to a pastor making such statements from the pulpit of a church. They would even say it's against the law. I beg to differ. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. And as a pastor, I have both the right and the responsibility to teach fundamental Biblical principles to our congregation."
Hudnall says that he sent a copy of his sermon to the IRS, which you can watch below. You'll want to skip ahead to about 28:45 for the section that deals with the presidential election.
Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL and member of the Advisory Board for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, was one of the three Americans killed in an assault on the American Embassy in Libya on Tuesday, which also claimed the life of U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
The MRFF was formed in 2005 by Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the Air Force Academy, after his son reported cadets using pejorative language against Jews, and faculty and staff advocating for fundamentalist Christianity. Weinstein is Jewish.
"Glen was a true American hero," Weinstein says in an interview. "I know that he took some flak from current and former SEALS for joining our advisory board years ago. But he didn't view the value of a human being based on what religion they are.
"He was the first one to remind me not to be tepid in this fight," he says. "He was the first one that made me realize that the closest you get to drawing blood in the military, the closer you get to combat, the higher the infiltration of fundamentalist Christianity. He didn't care when he suffered derision from other SEALs by coming on board with us, because it was the right thing to do."
Doherty also was among the first to contact Weinstein after the MRFF mounted a billboard in Colorado Springs aimed at the Air Force Academy failing to widely distribute an Air Force Chief of Staff directive on the military's maintaining neutrality on religion. ("It's a sign," Sept. 29, 2011)
Doherty, who was working as a security officer in Libya, left the Navy after serving nine years as a highly decorated SEAL with multiple combat deployments, the MRFF website's biography of Doherty says. While in the Navy, he attended the 18 Delta Special Forces Combat Medical School, the SEAL sniper course, and was an expert in SEAL combat tactics. After separating from the Navy in 2005, Doherty spent four years working as a security and intelligence specialist for government agencies conducting operations in high threat regions, which included Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He had extensive experience teaching and training operators around the world in a broad range of disciplines. An accomplished pilot, Doherty had multi-engine, commercial and instrument flight ratings and was a nationally certified paramedic. He held a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a minor in Aviation Safety.
Gen. Mike Gould, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, is again stirring the religious waters by referring to Sikhs as Muslims.
During a briefing of faculty, staff and cadets today, Gould mentioned the shooting in Oak Creek, Wisc., where six people were killed as having taken place at "a Sikh Mosque."
Sikhs are not Muslims, Mikey Weinstein says most emphatically.
Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says he has been contacted by 19 faculty, staff and cadets at the academy about Gould's gaff. "They're pretty horrified," he says.
"He might have just as well said a Christian Synagogue or a Jewish church," Weinstein says. "That [Sikh} is a completely separate faith."
A Sikh house of worship is actually called a Gurdwara, Weinstein says, something that the leader of a premier university should know, or at least know enough to look up before embarrassing himself and revealing his ignorance by saying otherwise.
"Nothing is more upsetting to Muslims that to be referred to as Sikhs," he adds. "The Air Force Academy's toleration of non-fundamentalist Christianity can be described as a wretched train wreck, and to have him refer to this as a tragedy in a Sikh Mosque is further evidence."
He says he contacted the academy's public affairs department so someone could point out Gould's error to him before further briefings were held and was asked by a public information officer, referring to Sikhs, "They're Hindus, right?"
"This is just unbelievable," Weinstein says. "It shows the lack of intelligence, lack of broad cultural diversity, the lack of understanding when you have this idiot leading the academy."
Lt. Col. John Bryan, an academy spokesman, says this:
During one of his first SUPT calls he inadvertently referred to the Sikh temple as a mosque. Lt Gen Gould is aware of this and will correct it in upcoming SUPT calls.
In the interest of advancing understanding, Weinstein provides the following lesson:
Sikhs as a distinct ethno-religious group:
- Largely from the Punjab region
- Belief in One Immortal Being (monotheism) and ten Gurus, unlike Hindus
- Historic opposition to the Caste System (one's "previous life's Karma" does not determine their social position, as was the case in Hindu society)
- Sikhs see themselves as an entirely distinct people, i.e. Punjabi Sikh (although in Punjab region intermarriage is common)
- Meat is eaten by the majority, although Kosher/Halal meat is banned. Dietary preference is the decision of the individual.
In order to press enough CDs to last throughout the whole tour, Aja and Samir have launched a funding campaign at indiegogo.com/theremindersbornchampions. There are numerous contribution levels, with premiums ranging from an autographed advance copy of the album to a scarf in the color of your choice knitted by Aja herself.
As of this writing, the ReMINDers have raised $2,760, with five days left to go. The couple even got a message of support from A Tribe Called Quest legend Ali Shaheed Muhammad:
"Salaam: Know that your struggle is worth it, because you bring forth the element of remembrance and the spirit of love which inspires and motivates people in ways that you are unaware of."
Nice. For further motivation and inspiration, here's a couple of videos we like:
It probably won't come as any great surprise to you, but homosexuality cannot be "cured" by prayer.
What might surprise you, however, is that the president of Exodus International, a 36-year-old organization dedicated to that very idea, has finally publicly admitted that no one can simply pray the gay away.
From the Associated Press:
“I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included,” said [Alan] Chambers, who is married to a woman and has children, but speaks openly about his own sexual attraction to men. “For someone to put out a shingle and say, ‘I can cure homosexuality’ — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.”
Exodus International is an "Orlando-based group that boasts 260 member ministries around the U.S. and world." For years, Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family partnered with Exodus in offering Love Won Out conferences, which were meant to help gay men and women use the power of faith to overcome their sexual desires.
As Focus put it at the time:
Focus on the Family launched Love Won Out in 1998 to educate and equip Christians on how to respond to the issue of homosexuality in a biblical way, and has traveled to more than 50 cities worldwide with its message of truth and grace. The conference has always featured Exodus speakers and highlighted Exodus member ministries.
"There is no one better equipped to take over the operation of Love Won Out than Alan and his team," said Focus on the Family's Melissa Fryrear, a Love Won Out speaker and host for more than six years. "They have been with us since the beginning. They have stood alongside us in sharing the hope that, with Christ, transformation is possible for those unhappy with same-sex attractions."
Chambers himself is gay. Yet he is married to a woman. He describes this marriage to the AP as "the best marriage I know. ... It’s an amazing thing, yet I do have same-sex attractions. Those things don’t overwhelm me or my marriage; they are something that informs me like any other struggle I might bring to the table.”
Eighteen local artists, including three teenagers, will bring Colorado Springs to the London Olympics this summer. Each of them, as well as artists from Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific nations and Kona, Hawaii, constructed two matching acrylic pieces. When assembled, all of the pieces form two different sizes of the same image: a 6-by-24 foot mini setup and a 18-by-72 foot master setup of the Key of David, a prototype of which is pictured below.
“They are all from churches anywhere from Woodland Park, Colorado Springs, Monument, Black Forest, we’re from all over,” says Paulette Triplett, team leader and owner of Hidden Artist Workshop, of the participants. “And many different churches are represented.”
The release states that the collaborative art project, headed by New Zealander Bryan Pollard, is “a creative, demonstrative, spectacular, united expression of our corporate faith as artists based upon Old and New Testament revelation from God of the promise of the Key of David—Isaiah 22:22 and Revelation 3:7-8.”
If you don’t have a Bible handy for reference, the verses offer a “simple” message about the Key: “It opens doors no one can close and closes doors no one can open.”
You’ll have two opportunities this weekend to see the assembled setups before they travel across the pond. They’ll be on display today during a meet-the-artists reception at The Springs Church, 1515 Auto Mall Loop, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will also be in the foyer this Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
From July 20 to 25, the master setup will be shown at Go4Glory International Arts and Sports Festival in Harpenden, England. It will then be moved to Methodist Central Hall Westminster for the duration of the Olympics, and the mini setup will be at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster Abbey. Triplett described the locations as “central” to the city of London.
You can see more prototypes of the setups here.
Air Force Times is reporting that the Air Force is still dragging its feet in deciding what, if any, action to take against Air Force Academy Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Dana Born.
Born is accused of ordering a COIN, or counterinsurgency, against the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, run by outspoken advocate Mikey Weinstein. We've previously reported on this story.
Weinstein, a 1977 academy grad, has battled the Air Force Academy and its handling of religious issues for eight years.
The latest revolves around the question, "What's taking so long?" As the Air Force Times reports, a Pentagon official says, "The Air Force takes every allegation seriously and these are being given appropriate consideration.”
Given the biblical tales of sinners being cast into hell and suffering eternal damnation, I'm guessing you probably can.
In any case, that's the goal of Harmless, a Christian cautionary film produced and directed by Colorado Springs resident Rich Praytor.
Referred to in the release as a faith-based horror film, it tells the story of "a husband and father and his battle with pornography. He unknowingly releases an entity that begins to torture his family, friends and relationships. It’s a social commentary on how pornography can destroy someone’s life."
In order to make the story more compelling, and to avoid showing actual pornographic images, the filmmaker came up with the idea of personifying porn as an ominous entity lurking off-screen, in the style of faux documentaries like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.
As noted in an earlier blog post, Praytor explains that he "took a page from the Steven Spielberg school and didn’t show the monster, just alluded to it like in Jaws.”
To finish production and finance a DVD and limited theatrical run, Praytor and company launched a Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately, the deadline for reaching its $12,500 fundraising goal is this evening, and pledges have so far only reached $586, so it looks like Harmless may have to seek out other funding.
In the meantime, you can still view the Harmless trailer right here:
Summit Ministries over in Manitou Springs believes that there just isn't enough Christ in politics.
And while that might strike you as an utterly ridiculous, dangerous claim, or one heck of an understatement, Dr. Jeff Myers, the ministry's president, sees it as a rallying cry.
From a press release:
“Misrepresentations about religion and politics, coupled with the increased complexity of the political, economic and social reality in 21st century America, almost certainly explain why many in the rising generation slink away from conservative positions and take up the rhetoric of the religious left,” Myers said. “At Summit, we start with scriptural principles to form a biblical worldview of politics. This critical task is one we undertake in all our programs, and it is all the more important as we approach both state primaries and the November elections. If the biblical worldview correctly depicts how the world works, then Christians should consider it entirely valid to study the Bible to discern the proper role of the state, the government’s relationship to other spheres of culture, and the nature of true justice.”
Starting this May, Summit will be holding "intensive two-week experiences designed to spark life purpose and leadership by helping students understand the times in which they live."
So what will these seminars be teaching the faithful about the modern political paradigm? Judging from the
"four myths" that Christians believe about politics, as according to Dr. Myers, I'm guessing that they'll learn a lot about how the national Republican platform is basically divinely inspired.
Myth 1: Politics is evil. Politics is simply the management of the affairs of the state. From a biblical viewpoint, politics is part of the cultural mandate to steward and exercise dominion over the created order. If creation made political culture prudent, the fall made it necessary; humans needed a system by which sin could be restrained. James Robison and Jay Richards explain in their new book, Indivisble, that government was also meant to foster a society with ordered liberty, pushing us toward a “freedom for excellence” and “rules that allow us to become what we’re supposed to become—to do what we’re supposed to do.”
Myth 2: Jesus didn’t deal with politics. As the creator of all things, Jesus has a lot to say when it comes to our own governance. Christ established distinctions as to where our allegiances should fall. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s,” is unarguably an instructive political statement, as well as a general framework for life—everything is God’s and God cares about everything. Three present-day issues with which Jesus would certainly be concerned are: the protection of life, the biblical view of marriage and religious liberty.
Myth 3: It is easy to discern a biblical view of politics. Some biblical positions, such as the value of human life, are easy to discern. Others aren’t quite so clear. Some say that the term biblical has been applied to some policies too broadly. For example, determining what Jesus would cut from the budget over-simplifies complex quandaries and extracts from Scripture what is not there. Religious conservatives can be tempted to do that as well. True, there is no tax policy spelled out in the Bible, but there are scriptural ideals that we should follow when creating policies—and in defending them.
Myth 4: Government is the primary way to exercise biblical compassion. Some of our problems are so big that many assume only a big government could adequately solve them. Take poverty elimination, for example. Scripture does advocate compassion toward the impoverished, yet it delineates no strict public policy mandate for governments. Christians must carefully discern which policies are most grounded in truth revealed in Scripture. Regarding the poverty debate in particular, political parties often argue over which entitlements get increased budget allotments and how to shrink the growing gap between the richest U.S. citizens and the poorest. If God designed us to order and create culture, shouldn’t our public policy reflect that? Do policies geared toward helping the poor affirm the imago Dei and encourage citizens to be producers of culture, not mere consumers waiting for a handout? And what policies will propel a society toward the prosperity and culture creation alluded to in Scripture? The fact is virtually all federal and state poverty programs treat the problem as merely financial, they regard humans simply as consumers. Poverty in the U.S. , where access to necessities is rarely the root problem, is typically caused by broken relational and vocational habits — not merely financial.
During a coffee break today, we ran into some rough-looking characters. If we were living 2,000 years ago, we'd be shaking in our boots.
Instead, we grabbed our camera and snapped a shot of a couple of guys wearing some pretty realistic costumes of Roman guards. At first we thought they might be part of Mayor Steve Bach's new security force to keep pesky reporters and gripy citizens away from City Hall.
In truth, they were downtown to promote The Thorn, New Life Church's enactment of Jesus Christ's condemnation and execution.
The show is being staged at the World Arena for the first time in its many-year history. Dates are March 30 and 31, and April 1. Go here for ticket info.
Jenna Hilb, marketing coordinator at Poor Richard's, confirms that Weinstein will indeed hold a book-signing at the store from 5 to 7 p.m., March 3.
——- 9:21 A.M., THURSDAY, FEB. 16 ——-
According to an employee of Poor Richard's Bookstore, Weinstein's March 3 book-signing is not yet confirmed. We'll update when anything changes.
——- ORIGINAL POST, 3:30 P.M., MONDAY, FEB. 13 ——-
To say Mikey Weinstein has made a name for himself would be an understatement. Now the Washington Post will be giving its readers a steady dose of Weinstein's message through a twice-monthly column called "Faith at the Front."
Since forming the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2004, the 1977 Air Force Academy grad has become the watchdog for unconstitutional imposition of religion on military members. His organization represents tens of thousands of soldiers, airmen and sailors, including more than 300 cadets, faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy.
Here's a few of the issues he's brought to light.
New York Daily News, January 2010:
A Michigan weapons company is under fire for branding thousands of rifle scopes used by U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan with passages from the Bible.
U.S. military rules prohibit any service member from proselytizing while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, which are primarily Muslim nations.
Trijicon, a sighting manufacturer based in Wixom, Mich., has several multimillion-dollar contracts with the Pentagon to make sights.
Along with the sight's stock number, there are coded Bible passages from the New Testament engraved on the sights. One reads JN8:12, an apparent reference to John 8:12, which says, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
TruthOut.org, July 2011:
The United States Air Force has been training young missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons by citing passages from the New Testament and commentary from a former member of the Nazi Party, according to documents obtained exclusively by Truthout.
The mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which includes a discussion on St. Augustine's "Christian Just War Theory," is led by Air Force chaplains and takes place during a missile officer's first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Gazette, November 2011:
The Air Force Academy backed down Thursday after it came under fire for alleged religious intolerance, this time with a program designed to spread Christmas cheer.
Academy critic Mikey Weinstein accused commanders of crossing the line by promoting “Operation Christmas Child” a program sponsored by an evangelical Christian group that sends toys and toiletries in shoe boxes to needy kids around the globe. The group includes a Christian message with the gifts.
Most recently, Weinstein's group exposed a Marine unit's display of a Nazi SS flag below a United States flag.
Although the Marines initially claimed they didn't know where the flag came from or even what it stood for, Weinstein said his supporters have run down the source. It came from a Third Reich website, he says.
Anyway, you get the picture. Weinstein and his organization are credible. So it's peculiar why the Gazette would report on Saturday that everything seems to be going well at the academy on the religion front. Reporter Jakob Rodgers, a cops reporter recently assigned to cover the military, reported that the academy's Board of Visitors was told the academy would be providing training to faculty on religious sensitivity. He also quoted the board chair:
“It is incredible how far we’ve come since 2004,” said Susan Schwab, chairwoman of the board and a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland. “It’s very impressive.”
What's missing from the story is a comment from Weinstein, who instigated examination of allegations that the academy favors fundamental Christianity eight years ago. Former Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa admitted in 2004 the academy had a serious problem with religious sensitivity.
Turns out, Rodgers interviewed Weinstein on Friday but decided not to include him in his story. We asked Rodgers and weekend editor Tom Roeder why he left Weinstein out of his report, and Roeder declined to comment.
In case anyone thinks everything at the academy is peachy, just a week or so ago, the academy dealt with a cadet who sent a religious message to her entire class. The Indy reported that here. The academy treated the incident as a "teaching moment," giving the freshman the benefit of the doubt.
In case you're wondering, here's what Weinstein says he told Rodgers:
"I told him that first of all, I didn't want to hear anything related to the faculty reception to religious tolerance when the head of the faculty has lied about her calling for a counter insurgency to my organization," he tells us, referring to Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Dana Born.
"I also said, 'Let's make sure we say B-O-R-E-D of visitors, because they're asleep at the switch. That place is a disaster. Until Dana Born gets fired and gets punished for what she's done and her superiors, there's nothing to talk about in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.' I thought that was fairly relevant, but I didn't get any comments in the story."
As for Weinstein's column in the Post, that gig starts later this month.
Weinstein will attend a book-signing for his newest release, No Snowflake in an Avalanche, recently published by Vireo of Rare Bird Books, at
7 p.m. 5 p.m., Saturday, March 3, at Poor Richard's Bookstore.
The book is his second; With God on our Side was published Oct. 1, 2006, by St. Martin's Press.