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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

DOD Inspector-General finds officers' participation
in Christian Embassy video inappropriate

Continued from main page, "Christocrats build power in the military" (Go back)

New items added after August 8th are here.

Officers' Roles in Christian Video Are Called Ethics Breach

Josh White, The Washington Post, August 4, 2007

The Defense Department's inspector general has found that four generals and three other military officers improperly participated in a fundraising video for an evangelical Christian group, inappropriately offering support for the religious organization while appearing to operate within the scope of their official government duties, according to a 47-page investigative report.

Investigators concluded that the officers should not have participated in the filming in 2005 of a 10-minute video for Christian Embassy, a nonprofit religious group, which ultimately used the video as a fundraising tool. While Christian Embassy has hosted prayer meetings at the Pentagon for years, the inspector general concluded that the officers' endorsement of its activities -- while in uniform, showing their rank and in the halls of the Pentagon -- violated ethical rules.

"The overall circumstances of the interviews emphasized the speakers' military status and affiliation and implied they were acting within the scope of their official positions as DoD spokespersons," the report concluded. Continue.

Pentagon: Hold On, Christian Soldiers!

David Van Biema, Time Magazine, August 3, 2007

Mikey Weinstein is a very specific kind of gadfly. When he believes that church and state are intermingling in the military, he goes in with a sting. On Friday, he hit a bullseye when the Inspector General's office of the Department of Defense released a report concluding that a former Pentagon chaplain and several generals inappropriately loaned the prestige of their positions — and that of the Pentagon and the U.S. government — to make a fundraising film for a non-governmental evangelical group, the so-called Christian Embassy. The report identified Christian Embassy as affiliated with the group Campus Crusade for Christ. Continue.

Video, Report Details Evangelism at Highest Levels of US Military

Jason Leopold, truthout, August 3, 2007

A report released publicly on Thursday by the Defense Department's (DOD) inspector general has found high-ranking Army and Air Force personnel violated long-standing military regulations when they participated in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization while in uniform and on active duty. Continue.

Pentagon Chaplain's website advertising right-wing Christian revival group

preserved by JewsOnFirst as a PDF, August 8, 2007

This is the relevant text:
8 August 07. Prayer Breakfast with Jonathan Spinks and Stephen Baldwin: Jonathan has traveled throughout the United States with the OSU Tour providing care for our Troops and Families. Stephen is a Hollywood celebrity, who loves God and our country too! Scheduled for 0700 hrs in the Pentagon Executive Dining Room 3B1062 (3rd Floor, 10th Corridor). Come join us for prayer and a meaningful message.

9 August 07 – OSU Tour with Hollywood’s Stephen Baldwin; Natalie Grant - 2006 & 2007 GMA Female Vocalist of the Year; Jonathan Spinks - Professional Kick/Boxer; and Bob Whitcomb - World's Strongest Juggler. The OSU tour provides spiritual encouragement via a Biblical message! The message and music is from 1230-1400 in the Pentagon Auditorium (BH 650). No ticket required, come be encouraged!

Please click here to see the webpage preserved as a PDF document.

Kill Or Convert, Brought To You By the Pentagon

Max Blumenthal, The Nation Blog, August 7, 2007

Actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, is no longer playing Pauly Shore's sidekick in comedy masterpieces like Biodome. He has a much more serious calling these days.

Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq." Continue.

Jonathan Spinks Evangelistic Association: Upcoming crusade in Iraq
Military Crusade in Iraq

Jonathan Spinks Evangelistic Association web site, August 8, 2007

The web site says: "On the most dangerous soil in our world, we’re taking a team of performers, professional athletes, and evangelists on a mission that will be both entertaining, as well as lend tremendous solitude to our men and women stationed in this war torn country of Iraq. We are most excited about this crusade and yes we are willing to go to the front lines with a very encouraging word straight from God, to our troops. We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region." Click here.

Tour Takes Entertainment to Troops

Samantha L. Quigley, American Forces Press Service, April 2007

Washington, April 25, 2007 - Operation Straight Up Tour is working to help military children and families become stronger through faith-based entertainment, its founder said.

“OSU Tour is an organization dedicated to helping our armed forces with the common issues brave men and women face,” Jonathan Spinks said, referring to child rearing, troubled marriages, anger, depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. “We’re addressing those things through entertainment.”

OSU Tour is one of the newest members of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, which connects citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.. Spinks said he expects to include the America Supports You banner on stage during performances. Continue.

Operation Straight Up
The Spirit of Entertainment

Web site of Operation Straight Up,

Against a picture of hundred of American soldiers massed in a desert valley the web site says: "Until Every Soldier Hears the Truth."

A host of services and benefits are offered to the families of military personal including: School Assemblies for Military Children; Sports Clinics for Military Children; and for the troops themselves: Web Site Discipleship - A Military Language approach; Deployed Gift Packets "Freedom Packets;" and as reported by Max Blumenthal of the Nationcopies of Josh McDowell's "More than a Carpenter." The latter is in Arabic apparently to help soldiers proselytize on behalf of Christianity.

The free PC video game includes the violent apocalyptic Left Behind Games which were first reported on by CrossWalk America here and later by JewsOnFirst.org here and now after being broadly condemned in many quarters, the Left Behind Games have resurfaced as present to troops in combat. Click here.

Updates: Links added after August 8, 2007

Bush Appointee Campaigns for Evangelicals
The head of the U.S. federal government agency that doles out benefits to disabled veterans is under fire for saying Bible study is "more important than doing [my] job."

By Aaron Glantz, Inter Press Service via CommonDreams.org, September 6, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - Two organisations, Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), demanded an investigation Tuesday of Daniel Cooper, President George W. Bush's undersecretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs.Their complaint stems from an appearance Cooper made in a fundraising video for the evangelical group Christian Embassy, which carries out missionary work among the Washington elite as part of the Campus Crusade for Christ.

In the video, Cooper says of his Bible study, "it's not really about carving out time, it really is a matter of saying what is important. And since that's more important than doing the job - the job's going to be there, whether I'm there or not." Continue.

DOD Stops Plan to Send Christian Video Game to Troops in Iraq

By Anna Schecter, The Blotter, (Blog of ABC News), August 15, 2007

Plans by a Christian group to send an evangelical video game to U.S. troops in Iraq were abruptly halted yesterday by the Department of Defense after ABC News inquired about the program.

Operation Start Up (OSU) Tour, an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among soldiers, will not be sending the "apocryphal" video game in care packages as planned, according to the department. Continue.

DoD-connected Christian group draws fire

By Karen Jowers, Marine Times August 16, 2007

A religious group has abandoned plans to send packages to U.S. troops in Iraq with the controversial Christian video game, “Left Behind: Eternal Force,” along with Christian books, Pentagon officials say.

The group, Operation Straight Up, does not plan to send “any care packages to troops in Iraq,” said a Pentagon public affairs officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The representative deferred all questions Aug. 14 about the reasons for the decision on Operation Straight Up, commonly called OSU. Group officials have not responded to phone calls or e-mails from Military Times over the last two days.

Operation Straight Up is an official member of the Defense Department initiative “America Supports You,” as one of more than 250 home-front groups that have joined the effort to support troops by sending letters, e-mails and care packages, and by giving assistance to military families, including the wounded and their families. Continue.

Cross Purposes

Editorial, New York Jewish Week, August 17, 2007 (full text)

As a nation of faith, it is simply not appropriate to demand that government institutions, including the military, be religion-free zones. But the Jewish community, with its abiding concern about religious freedom for all, also has a strong interest in ensuring that those institutions not become vehicles for the propagation of individual faiths.

That is why this month’s report by the Department of Defense inspector general is so important. The investigators looked at complaints that senior Air Force and Army personnel participated — in uniform — in a video promoting Christian Embassy, an Evangelical organization that explicitly targets government and military personnel.

Investigators substantiated some allegations of groups such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Uniformed officers in “identifiable Pentagon locations” appeared in the promotional video for the missionary group, according to the report. “Their remarks conferred approval of and support to Christian Embassy, and the remarks of some officers implied they spoke for a group of senior military leaders rather than just for themselves.”

The 47-page report represents another belated acknowledgment by Pentagon officials of the pervasive infiltration of the military by Christian groups that see it as a target of opportunity in their effort to use government institutions to promote their faith.

Christian Embassy may be particularly blatant, but it is far from the only group seeking to blur the church-state line in official settings, using “free exercise” as an excuse to create the appearance of official endorsement of a specific religion.

That process is bad enough in non-military agencies; in the military, with the necessary focus on command and obedience, it inevitably leads to the kind of religious coercion that first came to light at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., but which appears to be endemic across the armed services.

Military officials need to study this report not only for what it says about the inappropriate involvement in the Christian Embassy video by a handful of officers but for what it suggests about a broader laxity in protecting the rights of religious minorities.

The report will be meaningless unless top Pentagon leaders take responsibility for that laxity and develop concrete action plans to restore the proper balance between the right of all personnel to worship as they choose and the need to prevent the military from being used as a coercive evangelizing tool. Click here.

Not So Fast, Christian Soldiers

Opinion Article by By Michael L. Weinstein and Reza Aslan, Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2007 via Common Dreams. Michael L. Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military." Reza Aslan, author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," is on the MRFF advisory board.

Maybe what the war in Iraq needs is not more troops but more religion. At least that’s the message the Department of Defense seems to be sending.

Last week, after an investigation spurred by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Pentagon abruptly announced that it would not be delivering “freedom packages” to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.

What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which “soldiers for Christ” hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.

The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU. Headed by former kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU is an official member of the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin. But thanks in part to the support of the Pentagon, Operation Straight Up has now begun focusing on Iraq, where, according to its website (on pages taken down last week), it planned an entertainment tour called the “Military Crusade.” Continue.

Pentagon investigation faults generals for endorsing evangelical ministry

Robert Marus, The Baptist Standard, August 17, 2007

WASHINGTON (ABP)—A group of high-ranking Pentagon officials improperly endorsed and aided an evangelical Christian ministry, according to a Defense Department investigation recently made public.

The Department of Defense inspector general’s report was dated July 20 and released to the public by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The watchdog group requested an investigation last year into a promotional video for Christian Embassy.

Christian Embassy is a Washington-area institution that serves high-level leaders in the federal government and the city’s diplomatic community. It is an outgrowth of Campus Crusade for Christ, an international evangelism and discipleship group for students.

The investigation concluded that seven current and former Pentagon officers—including four generals—who appeared in the video violated Defense Department regulations against endorsing political or religious organizations while in uniform. It also found that the Pentagon’s former top chaplain improperly “provided a selective benefit to Christian Embassy” by deceptively obtaining permission for the group to film inside the Pentagon. Continue.